Letter: Take a close look at Common Council incumbent records

By Bruce Kimmel

To the Editor:

NORWALK — The Democratic mayoral primary is over and Harry Rilling is the candidate who will face Mayor Richard Moccia. During the primary, the focus was on the four candidates vying for the top spot on the Democratic ticket. But now things are different, and the media and voters will undoubtedly adopt a broader perspective.

First of all, Mayor Moccia will present his side of the debate; he’ll lay out his record and respond to the points raised by his opponent. And secondly, the views of the under-ticket, especially the candidates for the Common Council, will need to be considered.

This latter point is important because Norwalk’s system of government gives the council considerable power. While I don’t fully agree with this view, it has often been noted that we have a “strong council, weak mayor” system. In this context, the quality and experiences of the under-ticket should loom large when residents enter the polling booths on Nov. 5.

Before continuing, I would like explain my views on negativity in political campaigns. I believe it is reasonable, and also necessary, to discuss and even criticize the statements, positions and votes of political opponents. I do not believe in attacking opponents on personal grounds. Facts are facts, and should be an integral part of political discourse.

The mayoral primary, surprisingly, raised a series of questions about the quality of the Democratic under-ticket.

One of the candidates, Matt Miklave, focused his entire campaign on two issues, one of which was the need to completely reform the local Democratic organization. He clearly implied that the official slate of council candidates was the product of a dysfunctional organization. And Rilling, during his victory speech, recognized the validity of Miklave’s view and said his party needs to move in a different direction.

For the record, I am a Democrat, but two years ago I severed all relations with the local organization. I am fortunate to have been nominated by the Republicans as an at-large candidate for the council.

It would be wrong to assume that the council candidates do not have records to run on. There are six incumbents on the Republican council ticket (Doug Hempstead, Jerry Petrini, Michelle Maggio, Sara Mann, David McCarthy and me) and three incumbents on the Democratic council ticket (David Watts, Warren Pena and John Igneri). And we have differed on some major issues.

For instance, after the Board of Education discovered a $4 million shortfall in its insurance and special education accounts, the council members now on the Republican ticket refused to withdraw that amount from the city’s rainy day fund without first thoroughly examining the causes of the shortfall. In contrast, the council members on the Democratic ticket pushed for an immediate drawdown to cover the entire $4 million shortfall, even though such a move might have jeopardized the city’s critically important AAA credit rating.

Fortunately, the more cautious approach to the BOE deficit turned out to be the correct course of action. The BOE and the Board of Estimate devised an imaginative solution that enabled the city to cover the shortfall without dipping into the rainy day fund. A few weeks ago, it was announced that the so-called debt has been paid, and that the city’s books were now balanced.

Also, the council incumbents on the Republican ticket strongly backed the contract that outsourced garbage collection (without anyone losing their job) and that enabled the city to implement single stream recycling because of the substantial savings for taxpayers over the next 10 years, possibly as much as $17 million. The Democratic incumbents opposed the contract, even though they knew that the projected savings were real.

And finally, the council incumbents on the Republican ticket strongly backed the current operating budget because we knew it would fully fund the BOE’s request, once state aid and other factors were accounted for. We recognized the need to restore the programs and positions that had been cut the previous year because of the shortfall. Inexplicably, and without providing any reasons, the council members on the Democratic ticket opposed that budget.

As the campaign moves closer to Election Day, remember – council candidates, despite all the rhetoric and promises and proclamations, have records that need to be examined.

Bruce Kimmel



4 responses to “Letter: Take a close look at Common Council incumbent records”

  1. piberman

    Yes lets examine the records of the Council incumbents in achieving a unique distinction – making the Norwalk the CT city with the highest cost of municipal services (see the Arbitration Report). Clearly residents seeking Council members more frugal with their tax dollars need see beyond the incumbents. Not only are Norwalk property owners paying excessively high taxes to support the excessive salaries of their “public servants” but recent years of stagnant property values amidst a national housing boom are another cost of such indifferent governance by our Council members at a cost of billions of dollars of foregone property appreciation. Our Council members give us a double tax – punitive property taxes and precluded property value appreciation. Norwalk property owners have a clear cut choice here. Returning the current Council incumbents means ever higher punitive property taxes and greatly reduced chances of future property appreciation. How could new blood do worse ? So keep voting for higher property taxes and lower property valuations. Its the new Norwalk !

  2. bill

    Republicans and democrats need to come together to keep property taxes low, cut the bloated city government employees’ salaries before raising taxes

  3. piberman

    to Bill:

    Since none of the Council nor Mayoral candidates are talking about the need to restrain property taxes used to fund excessive municipal salaries maybe its time to suggest electing a Board of Finance rather than our current appointed BET whereby reportedly its long tenured Chair and the Finance Head de facto set the City’s budget and taxes.

    Its not a matter of “Republicans and Democrats working together”. Neither Party is really concerned with restraining property taxes and sslaries. That’s why we’re no 1 in CT. So if we had an elected Board of Finance it might concentrate the minds.

  4. Suzanne

    Mr. Kimmel, I don’t understand your continued alliance with the Democratic Party when, in fact, you are supporting Republican response in whole in the examples you have just given. I don’t disagree with those responses, mind you, but I am puzzled at your continued participation as a Democrat when your alliances clearly lie with the Republican Party. What gives?

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