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Letter: ‘The mayor is not being honest’

By Adam Blank

Attorney, former Zoning Commissioner

To the Editor:

NORWALK, Conn. – The people of Norwalk deserve an honest mayor, maybe this fall we will elect one.

Until very recently I served on the Norwalk Zoning Commission. Despite my desire to continue serving on the commission and improve our regulations, the mayor did not reappoint me.

The mayor initially told the press his rationale for not reappointing me was that he “wanted to give some new people the opportunity to serve.” This justification was laughable. I am literally half the age of some of the current Zoning Commissioners and the mayor had no trouble recently nominating two Republicans for the Zoning Commission with many, many, more years on the commission than me.

Recognizing how obviously untrue this justification was, the mayor changed his tune this past weekend when he told the press that the reason I was not reappointed was because I represented Norwalk residents in litigation involving the tax assessor’s over-assessment of their properties and that this made Brian McCann, a city attorney, “uncomfortable” because “when you’re here in court one day fighting somebody, and then you have to deal with him as a Zoning Commissioner . . . .” Yet again, the mayor is not being honest.

I began handling zoning appeals in Norwalk in 2009. When the mayor appointed me as a regular member of Zoning Commission in 2010 he, and corporation counsel, were well aware of my representation of Norwalk taxpayers. Not a single qualm was raised by the mayor or corporation counsel then, or at any point in time thereafter, concerning my representation of Norwalk taxpayers. Not once has the mayor even asked me if I would refrain from representing taxpayers in matters against the city. Furthermore, the tax appeal matters I have tried have been handled predominately by Bob Maslan and Diane Beltz Jacobson – Brian McCann has had virtually no involvement in any of those matters. So the mayor was, yet again, less than truthful.

I was not reappointed because, when the mayor would secretly call me or meet with me in his office or at the Norwalk Inn, I would not always agree to vote exactly as instructed. This included when I refused to bow to the mayor’s pressure to make our regulations even more conducive to big box development. If the mayor had even once articulated some plan for bringing business to Norwalk or some plan for development, I would not speak out against him, but in my time on the Zoning Commission he never articulated any plan for Norwalk development. He simply pushed us to approve development at any cost to the City. I never supported those policies.

On the one hand the mayor had me – a commissioner that would not bow to his pressure – and on the other he had five Republicans vying for only four Board of Education openings. The result was obvious, the mayor saw an opportunity to remove me from the commission and, at the same time, offer one of those candidates a position on the Zoning Commission in exchange for gracefully bowing out of the race.

Whether or not you agree with my views on zoning, I hope the people of Norwalk will agree that we deserve a mayor with a vision and one who will be honest with us and I hope that this fall you will go to the polls and elect such a mayor for Norwalk.

Adam Blank

Comments

44 responses to “Letter: ‘The mayor is not being honest’”

  1. Hobbes the Calvinist

    If the Mayor really wants someone “new”, why did he re-appoint perennial hackarama appointee Joe Santo?

  2. Mike Mushak

    Hooray for Mr. Blank for speaking out! His hard work on the Zoning Commission and fair and straightforward approach to solving serious problems in our broken zoning code was appreciated by me and many others, and obviously that approach was too effective for Moccia. God forbid we should change our broken planning system, hold applicants accountable to the good folks of Norwalk, and update our obsolete zoning code! That’s not what we want in Norwalk, apparently.

    The truth about Mayor Moccia’s serious mis-management of Norwalk must get out to the public, so they can see the mayor clearly holds his own self-interest above that of Norwalk residents, businesses, and taxpayers.

    Mayor Moccia is running Norwalk into the ground as we fall years and even decades behind other cities of similar size in terms of planning issues and updating our obsolete zoning code, which has turned Norwalk into a case study among professional planners around the state in how NOT to plan a city, and the brunt of jokes since we have NO certified planners running our P and Z Department as all other cities have for obvious reasons (why wouldn’t you want actual planners running your Planning and Zoning Department?) Everywhere but Norwalk it seems, and the evidence is clear by the decades of bad planning decisions that are continuing under Moccia who refuses to fix anything that’s broken in City Hall.

    A vote for Moccia and the GOP candidates is a vote for keeping Norwalk a traffic-clogged mess with bad planning decisions, no accountability or transparency for Zoning staff with by-laws that are ignored by Zoning Chair Emily Wilson, a broken property tax policy that shifts the burden onto residential properties and results in sky high tax increases (30-50% increases in most parts of town under the 8 years of Moccia for most taxpayers)and keeping our downtown areas as badly maintained trash-filled streets lined with empty storefronts.

    Oh, I forgot to mention the compromises of public safety all over town by the rejection of expert plans taxpayers paid for (Beach Rd, West Ave., Seaview Ave., Highland Ave., and Strawberry Hill Ave., just for starters), a lousy parking policy that frightens away shoppers and is killing businesses and restaurants in SoNo, an Oak Hills Park Authority hell-bent on destroying wetlands and a pristine woodland for a wacky driving range plan, and a complete lack of proper management of staff in City Hall.

    A vote for Democratic candidates this fall will allow Norwalk to respect expert plans and best practices to bring Norwalk into the 21st century, and fix the huge mess that 8 years of Moccia has left behind.

  3. rburnett

    We have all heard story after story of how Moccia throws a temper tantrum when one of his appointees does not vote the way he wants them to. Mr. Blank is a true professional who served the City of Norwalk well while on the Zoning Commission. People of his integrity and professionalism are hard to find. It is a shame that once they are placed into public service, they are tossed out the door when they vote what they believe to be in the best interest of the city.

    Even the republicans on the Zoning Commission expressed surprise he was not being reappointed.

    Reading Mr. Blank’s letter – also knowing Moccia’s underhanded tactics – I would believe Mr. Blank’s account is accurate.

  4. Mea

    Mr. Blank, I appreciate your honest comments. What can I as a non-political taxpayer do? I purchased my home two years ago, completed a lengthy renovation, and will now have to deal with the possible development of a driving range in my backyard. Any suggestions? No one is telling me what is going on with any of these proposals.

  5. oldtimer

    Moccia not honest ? We can bet that is a charge that will be repeated many times in the next few months. His customary response to such charges has been a threat to sue, but, this time, it seems, he knows better. That leaves a lot of voters no choice but to believe attorney Blank’s accusation.

  6. EveT

    Is it too late for Adam Blank to run for Common Council? What a shame to lose such a highly qualified, honest person. We need people of this caliber running our city, not the party hacks who are just into scratching each other’s backs without a thought for the greater good.

  7. Don’t Panic

    Mr. Blank was very much appreciated by our community. His integrity and willingness to work with the public will be missed. Perhaps he will find a way to serve our city until new leadership iselected to office this November.

  8. YoungBlood

    Though it seems fashionable these days to question Mayor Moccia for every apparent indiscretion we can lay our hands on, the fact of the matter is that as a member of the Zoning Commission, Mr. Blank serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. If he is uncomfortable with that arrangement, then perhaps politics does not suit him. At the very least we should refrain from allowing the dismissal of a minor official to serve as grounds for condemnation of the entire city, a city which has retained its AAA bond rating through the worst economic depression in recent memory and which continues to serve as a prime destination for business and economic development in Southwestern CT.

  9. Suzanne

    Norwalk a “prime destination for business and economic development?” I don’t see it and I am not alone in that assessment. Perhaps, Mr. Youngblood, you have not taken a ride around downtown or SoNo or, for that matter, the neighborhoods of Norwalk lately and seen the number of empty storefronts, the trash, the empty lots, the for sale signs. A Commission member may serve at the Mayor’s pleasure but that does not mean they must leave their brains and better judgement at the door. Mayor Moccia is a bully, continues to try and mold this failing town in his image, and, boy, does it show. It makes me sad. I believe Norwalk has a lot more potential than Mr. Moccia’s private lunches and endless back door lobbying. He has never left here to see another town of the same scope and complexity that works so, perhaps he cannot tell when administration, Moccia style, is not working. A triple A bond rating does not a community make.

