Mayor brings stakeholders to the table to tackle racial issues

Norwalk 120414 498
Norwalk Democratic Town Committee members Bobby Burgess, center, and Ernie Dumas, second from right, attend Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Burgess is sitting on the floor of the packed Council Chambers.

NORWALK, Conn. – In the wake of the deaths of black men and boys, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner on Staten Island, at the hands of white police officers who have not been charged with any wrongdoing, Norwalk officials have gathered to address how to avoid similar tragedies here.

The incidents have sparked demonstrations nationwide and have called into question police accountability and the way police interact with black residents.

Mayor Harry Rilling reportedly called the Thursday meeting, which was attended by city officials and members of the minority community, including clergy. Rilling declined comment except to say a joint statement would be released next week.

Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik was slightly more forthcoming.

“The city is preparing a joint statement on the overall issues related to Michael Brown and Eric Garner, so I don’t want to discuss specifics on my own at this time,” Kulhawik said. “The mayor called a meeting with community leaders, the clergy, myself and others to discuss this and a joint statement will be forthcoming from the mayor’s office.

“I will say that we have worked hard to build relationships and assure that our officers act professionally and fairly in their dealings with all members of the community, and we will continue in this regard,” Kulhawik continued. “We work to assure that the Constitutional rights of every person are respected. We continue to seek the best training and equipment to accomplish this goal. Finally, I am committed to thoroughly investigate any situations where individuals may feel they were not treated properly by a member of this department.”

Bobby Burgess, vice chairman of the District B Democratic Committee, said he was involved in a separate meeting with Rilling and others to address racial issues surrounding the Board of Education.

“Ernie Dumas and I met with (Democratic Town Committee Chairman) Ed Camacho and the mayor concerning the racial divide in Norwalk as is evidenced by the reaction to the departure of Superintendent (Manny) Rivera.

“It is obvious that the white majority in Norwalk would rather blame the two African-American and the one Hispanic members on the Norwalk Board of Education for the departure, rather than look any further to see if others were micro-managing the superintendent and denying some of his requests,” he said.

“I will continue to demand that the Democratic leadership continue to allow each voting district to choose its own candidates for the Norwalk Board of Education and at least one of the officers on the Board of Education be a minority, and I request that the mayor appoint a task force of residents throughout Norwalk to deal with the very obvious racial divide that plagues our city and again is evidenced by the many responses to the superintendent departure,” Burgess continued.

Burgess complained about the makeup of the other meeting called by the mayor.

“I noted that, although the mayor called a meeting to discuss the ramifications of the Ferguson decision, none of the Council persons or leadership from either District A or B were present. This is unacceptable as these are the districts most affected by racism.”


49 responses to “Mayor brings stakeholders to the table to tackle racial issues”

  1. cc-rider

    Has Burgess ever been to or watched a BOE meeting?

  2. Norwalk4Life

    If Dumas watched the BOE meetings on public access he would clearly see who the three obstructionists on the BOE were. And unfortuntaly the unsubstantiated accusations of racism on the board helped no one including the children of South Norwalk. I really hope District B and the Democratic Town Committee can run better candidates.

  3. piberman

    Looks like the re-election campaign is in full gear. Residents ought to be embarrassed that the City’s fine police department is now under “review” because of events elsewhere. But no meeting called on how to reduce drug and gang inspired crime in certain sections of our City.
    That’s not a vote getter. The real issue at the BOE is not racism or discrimination but the elections of candidates representing our minority residents who lack the qualifications and sbilities to positively and effectively interact with other BOE members and the Supt. DTC Camacho let’s down the minority communities when he doesn’t recognize the obvious. As a claimed “supporter” of our minority communities Mr Camacho’s unwillingness to recognize that these communities need well qualified and capable BOE members is an acute disservice to minority parents and parents. Read the BOE minutes. Watch the videos and then declare Mr Camache that you are pleased with the contributions of the BOE members from the minority communities. They deserve and require much stronger candidates and your responsibility as DTC Chair to seek out well qualified candidates. Not those who can cry “discrimination”. It’s our minorities who are denied representation on the BOE because of who they elect. Not how they are treated. And while you’re at it please explain to Norwalk why the minority representatives to the BOE did not approve hiring Supt Rivera. Was he not qualified. Or were the Dissenting BOE members not qualified. As a long time Democrat I am appalled that the DTC doesn’t move heaven and earth to seek out well qualified BOE candidates from the communities whose children make up the majority of our public school students. If you really believe in the American Dream why wouldn’t you want our minorities to have strong and effective representation on the BOE ? Do they deserve less ? We have no shortage of high achievers in our minority communities. Why won’t you reach out and ask them to serve on the BOE ? More convienent to look the other way ? Time for leadership Mr Camache. Not just the old City politics of indifference. Demonstrate that Democrats really do care about securing a fine public school system. They can do much better than members crying “discrimination”.

