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.
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