  10. YourDaddy

    The fact is that Zoning Commissioners don’t enjoy lifetime appointments. The Mayor has to go, but when a term ends, he isn’t doing the former office holder an injustice if he appoints a new person. Mr. Blank doesn’t seem to understand (or at least accept) that the Mayor doesn’t need any reason at all to fill his seat with someone new. If we don’t like the appointments being made by the Mayor, the solution is to elect a new Mayor, not to whine about it!

  11. Dennis DiManis

    Norwalk has what it takes to be a “prime destination for business and economic development”, but it’s a puddle of goose vomit instead because the office-holders and office-seekers are mostly sleazy politicos lacking vision and ability.

  12. NorwalkDinosaur

    @YourDaddy, the issue isn’t about whining or the Mayor’s right. It is about filling a position with a less qualified candidate because you hold a grudge against someone. Norwalk taxpayers benefited from Mr. Blank’s knowledge and thoughtfulness. The ’cause he can’ mentality is what sets Norwalk back time-and-time again.

  13. M Allen

    @Dinosaur, to some extent it is about whining. The left’s attitude toward the current Mayor is what leads the herd to vote the “anybody but him” alternative. And that just isn’t good enough if you actually believe that significant change is necessary. I recognize that the zealots may actually believe anyone would be better. But that is a recipe for disappointment. The Fantastic Four who are still duking it out amongst themselves are not going to be the saviors you’re looking for. Perhaps you’ll get some movement at the fringe, but don’t delude yourself into thinking the great shift in the city’s fortunes will be on the way if Norwalk moved into a post-Moccia, Democrat-controlled renaissance. Do you honestly believe that any of those four won’t appoint insiders to the key positions? Do you honestly think that they will not seek to influence those appointees who owe their positions to a new Mayor? Do you honestly think they can control spending or mitigate tax increases to a degree that actually matters? The fact is little will change since none of those candidates are actual change agents.

  14. Dennis DiManis

    Hey Mike Mushak—For sure all that stuff you mention is true, and lots more too. But none of the Dem challengers have stated any plans or ideas because they don’t have any. They’re dumb-ass politicians trying to get elected. F–k politicians. Top-of-the-class high school students would do a better job, and that’s where some of these posts should be filled from: McMahon and NHS.

  15. Suzanne

    M. Allen, this kind of question usually annoys me when directed toward a comment I have made but I really am interested in what you mean by this, “none of those candidates are actual change agents.” Though it maybe obvious to you, I am not sure what you mean by “change agent.” That is, if you were to support a candidate with this quality, what would they do and how would they do it? Full disclosure: I don’t consider myself a zealot for any particular candidate but do NOT want to see the Moccia administration continue with the current behaviors, intimidation’s and lack of results on behalf of ALL of the citizenry of Norwalk. Thanking you in advance for your thoughts on this.

  16. NorwalkDinosaur

    @M Allen, I hear you and I know that I have been vocal on the Primary articles, but this is a different issue. While there will always be some degree of nepotism in municipal politics, Moccia has consistently taken it to a new level. He literally appoints and backs morons for very important positions. He hires liars who will say anything he asks on the public record (one only needs to look as far as the DPW to know what I mean, among other departments and commissions). In the end, I may be wrong, but I like to think that any of the four challenging candidates will make a move towards a more inclusive, pro-Norwalk team of volunteer commissioners, and paid staff (a nice of intelligent, qualified mix of D, R, and U’s being ideal). I don’t think that they are going to turn Norwalk on its head, especially in 2-years, but I do think that they all display a great deal more honesty and integrity than the current Mayor.

  17. M Allen

    Suzanne, the reference to a real “change agent” was in regard to the perceived demand by some, primarily those of the opposing party, for a complete reversal of the Moccia administration. By the sounds of it, things are so terrible that minor changes aren’t going to do the trick.
    .
    But to try and answer your question: my interpretation of a change agent is someone not only capable of developing a workable plan for meaningful change, but also someone who possesses the leadership qualities necessary to enact those changes in a timely manner. Ideas are great, but leadership is the key to actually making it happen.
    .
    Now I don’t really think that many in the opposition believe all the things they say. Sadly, vilifying the opposition is just the name of the game in modern-day politics and it is much easier to do when anonymity is involved. I don’t personally believe that one man or one party is the root of all evil. We can all do better and we should all demand better. I’m just surprised that so many think that these four are the answer. Unless again, the answer is “just anybody else.” I don’t think that is the answer.

  18. Norwalk lifer

    I have seen a steady degradation in city services under this Mayor, antedotal experience in the recent past really opened my eyes to the enormous amount of bureaucracy that has been layered like frosting on City Hall. In the not too distant past I came to realize that even the Common Council has disregarded the ability to debate an issue objectively, and instead apply personal attributes to issues the city faces. I applauded this letter as it is the first indication I’ve seen where a city official has stated what is holding Norwalk stagnant throughout this mayor’s tenure; a unilateral judgement with a toolbox of appointees. To the credit of previous mayors, Knopp and Esposito, there was an understanding that Norwalk is not a corporation, and the mayor is not a CEO; even Corporations have board of directors who bring single facets of a organization to decision making. Norwalk did not suddenly become a community of “employees” for this mayor, we are investors, and our investment, trust, and general sense of community has been degraded thru this mayor’s management style. it’s time for a new mayor in November, here’s to hoping the good people of Norwalk pick the right one

  19. Victor Cavallo

    I’m somewhat disappointed with Mr. Blank. I can see an untrained or inexperienced layperson not understanding or being aware that the City Code gives the Mayor power to appoint zoning and other commissioners who serve at his pleasure. I’ve witnessed that type of ignorance at council meetings when the disloyal opposition attempted to insinuate themselves in the appointment process by insisting on exercising pre-appointment review and approval of candidate resumes. However, Mr. Blank is a lawyer, and it’s presumed that a lawyer is aware of the law (here Sec. 79-3 of the Code), has read it, and has exercised a minimal level of issue-analysis. Not much different from what his employer, his clients and any judge expects. Yet, he takes the low road and starts whining and protesting much as the typical litigant is wont to do in Judge Judy’s court: so-and-so is not telling the truth; so-and-so hurt my feelings; I’m a victim unjust circumstance. Were he to be corporation council, would he advise his mayor to entertain similar arguments from any similar malcontented, spurned ex-zoning commissioner? I hope not, but this tantrum makes me unsure. He should have just graciously accepted reality and thanked the mayor for giving him the opportunity to serve the community and acquire valuable experience, perhaps allowing pursuit of a new land use law practice. Instead, he chose to burn bridges and alienate a good chunk of his potential client universe: the Mayor’s sizable sphere of supporters and friends . Not a sensible thing to do when you depend on enduring relationships to earn a living.

  20. Mike Mushak

    Mr. Cavallo, it appears you are unaware of the democratic (small d) process required under City Charter describing how the Common Council VOTES to approve mayoral appointments. This is obviously to avoid cronyism and corruption. Perhaps you are not concerned about those issues as much as other folks, but that is our process, the same as it is in most other cities.
    .

    EVERY councilperson no matter their party affiliation has a right and a responsibility to review candidates for commissions, and then vote according to their conscience after reviewing their credentials. That is what a democracy is all about.
    .

