NORWALK, Conn. – District D Democratic Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra officially kicked off his campaign for mayor Saturday, reading the following speech at Fera Park:
Thank you all for coming today. We have embarked on a tremendous undertaking and I can’t think of a better team than the group of family, friends, supporters, staff and volunteers we have here today to help launch our fight for Norwalk’s Future Now.
But before I talk about our message of Norwalk’s Future Now and what it will mean for this city, I want to first start by introducing who I am for those of you who don’t know me too well.
My mom and dad, Karen and Frank, are here. My beautiful wife Kelsie is here, she’s a public school kindergarten teacher over at Cranbury Elementary and we own our home just around the corner from there on Thistle Rd.
Kelsie and I met during our time at Notre Dame Catholic High School where I swept floors after classes to afford the tuition costs. When I went on to earn my Bachelor’s Degree and Masters in City Management, I did it the same way—working full time while taking classes on nights and weekends.
For me, nothing has come easy – and I am grateful for it. I’m grateful because it has provided me a foundation of hard work and determination, something that I carry with me throughout this journey. In retrospect, that is what has drawn me to a career in public service – the ability to stand up on behalf of the people that don’t get all the breaks.
I’ve been fighting to elect good Democrats here in Fairfield County for the past decade.
The first campaign I ever worked on was a six-way primary for Mayor in Connecticut’s largest city– so when people ask if I’m concerned that there are three other Democrats in this race, well let’s just say I’ve been in tough fights before.
In 2010, I worked alongside Congressman Jim Himes in his re-election effort – the first test to see if we could hold onto Jim’s hard-won seat and we ended up being one of the most successful Congressional campaigns in the country. We are fortunate to have such a thoughtful and intelligent Congressman representing Fairfield County.
And while I’ve fought for good Democrats in elections, I also have experience in the public sector.
I served as the Economic and Community Development Coordinator for the town of Monroe, playing a vital role bringing business to the town. During my four-year tenure, we broke ground on Swiss Army’s North American headquarters and I helped bring along the first industrial park, adding over a dozen new companies and over one hundred quality jobs to the town.
All the while, I worked hand and hand with the business community to keep our goals aligned and used strategic tax abatements as a tool to attract new business.
I’ve worked in the court system, serving in Connecticut’s largest Probate Court. As a judge clerk I spearheaded adoption efforts to help find foster children homes. I spearheaded providing living wills to senior citizens in need. And the initiative I am most proud of was our successful advocacy to get funding for grandparents taking care of their grand chilldren whose parents were absent due to incarceration.
Today, I run my own communications firm, The Preferred Group. I’ve been able to use my experience to help small businesses grow using all media platforms
While some might question my age, I feel confident that my professional, educational and life experiences have given me the ability to effectively serve the city of Norwalk as Mayor starting on day one.
People have asked me why I decided to take this race on, why now. No longer could I sit and watch our schools get shortchanged and our students neglected. No longer could I sit back and watch violence persist in our community while our leaders continue to turn a blind eye. No longer could I sit back and watch our void in leadership continue to benefit a select few at the expense of the many.
I feel this responsibility to take on this fight for the 85,000 residents of Norwalk, it’s time our government truly reflects the diversity of our city and it’s time everyone’s voices are heard.
Today, behind me sits the YMCA, a former community icon that closed with no warning a few months ago. Mayor Moccia said it was just a “sign of the times” and was “unfortunate.” I agree, it is another unfortunate sign of the times under Mayor Moccia and it’s time we choose a better way.
It’s the mayor’s job to go out and advocate for his city to attract new businesses and non-profits. It’s the mayor’s job to have a legislative agenda crafted with our community stakeholders in mind, so that Norwalk’s needs are heard loud and clear in Hartford. And it’s the mayor’s job to craft a long-term vision, draw a consensus and get things done.
Now let me tell you about what I see for Norwalk’s future.
As mayor I would work to establish of a Department of Economic and Community Development. The department would streamline the development process so that it is clear that Norwalk is ready to do business and welcoming to new projects. We will unite the departments in our development process with a clear vision set from the top because it is a top priority to bring new jobs and new opportunities to our city as quickly as possible.