    Editors note: The name is Ed Camacho.

  4. Lifelong Teacher

    If Burgess could make those ridiculous statements, then he’s never been to a BOE meeting to watch them in action.

    What do parents think, with school age or nearly school aged children, as they see the unprofessional, race baiting squabbling and power grabbing, with no regard for education or moving our students forward? They want to get out of Norwalk as soon as possible. This – this insanity – is what’s guiding our school system?

    There has been a lot of talk lately about ‘insubordinate administrators.’ I’ll tell you why: this craziness has been going on for too many years. Conflicting agendas, no support, ridiculous central office demands for more and more assessment and data that goes nowhere…… Never ending meetings that do nothing but waste time.

    Building administrators have had no choice but to shut their doors and do what they feel is best for their students and staff. Are they all perfect? Absolutely not. No one ever has, or is, showing up to help them. Others are just getting in the way.

  5. Lisa Thomson

    @ Lifelong Teacher – Ditto. I remain confounded as to why South Norwalk’s political leadership continues to give a ‘pass’ to the decades old, NPS administration and status quo culture,(well documented in 3rd party reports) while attacking two outside visionary superintendents who brought new funding, programs and tools directed at closing the achievement gap and moving Norwalk forward. I just don’t get it.

  6. oldtimer

    Anything looks different, depending on where you are looking at it from. People like Bobby Burgess don’t want to be over-ruled by others who may have more education. From his point of view, that devalues the opinions of leaders in his district. People who believe they know more because they have the benefit of more education really believe their opinions are worth more. Frank and honest discussion between both groups should reach good decisions. Refusal to have such discussions sounds, to some, like racism.
    Parents at both ends of the spectrum have similar goals for their children, some loftier than others, but similar.

  7. Burgess – Pot Stirrer?

    Is there record of racial profiling in Norwalk?

    And correct me if i’m wrong, but when I open The Hour and look at the arrests, I see primarily hispanic and black individuals who’s names are listed.

    I’m calling a spade a spade, sorry. God forbid that the NPD is doing their job.

    And as for Burgess, he’s just a pot stirrer. I’m not being mean, but how you could not claim he isn’t?

    With his presence on a board in Norwalk, we will continue receiving accusations by him about racial profiling until he’s not re-elected. We just have to hold on for the ride, that’s all.

    HE is the one dividing Norwalk, not the caucasian residence. I, a caucasian resident embrace the black and hispanic community. I’m for the minorities to receive the exact same education as me, secure a great job with benefits, raise a family here, retired and enjoy life.

    But when you have someone like Burgess constantly whispering in their ears of the word RACISM, one becomes overwhelmed, feels unworthy and simply gives up. The proverbial CANCER has won.

    We need a replacement leader in that district to nurture the minorities, one to tell them that they are equal to us caucasians and help them achieve the same goals we have.

    Until then, we will have to listen to this rhetoric for years to come.

    Just my two cents.

  8. Mike Mushak

    This is smart leadership. I applaud the mayor, NPD leadership including Chief Kulhawik, and community and religious leaders for this effort. The article is about improving relations between the police and the entire community and I will choose to ignore the political overtones including the BOE issue. Mr. Burgess made his point clearly and his position deserves respect instead of creating more animosity here. This is a time for healing and solutions, not more bickering. At this point so many are talking past each other instead of to each other, and there are many sides to the BOE issue that need resolving on both the minority and the majority side. Can we please move on and deal with the issue at hand, and which this article is about?

    The NPD is well-respected by many folks in Norwalk including me (I have thanked them many times including in letters to the editor for their professional behavior in protecting the public), but like any law enforcement organization made up of a wide variety of folks who are only human, the NPD has room for improvement in certain aspects like training in anger management and de-escalation practices.

    Most of our veteran officers are skilled in these areas but there are a lot of new young cops from outside Norwalk who might benefit from expanded training. We know of some incidents where newer officers were observed shouting expletives at citizens regardless of race, at stressful construction sites or accident scenes, when a calmer tone would have been the professional response. This and other issues need closer attention by management and the police union if we are going to be serious about improving police/community relations. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the cart, and I suspect most officers and community leaders know exactly what I am talking about.

    This is a step in the right direction, especially at this critical time when the entire country is engaged in this issue and thousands are marching in the streets, regardless of race or political affiliation, especially after the highly questionable and unusual practices by the prosecutor’s office in Ferguson and the sad and incomprehensible incident with Eric Garner in Staten Island.