    I am also curious why YOU, a member of the Planning Commission, publicly criticized Zoning Commissioner Harry Rilling for speaking out about appropriate locations for big box stores. You included a shocking misrepresentation of the 2008 Master Plan of Conservation and Development in your criticism of Mr. Rilling, saying it said nothing about big box stores around town, and that until the Master Plan addresses big box stores, Mr. Rilling does not have the right to comment on it.
    I think you need to read the Master Plan first before you comment on it and use it as a weapon against Mr. Rilling or any other Zoning Commissioner, including me, since you also called for my resignation recently as well. Somehow I get the notion you do not like anyone criticizing our broken zoning code and planning process, which has become a case study around the state in how NOT to plan a city.
    .

    For your information, since you do not even know what is in the Master Plan which is surprising since you are supposed to interpret and implement that document as a Planning Commissioner, here is what the Plan says about big box stores on Main Avenue (in the 2006 Main Avenue Study and Plan which is incorporated in the Master Plan as stated on page 56):
    .

    “For the segment of Main Avenue between Linden Street and Union Avenue, we recommend that retail stores be limited to 10,000 square feet and that drive-through facilities be prohibited. This size threshold is below the minimum required for a typical medium-box drugstore, and the drive-through restriction will further discourage high traffic-generating chain stores. As a result, we project that several properties that would otherwise have been redeveloped with retail will instead be redeveloped with residential.”
    .

    I am clearly not stating my own opinion about the BJ’s application, which is 109,908 square feet, over ten times the size recommended in our Master Plan, but I am just stating facts that are all a matter of public record and should have been known to you as a Planning Commissioner before you publicly attacked Harry Rilling for suggesting big box stores may not be appropriate in some locations around Norwalk.
    .

    Funny that a professional study in 2006, by a national firm called Stantec (it was called Vollmer back then), with a highly regarded reputation around the country, also suggested that Main Avenue was perhaps not a good location for any retail over 10,000 square feet.
    .

    Mr. Cavallo, you didn’t even know what was is in the Master Plan before you misrepresented it in your unfair attack on Mr. Rilling, who by the way has recused himself from the BJ’s application. Again, I am not stating anything about my opinion of the application (so don’t bother calling for my recusal), just that we have previous studies and master plans that do have opinions about it, and which we are supposed to use as a guideline in making our decisions, which I may or may not do depending on the evidence presented in the meetings and hearings, and if the applicant answers all of our questions to our satisfaction.
    .

    The question for you Mr. Cavallo, is do you ever consider professional studies in your decision-making process on the Planning Commission, or do you vote whichever way Mayor Moccia tells you to, as he tries to do all the time on the Zoning Commission as Mr. Blank’s letter has made very clear, and which Mayor Moccia has not denied?

  21. NorwalkDinosaur

    @Victor Cavallo = @David McCarthy-lite

  22. oldtimer

    Reading Attorney Blank’s letter, I understand he is not whining about not being re-appointed, but is complaining that the mayor lied, several times, as to why he was being replaced. He believes an honest mayor would tell the truth about why a zoning commissioner was being replaced, jnstead of giving stories to the press that could damage Blank’s reputation. I cannot imagine this mayor admitting the move was intended to give him more control over the zoning commission. If it helps, he should know, this is far from the first or only time this has happened jn Moccia’s administration.

  23. Norwalk Lifer

    Thank you Mr. Mushak for your comments, you speak of a higher value for public service, and yes, while the process for vote might be fractious and disjointed at times, it is better to make clear that the debate is necessary to produce a finer product. I do not always agree with the numerators some individuals might express as their opinion or vote, but I would like to think that the denominator is a democratically solid process for such dissent or agreement. You speak as a caretaker of democratic ideals, Many thanks for your adherence to this which we all hold as a denominator as Americans.

    Best Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  24. Norwalk Lifer

    Mr. Cavallo, your comments are perceived by me as almost a supposition of threat, are you saying that Mr. Blank who clearly takes a step forward here in his opinion should consider the causal effect model of his words? Are you saying that an individual does not have the “right” to express publicly and without violence his or her opinion, perception, belief, truth on a subject? I surely hope not, as your words are akin to the reactionary venue seen in corporations, where such opinions, or viewpoints might be discouraged in the pursuit of a false sense of fellowship or team ideals. Thats fine for corporations, they have shareholders and if the steering management does their job well, those investors are well compensated for their involvement. Here we are investors in a community, we are voters, and we wish to hear all viewpoints, including Mr. McCarthys and Mr. Blanks, Mr. Rillings, Mr. Moccia, and others. We’ll decide who is giving the best viewpoint or vision for the city of Norwalk. Norwalk survived before these individuals and she will survive post them. You see, we are investors, we choose to live here and contribute. Please remember when you dispute the opinion of another, you should remain objective, and not muse “philosphically” on the effect that individual’s words might have on future employment. I would argue that is a boomerang that might not be caught with adroit precision should it ever come back to you.

  25. Suzanne

    M. Allen, thank you for your clear response to my query regarding your views on what it is to be a “change agent.” I agree that something different must be done than what currently exists in administering the government/politics of the City of Norwalk. I know electing this man, Mayor Moccia, to continue on the same course does not make change and I can only hope that one of the four will be elected and make significant changes to business as usual. I do not cotton to empty rhetoric which seems plentiful in this race as in every other in an election process but I do believe at least a couple of these candidates have a real plan to turn things onto the “side of their head”, so to speak by routing out what is not working and making operations more efficient and behavior more civil (which goes a long way in getting anything done in a commission/council based system.) The single largest piece I see missing in making change is the lack of data – both from outside municipalities of a similar size and scope, from neighboring communities with shared concerns and from inside the City itself. Topical information seems to be either hidden, unclear or chaotic, no clear information is provided so that changes can be made intelligently and informatively. This is where the political process intervenes and decisions seem to be made in a vacuum that ultimately affect you and me and everyone else paying taxes to the City. Thank you, again, M. Allen. I appreciate your remarks which stay on topic and continue the conversation in a civil and constructive manner.

  26. Victor Cavallo

    Mr. Mushak:

    1. I do not take issue with the council approving the Mayor’s appointments. I do take issue with the proposal put forth by the Democrats at the first post- election council meeting in 2011 that the Mayor submit resumes to the council for pre-approval before the mayor’s exercise of appointment powers. That’s not what Sec. 79-3 of the Code permits.
    .
    2. (a) My letter about Mr. Rilling was written by me as citizen, not commissioner. The identification of me as commissioner was inserted by the publication’s editors but it was not in my original by-line or tag-line. I addressed the letter to Mr. Rilling as candidate, and not commissioner.
    (b) I never said “…until the Master Plan addresses big box stores, Mr. Rilling does not have the right to comment on (the appropriate locations of big box stores).” He most certainly has the right to speak out and make whatever campaign promises he wishes. However, Mr. Rilling did not merely speak out about the appropriate locations of big box stores. Mr. Rilling’s campaign promise was that if elected mayor he would-and could BAN big box stores, and he implied that he could do it unilaterally. In my letter I pointed out why he can’t do that. I stand by my conclusions.
    .
    3. Regarding, the “incorporation” of the 2006 study you refer to, here’s where you attempt to pull a fast one:
    (a) The 2006 study, if it exists at all, is not written in the body of the Master Plan itself. Rather, it seems to be incorporated by reference, at best, or at worst it was merely “incorporated” into the deliberated information the various committees had considered. You, however, imply that the quoted language is actually “incorporated” into the body of the Master Plan. That’s not true.
    (b) even if your quoted language does exist – i.e. the reference to “…the segment of Main Avenue between Linden Street and Union Avenue…” – just a plain reading your quoted language reveals that the policy evoked pertains to a small slice of Norwalk which the authors recommend should be reserved for residential development by limiting stores to 10,000 sq, ft. within that specific area. Your interpretation suggests that the authors recommended that the entire city be reserved for residential development, by limiting ALL retail development to 10,000 sq. ft. That would mean that all the Norwalk supermarkets, including C-Town, our restaurants, and every other commercial retail space should have not have been built much larger than the size of a couple of McMansions put together. That you have the temerity to draw this conclusion and put it forth as a credible interpretation of our land use policy is shocking!
    (c) ipso facto, it is simply not true that “… BJ’s application (of) 109,908 square feet, (is) over ten times the size recommended in our Master Plan.” The Master Plan has no such limitation save for the tangential reference to a small segment of the city that’s referenced in an extrinsic study.
    .
    4. I’m writing and commenting here as a citizen and not as a planning commissioner, so I chose to ignore your query concerning how and what the Planning Commission considers during its deliberations on applications and issues.
    .
    5. I don’t apologize for offending your delicate sensibilities in my earlier letter calling for your resignation. It was based on your unbridled penchant to viciously and continuously defame and destroy the reputations of Norwalk city employees, especially those in the Planning and Zoning office, and in particular the Planning director. I believe you’ve brought shame on the Zoning Commission and you have incurred significant legal liability for your defamations, not only for yourself, but for the city, as well.

