NORWALK, Conn. – Vinny Mangiacopra knows he has a couple of hurdles to clear if he is become the next mayor of a city that casts a wary eye on “outsiders” and change in general.
“I can’t control where I went to school or my age,” he said recently, answering frequent detractors after addressing a Cinco de Mayo gathering at the South Norwalk Community Center. But he quickly tried to turn both to his advantage.
“I think I bring a fresh perspective, a sense of reality” to the race.
For the record, Mangiacopra, one of four contenders for the Democratic Party nomination to run for Norwalk Mayor, is 31 and graduated from Notre Dame Catholic High in Fairfield. His career has taken him to Bridgeport and Monroe. He is married to a lifelong Norwalker and has lived in Norwalk for eight years.
Mangiacopra said he wants to use his fresh perspective to change the way Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia has done business over the past seven years, and pointed to the City Carting 10-year trash collection and hauling contracts in particular.
“There were several City Carting employees on Moccia’s campaign donor list” in 2011, he said, “three of them for the maximum of $1,000. People figure that’s the way politics are, but it shouldn’t be that way.”
Another area where he said the mayor has been deficient is technology. “Modern-day technology is a part of everyday life,” he said. “It’s how we communicate. I will evaluate it, of course, reach out. It’s a way to get more people involved. That’s my goal, to be a conduit to get more citizens involved” in their government.”
He also cited Moccia’s years in office as an impediment to getting a handle on the city’s finances and spending priorities.
“It is important to get new eyes on the budget, to look at all of the numbers,” he said. “I am not confident we are getting accurate numbers, from past experience,” pointing to discrepancies including the school and NEON budgets, the missing money in the town clerk’s office and losses at Oak Hills Park.
Mangiacopra did not confine his barbs to the mayor, though. He addressed the city’s violent crime, and used the opportunity to take a swipe at the Democratic rival many consider his biggest challenger for the nomination, former Police Chief Harry Rilling.
“We need to get control of the (police department) overtime budget,” he said. “I’ve talked with the rank and file officers. They need more bodies. During Rilling’s 17 years as chief, you would think he could have found a way to get more officers. It’s a matter of priority.”
Rilling has laid out his plan to increase the number of officers if he is elected, but Mangiacopra has his own idea.
“I’m not sure how soon we will be able to get more, but I know I can get them one. On Day 1 of my administration, I will be out there walking with them.”
Mangiacopra said there is a problem between some segments of the Norwalk population and the police. “It’s a cultural issue with the community and the police department. We need to change that.” He talked about creating a bridge as mayor between the police and the community.
“As mayor, I’ll be held accountable for everything,” he said, “and the police chief will be accountable.”
The great thing is there’s a distinct choice now,” he said, setting up a veiled swipe at Rilling and his other opponents, veteran Common Councilman Matt Miklave and former town clerk and former mayoral candidate Andy Garfunkel. “It’s not going to be the lesser of two evils. We will have two candidates who will take things in distinctly different directions.”
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