  9. Tim D

    Well isn’t that grandiose! Mike Mushak telling people to listen to others!

  10. Nora King

    Bobby Burgess is a large part of the problem. He also doesn’t speak for the entire African American or Hispanic community. He has his own agenda as well has his team.

    He constantly bullies the Democratic Town Committee by threatening other Democratic Candidates with getting the churches out to vote everyone out. His comments the other night about turning Norwalk into a Ferguson were uncalled for and typical of the games he plays.

    What would have been nice the other night was to hear about what the “trio” have actually accomplished or what they stand for. They just give you a song and dance about it is all about the children but they never have any proactive suggestions, plans or strategies on how to do this. They show up for meetings and scream that we have to hire minority teachers. I say we hire the most qualified teachers. Don’t our kids deserve the most qualified? Shirley Mosby is more worried about the custodial staff then she has been about our children and a quality education for all children.

    I have had enough of the lack of business skills in our elected leaders. Enough is enough and I say as parents we don’t tolerate this type of behavior anymore. The board needs to defund certain positions and not tolerate the lack of unprofessional behavior that has taken place. The BOE is almost 60% of our budget. Kids have one shot at an education. Leaders need to step up to the plate and act!!!!!! The mayor needs to oversee this and the DTC needs to do a better job of ensuring that quality candidates are elected. Real leadership is needed now.

  11. Donald Trump

    As long as Bruce Morris is allowed his no show / no work job, nothing will ever be fixed.

    As long as there are no prosecutions for outright theft of community resources from places like NEON, nothing will ever change.

    They’ve effectively hid behind the cloak of perceived racism to maintain their existence on the backs of the poorest children in our community.

    Con men like Burgess, Mann, and Morris are the bigger problem than their three puppets on the board.

    You’re fired.

  12. TLaw

    @Nora King – I don’t normally agree with you but what you state is the truth. Well said.

  13. Bill

    Get over it! If you can’t stand to live here move on. I can’t stand people who use the race card every time they don’t get there way. This is wrong and bad for our children. Everyone knows the 3 members who were micromanaging the superintendent and this isn’t about race as 1 African American handled herself professionally and was not aligned with these 3.

  14. LWitherspoon


    Whatever became of an investigation of NEON or its principals? Will we ever know if there was fraud, gross mismanagement by the board, or both? I seem to recall Mayor Rilling directing NEON to preserve all records but nothing since then.

  15. Mike M., you’ve inspired me to write a Mushak-length response! 🙂

    I’ve rarely disagreed with you, but I have a problem with your statement that “Mr. Burgess made his point clearly and his position deserves respect instead of creating more animosity here.” Mr. Burgess said “It is obvious that the white majority in Norwalk would rather blame the two African-American and the one Hispanic members on the Norwalk Board of Education for the departure [of Dr. Rivera], rather than look any further to see if others were micro-managing the superintendent and denying some of his requests.” Why does that “position” deserve respect?

    First, as with similar “community leaders”, Mr. Burgess seems unaware that there is a third African-American member of the BoE, Democrat Sherelle Harris. A highly-qualified graduate of Columbia University, she has been a consistent supporter of Dr. Rivera and the school reforms supported by the Board majority and opposed by the “the two African-American and the one Hispanic members” of the board defended by Mr. Burgess. It’s curious that Ms. Harris’s views seem irrelevant to Mr. Burgess and other “community leaders”, but they shouldn’t be.

    Second, Mr. Burgess glosses over the undeniable FACT that the opposition to Dr. Rivera on the BoE has come almost exclusively from the three board members he’s defending (Ms. Mosby, Ms. Murray and Ms. Rivas), as is easily demonstrable with reference to dozens of articles here in NON and in publicly available videotapes of our meetings. His response to that is to say we need to “look … further to see if others were micro-managing the superintendent and denying some of his requests.” Look where? All the data, all the videos of our meetings are up there on the web, and regularly reported here. Our minutes reflect the constant votes in support of Rivera from 6 members, and constant votes against him from the 3 (for instance, see this NON article: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/08/fractious-norwalk-boe-argues-over-25k-contract). Another example is worth reading, too: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/08/norwalk-public-schools-adds-central-office-staff-over-mosby-murray-protests. In this article, Nancy herself observes “Mosby and Rosa Murray voted against the move, a familiar scenario that has been played out over and over again over the last few months.”