  27. Victor Cavallo

    Norwalk Lifer:

    I was motivated by Mr. Blank’s astonishing audacity to publicly call the Mayor a liar, an accusation which, like it or not, has consequences, considering who’s being called a liar and how. At most you can accuse me of being an officious dutch uncle, but definitely no threat was implied.

  28. LWitherspoon

    The back and forth between Mike Mushak and Victor Cavallo is unseemly. What can we do to become a City whose Zoning Commission dispassionately rules on land use applications?
    .
    To any outsider, this back and forth suggests that our Zoning Commission is heavily politicized. Who would want to invest in Norwalk when by all appearances the Zoning Commission is so political?

  29. M Allen

    I’m going to speak from a bit of ignorance here and just try to apply common sense. So please correct me if the law says otherwise.
    .
    My understanding is that some of what comes before the P&Z is rooted in law, and when commissioners make a decision, it is about their interpretation of how a particular case is bound by regulations. But in other cases, they have more leeway in how they decide. Thus, I don’t find any flagrant violation of anything if the mayor attempts to lobby commissioners to rule on something a certain way IF it is one of those areas where they have leeway.
    .
    Am I wrong? Are we to believe that every decision made by a commissioner, but in reality any similar body, is not able to be influenced by discussions both on the floor as well as off it? Politics is part of the equation in most areas, hopefully barring the judicial arena where everything is about the law and prior precedent. I just get the feeling we are holding commissioners to a standard that isn’t standard (for lack of a better word).

  30. Norwalk Lifer

    Dear Mr. Cavallo:

    As I stated, my perception of your comments were much more than the admonishment of a dutch uncle, as you so blithely put it. I would argue that your censorship indirect of course, of Mr. Blank’s words is something we don’t require right now, the only way to improve on issues is to face them head on and create avenues for a better way. You may not like Mr. Blank’s words, but to link them to some future aspiration, well, it shows that one person’s truth should be tempered by one’s future endeavors. I wish this individual much success in all that he strives for, and while there can be debate on whether he is factual in his views, I would again state, his right to air his view.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  31. Norwalk Lifer

    Dear Mr. Cavallo:

    Your words here:

    5. I don’t apologize for offending your delicate sensibilities in my earlier letter calling for your resignation. It was based on your unbridled penchant to viciously and continuously defame and destroy the reputations of Norwalk city employees, especially those in the Planning and Zoning office, and in particular the Planning director. I believe you’ve brought shame on the Zoning Commission and you have incurred significant legal liability for your defamations, not only for yourself, but for the city, as well.

    You do understand that questioning the competency of those who are enlisted in decision making of matters of this importance is not defamation?

    And exactly what in Mr. Mushak’s statements brings legal liability to the City of Norwalk? statements are vetted in a court of law, and expert witnesses are brough forth to either support or refute, dependent on the ligitation.

    What are you saying? that by stating these views here, he is bringing liability to Norwalk? Would you also agree that if his statements are true, the actual state of affairs if indeed safety issues are at stake, might in themselves be fodder for ligitation?

    Nicolo Machiavelli said it best:

    “There are two kinds of thieves, one that is sorry he stole, and one that is very sorry he is going to jail”

    With respect, which “thief” do you speak of?

    Best Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  32. Mike Mushak

    I am sorry to LWitherspoon and everyone else who is offended by the politicization of the Zoning Commission, and the back and forth on this thread between me and Planning Commissioner Victor Cavallo who insists on misrepresenting the truth about Democratic volunteers including me, Adam Blank, Harry Rilling, and also freely misrepresenting our own Master Plan which he seems quite unfamiliar with (see more on that below.)

    My long posts do not have to be read by anyone who doesn’t care enough, and I am fine with that. Just ignore it, please. However, I am getting lots of good feedback privately among old time activists and insiders who are proud that I am speaking out about what I see going on. And I insist on counteracting the lies and unfair attacks in a public forum being put forth by GOP thugs like Victor Cavallo who do not like facts to get in the way of their sleazy political goals, which is to try to silence a very vocal critic who is whistleblowing on the disturbing corruption of process I see in City Hall under Mayor Moccia and certain members of his GOP party.

    .
    I suggest LWitherspoon and others who may be disturbed by what I say attend a Zoning Commission meeting and watch as a regular contingent of two and sometimes three (but not all) GOP Commissioners regularly bully the rest of the Commission by shouting, slamming hands down on desks, and ending meetings prematurely to avoid imnportant information being put into the record.
    .
    The meetings are not run professionally, and in fact, the process for keeping recordings and minutes has until very recently been sloppy and highly manipulated by GOP Chairs and staff to keep contoversial facts and issues discussed off the record, a violation of ethical standards and standard rules of order. We still don’t approve minutes of our committee meetings before going up on the city website, a serious violation of FOI rules and which allows staff and the GOP leadership to freely manipulate the minutes with impunity. Staff in fact did not record those meetings until very recently despite many years of Commission members requesting that they do, until finally Corporation Counsel insisted on it when the city’s position in an appeal of one of our decisions was complicated by the lack of a recording of that meeting.
    .
    The staff and GOP chairs seem unconcerned about the fact that the Zoning Commission is the only Commission in Norwalk that does NOT regularly approve minutes of its meetings before being entered into the public record, an oversight that alone deserves investigation, let alone other issues like Mayor Moccia meeting with commissioners and demanding they vote certain ways on applications which Mr. Blank describes and which Mayor Moccia has not denied.
    .

    This is an unacceptable and unprofessional practice for an important land use board making decisions about the future of our city to be so manipulated by the mayor, who promises re-appointments to those who follow his orders and retaliation to those who do not (exhibit one: Mr. Blank’s non-appointment for not doing exactly as the mayor commanded him to do.)

    As I have stated an on another post in detail, I had to make a secret deal with the mayor in 2011 to get re-appointed, ,which I regret but which I felt was absolutely necessary to be a counterpoint to the corruption on the commission and represent the interests of the good folks of Norwalk instead of the desires of the mayor only, and to his credit the mayor did reappoint me over the stiff objection of two particular GOP commissioners who hated the fact that I ask many questions of applicants and would vote independently based on the evidence, as I always stated on the record, and NOT for political reasons. I will always be grateful to Moccia for re-appointing me, an act he sorely regrets now and which my current criticism will no doubt not get me re-appointed next year if we have to suffer another term under his autocratic rule, a condition I accept if necessary and yet I will no go quietly and without shining a bright spotlight on the corrupt antics of the GOP leadership. I will also work tirelessly to get Moccia replaced, as he is just bad news for Norwalk’s future.
    .
    In the meantime, the future of Norwalk is being sold down the road by Mayor Moccia’s increasingly blatant corruption of process, and I will not sit idly by and watch Norwalk fall decades behind other cities in terms of planning issues that negatively impacts everything from our economic health, tax base, traffic patterns, public safety, quality of life, and the conditions of our schools which are underfunded based on a flat tax base and ever-increasing costs. As Finance Director Tom Hamilton said last year, our current system is unsustainable into the future, and any municipal expert can see the writing on the wall in Norwalk, and despite out triple A bond rating, we are heading for disaster as fixed costs we have no control over increase every year and services and capital projects are cut.
    .
    The broken planning and zoning system in Norwalk is the first place to fix this mess that Norwalk is in, and it is shameful that it is not run more professionally and without such political influence from Moccia and the GOP leadership who insist on controlling practically every major decision, often with no adherance to professional studies or long-range vision.
    .

