Lifelong Norwalker: Democrats, Republicans need to get along

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Amanda Brown speaks at last week’s Common Council meeting.

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – Jeffry Spahr’s recent comment about unprecedented “rancor” on the Common Council has gotten a lot of attention in Norwalk, but another one of his statements did not.

Spahr, a lifelong Norwalk resident and deputy corporation counsel, said Tuesday, Jan. 8, that one part of a lengthy nonbinding resolution was unnecessary, as a state statute spelled out what would happen if the feared result of a potential lawsuit against the city came to fruition.

While other speakers at the lengthy, emotional meeting called three recent, unrelated nonbinding resolutions presented by council Democrats “political stunts,” Norwalk Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Amanda Brown used Spahr’s statement to illustrate the point behind the resolutions.

“This resolution was submitted days ago,” Brown said. “No comment was given to our Common Council about this resolution, how it might be improper or how it could be fixed. That is the thing that our council has been facing on the minority side. There has been a lack of guidance, assistance and care, as regards to their ability to help govern and serve us.”

The latest was a Freedom of the Press resolution written by Councilman David Watts (D-At District A) and Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At Large) because of a criminal eavesdropping complaint filed against this reporter by Mayor Richard Moccia.

The non-binding resolution saga began last spring with an effort to urge the Board of Estimate and Taxation to authorize money for the Board of Education to help cover a $4 million deficit. This fall, Democrats authored a non-binding resolution urging the Police Commission to reinstate the rank of police captain.

All the non-binding resolutions have failed.

Brown said she had been ignorant of the resolution until it was put on the agenda, but was confident that the caucus wouldn’t put it out there to start a fight. “I believe that the intentions of these resolutions are an attempt to get conversation going,” the former council woman said. “… This is not a gimmick. This is a conversation and we are having a conversation here because there’s no other place to have it except in front of the public.”

Republicans who took the time to speak to the council didn’t see it that way.

“Well, there you go again,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba said, quoting Ronald Reagan as he said the resolution had “everything to do with partisan politics.”

He continued, “It is about another political stunt that you are lodging against Mayor Moccia. … It is not based in any real problem that is in search of any political solution, nor does it have any city or taxpayer relevance. It’s a political gimmick that is wasting taxpayer dollars by the of time spent on it and the the amount of paper generated.”

Scialabba said costs had added up as the four-page single spaced resolution was distributed to the 15 council members and mayor by city staff.

Victor Cavallo said something similar. “This is one of three resolutions that have absolutely no efficacy whatsoever,” he said. “They are a waste of time, put forth by the same council members with the idea of embarrassing, harassing and essentially preparing for the next mayoral election. The proper way to purse the issue at hand is to take it to the ethics committee.”

Democrats Anna Duleep (At Large), Warren Peña (At Large) and David Watts (District A) say they cannot get items onto the agendas of the Republican-chaired ethics committees.

An effort to send the resolution from the full council to the ordinance committee for revision failed. Michelle Maggio (R-District C) voted yes on that idea with Democrats Matt Miklave (District A), John Igneri (District E), Duleep, Watts and Peña. Fred Bondi (R-At Large) originally passed on the motion, then voted no with all the remaining council members – the Republicans, Democrats Carvin Hilliard (District B) and Bruce Kimmel (District A), and Michael Geake (U-District B).

Maggio later felt the need to explain her vote, saying she didn’t want to see this reporter go to jail. Some observers saw that as an apology to other Republicans. “They were mad,” one insider said.

The next morning, both The Hour newspaper and The Daily Voice website quoted Spahr’s comments during the public speaking section.

“I am going to ask you as a taxpayer if you could please decrease the uncivil discord and increase the civil discourse we as taxpayers would appreciate it,” he said. “I would like to not have Pennsylvania Avenue come to East Avenue.”

Spahr said he was there as a private citizen who has served Norwalk for 26 years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

“I’m not here to point any fingers,” he said, earning applause when he finished. “I’m asking that everybody plays well in the sandbox and understand that the sandbox is ours and we pay for the sand.”

Jeffry Spahr talks to the Common Council last week,
Jeffry Spahr talks to the Common Council last week.


8 responses to “Lifelong Norwalker: Democrats, Republicans need to get along”

  1. Oldtimer

    The point of the resolution was to get discussion started and, as with previous efforts to get discussion started, it was shot down by the Republican majority. Any taxpayer, looking at that process, has to wonder who is really responsible for the rancor Spahr right complains about. Is it the younger Democrats, trying to open discussion, or is it moccia and his minions, trying to prevent discussion.
    In my experience, all the way back to the sandbox, those who believed they were right were never the ones who wanted to prevent discussion. Nothing much changes as we get older, only the ones who know they are wrong fight to prevent discussion. The kid who really broke the window was the one who didn’t want to talk about it. The scary part is most of the votes against talking about the resolution were blind votes, simply following orders. There was a time that was called the Nurenburg defense.

  2. Diane C2

    @Sjur – ROFLMAO – That is brilliant!!!! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Tim T

    Does everyone forget how Moccia has behaved for the past 6 or is it 8 years when anyone dare challenge his ridiculous views or opinions on something…Hi behave is very typical of an ignorant bully.

  4. Tim T

    *His behavior
    Nancy you may want to get an edit function as I could really use it…LOL

  5. jlightfield

    Does anyone actually fact check stuff anymore? Bill Fitzgerald is the chairman of the City’s Ethics Commission and a Democrat.

  6. I asked Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) for a comment for this story. His reply came a few hours later, but I didn’t get to it until it was much too late to add to the story. Here is what he said:
    “The mayor has centralized the power of city government and most of his agenda is passed without debate. The Republicans vote in lockstep and spend a lot of time doing the blocking and tackling for the mayor. The Republicans tabled these resolutions because the didn’t want to discuss them- what makes any reasonable person believe they want to discuss them in committee. Therefore, resolutions allow a vocal minority to speak out on important issues. What legislative body does not write laws nor speak out against unjust policies? This is a phony debate and another attempt to silence our voice.”

  7. Anna Duleep

    We cannot send this to the Board of Ethics until we get a replacement attorney to fill in for Corporation Counsel. Mr. Maslan specifically cited his status as staff to the Board of Ethics as his reason for leaving the Council Chambers. Deputy Corporation Counsel Spahr clearly prefers taking a position as a member of the public. The Common Council is in charge of administration of the Board of Ethics, so we are responsible for finding somebody to assist the Board of Ethics with legal questions. Once they have impartial assistance from outside Norwalk, they can take the lead on this matter.

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