The remarkable change between then-candidate Harry Rilling and now-Mayor Rilling is a thing to behold. Now that he is in office, we don’t seem to be hearing the same things, or anything at all for that matter. And the attention to issues that was going to be a priority for Harry if he was elected seems be gone.
For instance, most of us remember that when NEON began having financial and management issues, a group of NEON employees and parents stormed city hall to insist on some kind of intervention by Mayor Moccia. Candidate Rilling was right there in the middle of them, chanting for action on Moccia’s part. It never seemed to enter Rilling’s mind that this charity was not and is not a city agency and is not in any way controlled by the city.
Yesterday, The Hour reported that NEON is now on the verge of bankruptcy, and that the workers will be on the street, and that anyone who depends on NEON will face a complete loss of service. Where is Harry? Why is it only State Sen. Bob Duff who has anything to say about this? Not a word out of our new mayor on what he is doing to save NEON, as he insisted that Mayor Moccia should have done.
The same can be said of the contrived “wag-the-dog” situation that was made a front- page drama when construction began on West Cedar Street prior to the election. To stir up ethnic animosities, then-candidate Rilling and then-Councilman Warren Pena were talking about how this was done, allegedly, to disrupt minority-owned businesses in the area. But a couple of weeks ago there was another article about how the same project has continued on, with nary a word from our mayor or from Pena, who is now a candidate for the State House. For some reason the project seems to be no longer a concern of theirs.
The one thing that’s most apparent is that, for our new mayor, silence is golden. You would think that Senator Duff has much more to do with the running of our fair city. He is mentioned in almost every article having to do with Norwalk, at every level, and very little is said by Mayor Rilling. The mayor is adept only at forming committees and panels. These he sends off to “study” problems that affect our city, but he’s not very good at taking the lead on anything.
In a way, though, this makes sense. If one says nothing, takes no stand on anything, never sticks one’s neck out, assigns others to do the job, and delegates all responsibility, that person can then blame others for any failure or inaction. Oh, and we are still wondering why he said nothing at all about an assault on elderly members of his party by another leader in his party. But I think we know why.
I guess we can hope, though, that the mayor is still just trying to get his bearings. Let’s hope he will soon be exhibiting the leadership he promised.
Peter Torrano is chairman of the Norwalk Republican Town Committee.