    As a licensed landscape architect in 3 states, with a strong background in urban design and other issues affecting Norwalk’s future, I was and continue to be the ONLY licensed design professional(architect, landscape architect, engineer, or urban planner)on the ZC, which is surprising for a city the size of Norwalk that would normally have many such professionals serving on their land use boards. That is why I worked so hard to remain on the Commission in 2011 and had to make a deal with the mayor, in that case to NOT support his opponent Andy Garfunkel publicly or have a fundraiser at my house for him, which I was already planning to do and the mayor knew that. Mr. Garfunkel was disappointed to hear that but I was quite transparent about this deal with the devil as I described it then, which I am not proud of but again felt was necessary to continue to counteract the tendency of the Commission to be so highly influenced by politics and not facts and evidence.
    .
    Yes, the politicization of the Zoning Commission is disturbing, and one which Mayor Moccia is mostly responsible for by his appointments of well-known “thugs” that he can control and who work hard at keeping good debate from happening and proper procedures from being followed, including the by-laws which I have brought up often and am routinely shouted down by the “thugs” who disregard our by-laws with impunity. This behavior is witnessed by many and is not professional or a sign that the Zoning Commission is being managed well at all.

    I knew I would have a target on my back for speaking out, but at this point Mr. Cavallo is publicly lying about my actions and about the Norwalk Master Plan in his posts, and I will take as much time and space as I need to defend myself and explain to those interested just how badly Norwalk is currently managed.
    .
    The truth is I do my homework and take my position as a Zoning Commissioner seriously as I try hard to improve this broken city, and recently Mr. Cavallo publicly called for my resignation off the Zoning Commission based purely on lies. He also misrepresented the Norwalk Master Plan and continues to do so, so let me explain that first.

    Mr. Cavallo claims in his most recent post above that the 2006 Study about Main Avenue may not exist (in his words, “if it exists”), and that it is not part of our Master Plan (it is listed in the Introduction on page 7 as part of the “Planning Process”, where this plan and many others were generated to cover areas “that are experiencing a great deal of change”, and in the Appendix on page 56 quite clearly with a full paragraph, that this “Westport-North-Main Corridor Study and Plan” is INCORPORATED into the Master Plan, and it doesn’t say in part, or in theory, but totally INCORPORATED,, which Webster’s defines as MERGED, EMBODIED, COMBINED). That would include ALL of the text, or else the Master Plan would say it was only a “reference” which it clearly does not.
    .
    Also, on page 37 of the Master Plan, under E.3.1.11, the specific goal is listed as follows: “IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE WESTPORT-NORTH-MAIN CORRIDOR STUDY.” Here is the link to the study:
    .

    http://www.norwalkct.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/341,
    .

    which was conducted by one of the largest and well-respected engineering/planning firms in the world, Stantec (called Vollmer back then, but basically the same firm with a different name).
    .

    A map of the BJ’s location is on page 7, and the excerpt I copied previously which you commented on as if it was not important or relevent, is on page 10, section 2.2. The study addresses the entire connected Westport Avenue, North Avenue, and Main Avenue corridor, roughly two thirds of Norwalk’s Business 2 zone that bisects the eastern side of the city (CT Ave would be the other one third on the western side) and it is quite clear about where big box stores should go, which is very limited areas as opposed to your opinion that they should or could go just about anywhere. You further misrepresented my comment in your response above, by saying :
    .

    “Your interpretation suggests that the authors recommended that the entire city be reserved for residential development, by limiting ALL retail development to 10,000 sq. ft.”. I did not say that ever, so your comment is a lie. I am quite aware of the need for larger footprint retail around the city, and your comment is absurd. The recommendations of this professional Wesport-North-Main Study that is clearly PART and PARCEL of our Master Plan, is that big box stores are NOT appropriate in many locations in Norwalk, including the BJ’s site, and that according to the Master Plan, ON PAGE 48, the Master Plan IS INTENDED TO GUIDE FUTURE DECISIONS IN THE CITY.”

    As you will see, the BJ’s site is NOT RECOMMENDED for big box stores, and in fact, to repeat what I said previously, the BJ’s application at 109,908 square feet is over ten times the 10,000 square foot size recommended for this site in the study, because of traffic concerns primarily. As I stated previously, I am NOT offering up any opinion about BJ’s, and I may or may not consider this study based on the evidence presented and how well the applicant answers questions, but I certainly have the right to share what is part of the public record, and Commissioners have every right and an obligation to consider this professional study or any other one paid for by taxpayers, in guiding our decisions affecting the future of Norwalk, as the Master Plan recommends.
    .

    Please read the entire plan, Mr Cavallo. It may be helpful for you to be up to date on all of our studies as well as know that they actually exist, so you will stop making a fool out of yourself publicly about how little you actually know as a Planning Commissioner. This is really getting pathetic to know important decisions are being made about Norwalk’s future by at least one Planning Commission member who is clueless about our Master Plan and the many other studies that Norwalk taxpayers have paid millions for and which seem to get conveniently forgotten about when politicians such as Moccia prefer ignoring them when they contradict his own goals, as if he himself is some kind of expert on urban planning!
    .

    I won’t hold you entirely responsible for your ignorance however, Mr. Cavallo, as I know it is Mike Greene’s job to keep the Planning Commissioners informed about all of these studies and to work with the Commission on implementing them as part of our Master Plan.
    .

    This looks to me like a complete failure of our planning process on many levels. How sad for Norwalk, and how sad for taxpayers and businesses who are fed up with this lack of professionalism and pure nonsense.
    .

    I must also address Mr. Cavallo’s outrageous letter calling for my resignation off the ZC, where Mr. Cavallo stated I was unfairly criticizing Planning and Zoning staff, by calling into question their behavior as well as their professional credentials (which they refuse to release to the public which is surprising as no one knows what they are in City Hall, not even Personnel, and which Maslan refused to allow an FOI request for). What are they hiding?
    .
    Why should professional credentials of public servants on taxpayer payroll responsible for planning our entire city e secret form the public who are paying theirs generous salaries and benefits?
    .

    I can tell you, and no matter what Mr. Cavallo may think of Mike Greene’s amazing knowledge about planning issues, he is not a licensed professional in that field as he should be to be running a Planning and Zoning Department for a city the size of Norwalk. In fact, neither is the Assistant Director, nor is our Senior Planner. So, the top three officials in our Planning and Zoning Department, who taxpayers pay a combined total of $345,000 a year to ($141k to Greene, $117k to Wrinn, and $95k to Wilson) and who each get 6 weeks paid vacation, are NOT certified professional planners according to the American Planning Association. If they are, the APA has no record of it, which seems highly unlikely to me. I realize they are currently allowed to serve in their positions because their are surprisingly no minimum requirements for their jobs, which defies logic and common sense, but whether it is in best interests of Norwalk residents is another matter.
    .

    This is not a personal attack as Mr. Cavallo and other GOP members are always quick to claim. No, this is just the fact about the qualifications of our dedicated staff that all taxpayers and city residents and businesses concerned about Norwalk’s future should know and which are now a closely held secret by the Moccia Administration,as if the public has NO right to know about how qualified our highly paid staff are (nearly the highest paid in the state).
    .