Our location today is also symbolic in that we are on West Avenue – the gateway to our future prosperity. As your mayor, I will advocate to make our West Avenue Connectivity plan a reality and not just another study put on a shelf in city hall. It’s time that we encourage the Wall Street area to grow organically – with the arts and entrepreneurs leading the way. The Waypointe project, which is finally underway, is our first domino to fall, my administration will make sure that it is not the last – we will not give up the revival of Wall Street and we will not give up on 95/7.
It’s time to bring our partners in organized labor back to the table so we can build these projects and those to come effectively, on budget and on time, putting more Norwalkers back to work.
In addition to taking a hands on approach to improving our economy and bringing jobs to Norwalk, I’ll take on our community’s growing crime problem.
South Norwalk is known around the region for its restaurants, nightlife and historic community atmosphere. But too often to the residents of Norwalk it is known for rampant violence that happens on almost daily. These unfortunate incidents tear away at the fabric of our community.
Shots are fired in our city on a regular basis and it’s time we stand up, fight back and let all of our citizens know that you should not have to live in fear to get off of the bus, walk down the street or drive in a particular neighborhood.
But to effect an outcome, you need to affect the culture. We need to put more cops on the street and rebuild the trust in our community. Trust is established by actions, not words. As leaders we need to be present not only in a time of emergency, but in other times of need.
As mayor I will walk with our police officers on the beat in an effort to have our public safety officials more present out in the community. It’s time that we get back to a community based model where we all realize that we are in this together to keep our streets safer and protect our families.
And while we need to focus on and improve the relationship between our community and police. We also need to focus on giving our children and teenagers positive opportunities.
That’s why my administration will advocate tirelessly to bring a Boys and Girls Club to our city.
When you look at the great work being done by the Stamford Boys and Girls club, from its leadership programs, to its after schools sports for children and homework clubs, you’ll start to understand why adding a Boy and Girls club to Norwalk will have a dramatic effect in keeping our young people off the streets and out of trouble.
This leads into perhaps the greatest task I will have as mayor and one that’s closest to my heart as my wife, Kelsie can attest, and that is education. Norwalk has a tremendous foundation for our schools with dedicated teachers, staff, and administrators. As with many of Norwalk’s problems, the problem comes from the top down. The superintendent search has garnered national attention from many applicants.
But let’s not forget we’ve had five different superintendents under Mayor Moccia, with another one on the way. The lack of consistency is unacceptable and I blame the mayor’s lack of vision.
We need to get back to the basics which is to get the teachers the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. That means funding education properly, implementing Common Core fully, keeping the libraries open, and creating a culture where we begin to raise the bar on ourselves.
We need to give our students the opportunity to succeed in the fields of tomorrow, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, also known as STEM. STEM will increase our students’ ability to prosper in these changing times and is linked to the economic prosperity of Norwalk as a whole. In formative years, it is our responsibility that we create a first class Early Education environment that leads to long-term student success.
It’s our duty to keep our fundamental commitment to our students. I ask you, do you feel we are keeping that commitment today? Our teachers are partners in this effort and as mayor, I won’t treat our teachers as budgets busters but rather the people we entrust with the future of Norwalk every single day.
Kelsie and I live here because we believe in Norwalk’s potential. On the campaign trail we hear that a lot – “Norwalk has great potential” – and it is true. However, it is also true that the same approaches to the same problems by the same people, isn’t going to cut it anymore. The Moccia administration continues to give us band aid after band aid, tax hike after tax hike and yet we have no long term plan for future prosperity.
The old ways of doing business are close to changing and that is the opportunity we have in this election. In this election, we can put an advocate in the Mayor’s office, an advocate to demand Norwalk’s future now, on behalf of East Norwalk, Rowayton, South Norwalk, Broad River, West Norwalk, Cranbury, Silvermine, Village Creek. On behalf of this city we all call home.
Whether you are working class or upper class…no matter your color, no matter your means, no matter your age, this campaign is about us.
So we need you to sign up to volunteer, we need you to contribute money, we need you to stand up with us and spread the word that Norwalk is ready to move on. We’re ready to move on to being the city we know, we can be.
My name is Vinny Mangiacopra and I am actively seeking the Democratic nomination to be your next mayor this fall and with your help – we cannot be beat.
Thank you all very much for joining us today.