    I initially became concerned about this issue when staff seemed unaware of current planning trends and best practices during meetings, issues which I am quite knowledgeable about as a licensed landscape architect who must keep up to date on them through continuing education requirements, and as a passionate student of cities and urban design around the world for my entire career (I now do residential design primarily, but I started my career working for two large design firms based in NYC on urban and park designs around the country, and continue to visit cities every year all over the world photographing and experiencing good urban design).
    .
    I know what a good well-planned city is supposed to look like, in other words, and Norwalk certainly is not one of them, although I hope it will be some day if we can fix our badly broken planning system and obsolete zoning code as soon as possible.
    .

    When questioned about their credentials, which I have every right to do as a Zoning Commissioner and taxpaying resident of Norwalk, staff naturally turned defensive, which I expected because these folks are not used to being supervised as the by-laws dictate but which staff and most Commissioners ignore. In Mike Greene’s case, he reacted quite rudely and arrogantly. At one point I called for a performance review of Mike Greene during a meeting after a disturbing incident, after I was concerned that Mr. Greene was not acting in the best interest of Norwalk citizens but in his own self-interest.
    .

    Mr. Greene’s last performance review was in 2005, and Mayor Moccia apparently ended them when he was elected since there was no record of one since then. Yet staff continued to get raises every year with NO performance reviews being conducted, which is never done in all other well-managed big cities and organizations, which indicates just how badly managed Norwalk is with so little accountability by its staff to taxpayers who they work for.
    .

    Anyway, Mr. Greene threatened the Commission with legal action, in the form of a “subpoena”, which was the term he used, if we ever discussed a performance review of him again, as he stormed out of the room. He actually said “I will subpoena every one of you if I ever hear that phrase again.”
    .
    Of course we had no recording of it because at the he time Mr. Greene didn’t like the meetings to be recorded despite Commissioners asking for it for years! (Now we record all meetings at the insistence of Corporation Counsel, thank goodness).
    .
    Anyway, this outburst was witnessed by the entire commission, and can not be disputed unless the entire commission suddenly forgets what happened which is most unlikely, and yet Mr. Cavallo stated in his call for my resignation that I made this up, and that Mr. Greene would never do this. He wasn’t there, but all of the Commissioners were, both DEM and GOP, and Mr. Cavallo should apologize for this but somehow I expect he will not.
    .

    Mr. Greene’s action effectively eliminated any accountability for him from anyone inside City Hall, as the Zoning Commission has the sole responsibility to hire or fire Mr. Greene, a fact that is regularly disputed by Dave McCarthy for who knows what reason, without citing any other reference except his own opinion, as if protecting Mr. Greene from being held accountable through best management practices as a public official is somehow a noble thing to do.
    .

    It is not like I haven’t tried to work with staff and the former GOP Chairperson Santo, in improving the skills and knowledge of our staff. When Mr. Greene professed an astonishing obsolete 1970’s era opinion about stormwater management in a meeting with an applicant, I politely began requesting over several meetings that we hire a drainage expert to come in and give us all a crash course in stormwater management, which is a big part of planning and zoning issues, and because our standards are decades old and embarrassing as we are the last city on Long Island Sound, in both NY and CT, to have new drainage standards to protect the quality of the Norwalk Harbor and the Sound.
    .
    At one point Mr. Greene said we had no money to hire an expert, which is not true as we increased our fines several years ago to provide money to hire experts, which we never do so the money should be there. This conversation was not included in the minutes, so when I requested by email that the verbatim conversation be included, Chairman Santo told staff to ignore my request! This was an ethical violation as it was tampering with official records, but I let it go. I had more important battles to fight at the time, and Moccia has so gutted the ethics rules in Norwalk that it was likely politics would get in the way of a fair hearing.
    .
    At a later date, I brought up the lack of modern drainage standards in a crowded hearing where Mike Greene could not avoid answering a question on the record, and he told me if I wanted to fix the drainage standards that much, I should do it myself! I suggested that I am a volunteer, and that Norwalk taxpayers are paying him to update our obsolete standards, and I got the usual reprimand from the GOP commissioners who always say I am picking on Mr. Greene, and who seem wholly unconcerned with the substance of my complaints and the implications for Norwalk’s future and environmental health.
    .
    Afterwards, a prominent developer who witnessed the exchange thanked me in the parking lot for having the guts to confront Mr. Greene, who he stated had blocked important zone changes years earlier that would have benefitted SoNo, and how disgusted he was with Mr. Greene’a retaliatory behavior over the years whenever he was challenged.
    .
    It is all so childish and humiliating, and in the meantime our Harbor and Sound get more polluted each time it rains because our standards are obsolete, and Mr. Green continues to think no harm is being done by ignoring the up-to-date drainage practices that most other cities in the country now have. He even approved a parking lot recently that clearly drains toxic pollutants directly into the Sound, against our own current standards and zoning code, and when I brought it up in a meeting, he said he could do whatever he wants as he alone has the right to interpret the code no matter what it says! The guy is an absolute nightmare, and no one in City Hall cares or is willing to do anything about it, which is most disappointing, and why we need a new mayor fast to begin fixing this tragic mess that our planning process has become and under Mr. Greene and under GOP control.
    .

    When I suggested that our top P and Z staff should have job descriptions that have minimal requirements for professional certification as planners, to our appointed Corporation Counsel Maslan (who works at the pleasure of the mayor and is solely accountable to him), he laughed told me that nobody believes planning is a profession, so why bother! That’s like saying law or medicine is not a profession, and it shows an ignorance of professionalism that unfortunately is prevalent in the current crowd running City Hall. Imagine no engineers running our DPW, or no accountants in our Finance Department, or no lawyers in our Legal Department. This is how absurd it is to have no professional planners running our Planning and Zoning Department, and yet Norwalk is alone among large cities in having this absurd situation occur.
    .

    Now if I was the only person in Norwalk to have trouble with Mike Greene, I could see a point in Mr. Cavallo’s argument that I may be out of line in my criticism of staff, However, I am not alone, and in fact, most other department heads in City Hall will tell you, off the record of course, how difficult he is to work with. I have also heard many stories from private developers, business owners, and homeowners who also have horror stories about Mike Greene and other staff members who go way out of line in retaliating for being questioned, and in some cases which the city has been sued for which is public record, even lied to by staff.
    .
    The Planning and Zoning staff is well known for not being small business friendly, and in fact, when I worked with GOP Commissioners on updating our highly restrictive contractor facility codes last year, to make them more business-friendly and bring us in line with other cities to encourage business and real estate activity to boost our local economy(this counters the claim that I do not work well with others that LWitherspoon and others have claimed erroneously), it was Mr. Greene who repeatedly sabotaged the process by ignoring our requests to word the text a certain way, startling all of us on both sides of the aisle, by which time it was too late as the public notice had gone out, and we were forced to pass an inadequate text amendment that the Commission promised to revisit this summer and fix (which nothing has happened on yet, and which I requested from Chair Emily Wilson in June to be put on the agenda asap.)
    .
    If this does not occur soon, I am sure the large organized contractor community will not be happy with Mayor Moccia, since it is clear he has influence on Chairperson Wilson and her agenda. Contractors will not be ignored quietly, I can assure Mayor Moccia. (if this sounds like political pressure, I stand guilty.)
    .
    Our obsolete broken zoning code needs to be updated constantly, and with our current stubborn staff and broken planning process, we continue to have hundreds of vacant properties and frustrated contractors who are forced to spend on average a million dollars and go through a ridiculous process just to have a small place to store a couple of trucks, which is absurd and unfair, and bad economic policy.
    .

    With pressure from me last year, and by working with other Commissioners who share the same opinion about our restrictive code, we finally began amending our code to make it more business-friendly. I am proud of those efforts despite Mr. Greene’s repeated attempts to fight it, simply because he doesn’t want more work for himself and his staff, and which has nothing to do with helping Norwalk businesses thrive. Mr. Greene has ignored and even intimidated the contractor community for years, through retaliatory enforcement efforts aimed towards those calling for change, which is Mr. Greene’s typical modus operandi to deal with anyone challenging him. It is actually frightening to see this happen, when codes are used as weapons against those who shine spotlights on Mr. Greene’s bad behavior.
    .
    This happened last year with the owners of two very prominent businesses, who were persecuted by staff with multiple zoning complaints bordering on harrassment based clearly on personal animosity by staff instead of a business-friendly approach where solutions could be encouraged and compromises met. As Mr. Green says frequently, he alone has the right to interpret the code as he sees fit, and no one else matters. It is arrogance on steroids, and there should be no place for this kind of retaliatory official in City Hall, but he has been there since 1978 and has become entrenched to the point he controls issues affecting the future of Norwalk based on his moods and limiting his own work load, not on any desire to move Norwalk forward or stay current with new planning trends.
    .
    He doesn’t even live In Norwalk, I mean, why would he pay our sky high taxes and suffer the traffic and blight his own broken policies have foisted on the rest of us who live here and pay his generous salary? If Norwalk is going to ever progress, Greene has to go, plain and simple.
    .
    I will risk a lawsuit against me if it means the truth about how bad this situation is will get out to the public. This madness in our Planning and Zoning Department has to end soon or Norwalk will never reach its full potential as a great place to live and work with a stable tax base and great well-funded schools. Our P and Z Department deserves the best qualified staff our money can buy, not career bureaucrats who stopped their education in the 70’s and 80’s, and who manipulate the system for their own benefit at the expense of residents and business in Norwalk who pay a steep price with bad planning decisions by a staff with obsolete ideas and few credentials to do what they do.
    .

    My challenge to Mr. Cavallo is, if you are so convinced of teh staff’s professionalism which you are so quick to defend, please obtain and share with everyone the current verifiable professional credentials of our P and Z staff (not their resumes from the 1970’s and 80s when they were hired which are the only record available in Personnel), and share it with the public who have every right to now, as much right as staff and the Commission has to know from any zoning applicant who must produce up-to-date resumes for any of their experts. Why shouldn’t we hold our own staff to the same standard of transparency we hold applicants?

    Whew, that was a long post!

  33. Joe Espo

    “As I have stated an on another post in detail, I had to make a secret deal with the mayor in 2011 to get re-appointed…”

    Let’s see: Mike Mushak makes a secret deal with the mayor to guarantee his re-appointment. So a practitioner of secret back-room politics is accusing half of city hall of wrongdoing because he suspects them of practicing what he practices? A man of honor and high esteem, this man is….isn’t he?

  34. Norwalk Lifer

    Thank you once again Mr. Mushak for taking the time to explanation your position, from what I can gather, the means and methods of coming to an informed decision on the Zoning Commission is tainted by an avoidance of transparency, possibly the lack of skill sets of those commissioned to make important decisions, a reluctance to reach across the aisle to come to a compromise that weighs all possible attributions. Contrary to what Mr. Joe Espo posted here, I applaud your transparency in admitting a negotiation with this mayor to stay on the Zoning Commission Board. it would appear to me that petty grievances, such as a fundraiser, does indeed smack of the kind of leadership this city does not need, nor does it require. The difference between you and the others who disavow “back room” deals is you admit to this, while others state they do not exist. That in itself, while others are looking for sainthood in their town leaders, is refreshing.

    And to those who call for the resignation of an individual who is knowlegable, honest, and forthright, I would say you could learn a lesson or two from him; politics can make grand ideas microcasms; Here in Norwalk, do not fancy yourselves as celebrite as the party leaders we read about on a daily basis in national politics and scoff about. If our drainage system is antiquated and not commensurate with other cities on the sound, that in itself should be enough to motivate you to explore the causes more objectively, Afterall, the sound will be here long after you and others have left office.

    So in summary, show some respect for the waterways that were here long before you.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  35. Joe Espo

    Norwalk Lifer:

    What’s the distinction between the “back room” discussions between Mike Mushak and the mayor and any “back room” discussions between Adam Blank and the mayor? The accusation flying all around – and even from Mike Mushak himself- is that the dealings with Blank are inexcusable but those with Mushak are excusable. Should I suppose it was ok in Mushak’s case to strike a self-interested deal because it gained him a re-appointment but it wasn’t ok in Blank’s case because he lost his re-appointment? Quite cynical, don’t you think? And the hypocrisy ought to hit you right between the eyes. If, as Mushak and Blank suggest, the the honor and independence of a zoning commissioner is to be deemed inversely proportional to his willingness to play ball with the mayor, then Mike Mushak should, by his own standards, question the actual validity of his re-appointment.

  36. Mike Mushak

    Joe Espo, you are confusing very two different issues here.
    .
    The first issue you seem obsessed with was my deal with the mayor just to get reappointed, which I regret and am not proud of but have been transparent about since the moment it happened, and which I did to be able to continue to serve the residents and businesses of Norwalk whose critical issues I felt were not being represented well on the commission, and to counter the corruption of process that was happening (and to counter the lies that Moccia was being told by two particular commissioners who couldn’t control my vote so wanted me off, and made up some bogus charges that I was “against property rights” which is a joke as there was no evidence or examples on the record offered to substantiate that bogus claim they made to the mayor.)
    .
    The second issue you are confusing with the first one is the secret deals between the mayor and zoning commissioners to get applications approved or denied, which I never participated in, and which Adam Blank refused to participate in as well, which he is quite clear about. I don’t think Mr. Blank was even given the option of getting reappointed if he would have made a political with the mayor on that issue alone, as that decision was apparently already made based on his past refusal to vote as the mayor directed, from what I can gather by the facts in all these letters and posts.

    So, there is a big difference between 1): making a political deal, seedy as it sounds but essential in the Moccia era and in my case to get reappointed, which was just petty politics involved as it involved not throwing a fundraiser at my house for the mayor’s opponent who he knew I supported ( I helped organize other fundraisers at other locations anyway), and 2.): a deal that affects
    the outcome of an application, which should NOT be influenced by politics or pressure from the mayor but based on the evidence presented on the record as prescribed by law (and on previous relevant studies and the official City Master Plan), because of the serious consequences for applicants and those affected including surrounding residents and businesses, traffic flow, environmental quality, tax base, etc.
    .

  37. Norwalk Lifer

    Dear Mr. Espo:

    I thought I was clear in my statement, Mr. Mushak admits to the dealings, as heinous as they might be. But before you pass judgement, what is your position on the mayor holding secret deal sessions to further a cause? is that permissible? do you exonerate the mayor from these doings? who initiated these meetings? what is the purpose of a city government if it is run like a board room? While you might find the comments of Mr. Blank and Mr. Mushak as you state, semi-hypocritical, thru what prism do you view the mayor’s actions?

    if you find this so distasteful, why not voice your opinion on the mayor’s behaviour? after all, to not do that, would be in itself, cynical

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  38. Joe Espo

    What bothers me here is that Mike Mushak obtained his re-appointment under false pretenses. He admits that he intended to undermine and sabatoge the mayor all along and concealed his intentions while vying for his re-appointment.
    .
    If the mayor had known of his intentions, the mayor most certainly would not have re-appointed him.

    I’m wondering if there was a conspiracy afoot here, wherein other zoning commissioners were in on the scam.
    .
    Next time you read a Mike Mushak opinion criticizing the integrity of the P&Z staff, his fellow zoning commissioners, or the p&z process, consider the character of the author, and whether he has the moral authority to question anyone else’s integrity.

  39. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Mushak
    You seem to have put a lot of effort into your latest comment, and I appreciate that.
    .
    However when you refer to your opponent Victor Cavallo as a “GOP thug”, this layman has to wonder whether your concerns are legitimate or just more partisan mudslinging.

  40. Mike Mushak

    LWitherspoon, the reasons I call Cavallo a GOP thug, is that last month he wrote 2 letters to the editor, one calling Harry Rilling uninfomed of the responsibilities of a mayor for suggesting alternatives to big box stores, imagine that,(does he ever call out Mayor Moccia for going around town promoting big box stores almost anywhere no matter how appropriate or what the Master Plan says? No, he doesn’t. Double standard here!)
    .
    The other letter Mr. Cavallo wrote last month demands my resignation from the Zoning Commission, even though I had never met him or talked to him about any of the many charges he makes in public, which were mostly based from what I could read between the lines about, on what a couple of GOP Commissioners must have told him. I have locked horns with these two GOP commissioners over ethical details and process, and their own bullying behavior with the public and other commissioners which is all on the record, so I am not surprised for them trying to get me off of the ZC, but he didn’t bother to confirm any details with me before publicly writing a letter calling me childish names and making up details about events he never witnessed or confirmed. Definitely the behavior of a thug, wouldn’t you say?
    .
    Both letters which can be seen on this Nancy website (search Cavallo) are full of lies and fabricated details about our actions, intentions, and even our own City Master Plan which he is supposed to be familiar with as a Planning Commissioner but clearly doesn’t even know what’s in it .
    .
    Worst offense by Mr. Cavallo beyond even his lies about my behavior in his personal attack on me: he states clearly and repeatedly that the Master Plan says NOTHING about big box stores, which is a blatant lie as it totally ignores a large and comprehensive study called the “Westport-North-Main Corridor Study” performed in 2006 by Stantec, one of the largest and most respected engineering/planning firms in the country, specifically to be PART of the Master Plan completed in 2008, a process described clearly in the Inroduction on Page 7, which is quite clear about where big box stores should go in many of our business districts, including a maximum size for retail of 10,000 square feet on teh site of teh BJ’s application on Main Avenue, which by the way is 109,908 square feet, over ten times our Master Plan recommends. The most important passage Mr. Cavallo ignores: Section E.3.1.11 on page 37: Implement the recommendations of the Westport-North-Main Corridor Study.
    .
    Anyone who blatantly misrepresents an official document like the Master Plan to attack others with, especially a Planning Commissioner who one might actually think he knows what he is talking about, and whose victim on the receiving end of those lies masking as official opinions just happens to be Harry Rilling who is running against Mayor Moccia, smacks of thuggery (rough and brutish, according to Websters).
    .
    Mr. Cavallo asks for my resignation from the ZC for having a “vendetta of personal destruction against Mike Greene”, which is definitely not true. Mr. Cavallo clearly does not like my calling for more transparency and accountability of the staff, which by any layperson’s account is sorely lacking (no performance reviews, guaranteed raises every year, no supervision from the Commission as required by the by-laws, no financial details provided to the Commission even though the by-laws give fiduciary responsibility to the Commission, a lack of proper record keeping including until recently a refusal to record meetings, an ongoing neglect of proper record-keeping including teh approval of committee minutes (we still don’t approve them before they go up on the City Website as “approved and official minutes”, and many more issues of how mis-managed teh P and Z Department is under Mike Greene.
    .
    I am not alone in that opinion by any stretch as there are many folks in City Hall and around the City who have been mistreated by Mike Greene, who has shown a documented tendency to retaliate against anyone who challenges him with harassing code enforcement or the actual stopping of zone changes or text amendments that in some cases might actually help the entire city prosper.
    .
    I have however most definitely shown a spotlight on and been quite vocal about what I have seen Mike Greene do in the course of his official duties, which I am sworn by oath to do as I am sworn to uphold the by-laws of the Commission (which are currently ignored by Chairperson Emily Wilson, a good friend of Mr. Cavallo’s by coincidence), which include giving the Commission supervisory responsibility over staff, fiduciary responsibility of the Commission (which we currently do not have under Emily Wilson even though the by-laws require our approval of a monthly financial statement showing all transactions, which I have not seen in the 5 years I have been on the commission despite my multiple requests), and teh need for Mr. Greene to provide information to teh ZC to help in their decisions, which he ignores with impunity including on high profile cases where the outcome affects public health and safety and the lives of thousands of Norwalkers and visitors. I have said and will continue to say he is incompetent based on teh evidence on the record, and if that lands me a lawsuit, fine. We still don’t know what Mr. Greene’s and the other two top P and Z officials professional credentials are, as the Moccia Administration has kept them a secret. I asked Mr. Cavallo to produce them as soon as possible, so we will see if they ever get released. Apparently Mr. Cavallo and other GOP folks in City Hall think the staff’s credentials should be a secret to the taxpayers and folks who rely on their planning decisions every day.
    .
    We now know none of the top three folks in P and Z are certified planners, after an inquiry to the APA confirmed that, a shocking detail for a city the size of Norwalk. We have no planners running the Planning and Zoning Department, something Mr. Cavallo seems quite fine with, but which I find as ridiculous as having no engineers in our DPW, or accountants in our Finance Department, or no lawyers in our Legal Department. It is absurd, but then so is much of what happens In City Hall, and critics like me are routinely singled out and attacked by folks like Mr. Cavallo, with no admissison that what I am talking about has any merit, as if I made it all up!

    Hence, based on the style of attacks against me and others including his calling for my resignation from the ZC based solely on lies and fabrications and misrepresentaions of official documents like our Master Plan which he reveals he knows little about (even though he himself is a Planning Commissioner), I will continue to refer to him as a GOP thug, with all the evidence he has provided himself in his own letters written not to enlighten anyone, but to attack and defame.

    If you want to call this post mudslinging again, then perhaps there is a bias in your own opinion, or maybe you are not reading the details here. I am telling it like it is, which is the best I can do and I will let informed readers decide on their own.

  41. Norwalk Lifer

    Character assasination is not part of my opinion, I am focused on the content of what Dear Mr. Espo

    Mr. Mushak has stated, I read his posts and clearly there is issue there with regards to P&Z. You make the mistake of assuming I do not consider the writer, you are wrong in your assessment. I consider the character based on the quality and content of their opinions. Mr. Mushak has backed up his concerns with fact here. While it is unfortunate that people might have issue with the means and methods of staying on a city commission like this, I would challenge you to also examine the Mayor’s actions in this; it appears there is a compliancy and rationalization of the actions of a mayor who uses secret ballot like discussions to hold influence over those who have taken the time to try to make their city better. It is not a situation where the individual viewpoints are in dispute, all have the right to air their opinions, BUT, in this case, I hear a one-sided admonishment on the individual who used the venue offered to stay relevant on this important committee, but no words of admonishment for the individual who set up the process of secret meetings in the first place. Now tell me, why is that?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  42. Joe Espo

    Mike Mushak: no matter how many thousands of words you write and how much character assasination you dish out as a smokescreen, you still can’t seem to explain how you can sleep at night knowing that you got re-appointed under false pretenses. It’s a scarlet letter that you can never cover-up. It’s a credibility killer.

  43. Norwalk Lifer

    Dear Mr. Espo:

    So in closing, we can assume that the same actions are a credibility killer for the mayor also?

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  44. Mike Mushak

    What false pretenses? Please explain if you are going to make that charge. No one lied, and if you think making a necessary political deal which was not my idea but was Mayor Moccia’s condition that he imposed on me in order for me to continue serving the city as a volunteer and the only licensed design professional on the Zoning Commission, an obligation I felt I had as decisions are made by the Commission that needed my expertise which I offer often, then you have that right. But your personal attacks on me for agreeing to a deal Mayor Moccia initiated without any criticism of the mayor from you for forcing me into it just to serve as a volunteer, which takes a lot of my time and energy, reveals more about your character than mine.

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