    Nor is this a partisan political issue. Three Board Democrats (including Heidi Keyes and Mike Barbis) have been strong Rivera supporters. Prominent Democrat Nora King, a former Councilman and current (oft-praised by Mike M.) Zoning Commissioner, has repeatedly identified these three members as the obstructionist group on the BoE and has called on them to resign. Nor has the concern over the behavior of the three members just been raised by the “white majority” (as Mr. Burgess says). Ed Camacho, an attorney, Board of Estimate member and Chair of the Democratic Town Committee (and a Hispanic) identified these three board members as a key problem for Dr. Rivera: “I believe the difficulties these board members presented made his mission to transform the school system more challenging” (The Hour, 11/24/14). Another prominent Hispanic leader, Warren Pena, a former Democratic leader of the Common Council, was much stronger in his criticism of the three. The three members, he said, “felt the need to be obstructionist and overly micromanage an extremely competent Superintendent”, and felt “the need to object without cause.” He also addressed a concern I have repeatedly had to deal with: “Now there is the issue of race baiting. If we do not change our messengers or the narrative, we are in big trouble. We cannot use the term racist just because we do not get our way or what we want. Through my experience in politics, I have found this to be used often as a chip to freeze an adversary. I have also personally experienced others use race as a political tactic to advance their agendas. This is wrong and should not be tolerated in our city! We have to start standing up to this despicable call for attention.” It bears reiterating that Dr. Rivera is the first minority superintendent appointed to run the Norwalk schools in our history – but, as Nancy pointed out in another article, “Board members Migdalia Rivas and Rosa Murray refused to vote for Rivera.” NON, 7/10/13.

    Mike M., what is needed here is a single concrete example from Mr. Burgess of a Rivera initiative denied by the Board majority, or any example of micromanagement by that majority. No example will be forthcoming, of course, since none exists. This is reminiscent of the “discrimination” claim against me, regarding which, almost six months later, not a single piece of supporting evidence has yet to be produced.

    I have no problem with the effort of the Mayor and others to meet and discuss ways of improving Police department interactions with the City’s minority communities. But I have a big problem with “leaders” of the minority community who refuse to address problems with their own favored members of the Board of Education whose obstructionist opposition to reforms are hurting the very minority children they claim to represent. And I have an equally big problem with people making accusations (whether of “racism” or “micro-managing the superintendent and denying some of his requests”) when those accusations are never backed up with facts and are regularly proven to be untrue. None of that “deserves respect”.

  16. mollyB

    Bobby Burgess is a nice man and King is hating on him because he is the leader of the Black Community. Nora King, knows Bobby B speaks for most if not all African-American elected officials.

    Nora King is the leader of the Rowayton movement which seeks to control the whole city. Ms. King and her underbosses are clearly making a statement.

    I’m backing Bobby B.

  17. cc-rider

    Molly- if the “rowayton movement” you mention involves logic, reason, and moving the city forward then I am on board with her. The old norwalk movement is the equivalent of a ticket on the Titanic.

    Well said Mike Lyons.

  18. MarjorieM

    Mike M, we are no longer living in “The Old Norwalk Way.” As someone on NorwalkSpeaks said, we are living in “The New Norwalk Tar and Feather Way.” Spin, half truths and viciousness towards Board Members and “Old-time Administrators” is the call in Norwalk to mobilize the hatred filled troops today. What happened to respect for others and ‘treat others as you would have them treat you?’ Reputations have been ruined all in the name of what is best for children. Are these role models what is best for children to observe? Where has common sense gone? When did people stop addressing the issues, and start targeting specific people? We have name calling and accusations that are horrific. This is not a city of which I can be proud.

  19. mollyB

    @ cc-rider

    The Rowayton movement is about power and control. Nora King has a habit of going over the top to make her point. The mayor should’ve never appointed her to the Zoning Commission. What impact has she had over there?

    I would like our city to be known for bookstores not liquor stores. Do your job, Ms. King.

  20. cc-rider

    Molly- Nora is the only voice of reason on the Zoning committee. Your comment shows how much you have been paying attention to things in town. There have been many articles on NON about the current sorry state of affairs in zoning.

  21. Mike Mushak

    Mike Lyons, thank you for your thoughtful response. I think my point was missed however by you and a few others. The article was about improving relations between the NPD and the community, a noble goal which you ignored in your comment completely as if this article wasn’t even written. It was not about the BOE. The fact that Mr. Burgess spoke about the BOE doesn’t change the article or purpose of the meeting. I am not defending what he said or any actions of the BOE but simply saying he deserves respect for his position and his right to express it. The BOE issue has been discussed at length in other articles.

    I applaud your work on the BOE and am as disappointed as everyone else about Rivera leaving, but there are still many theories floating around about Rivera that go beyond the difficult personalities we all know about, like the fact that he gets bored easily in his many positions he has held, and that he has stressed he is mainly leaving for personal reasons but that he did find difficulties with certain boardmembers and resented the charges of racism which we all know were unfounded. But this is turning into the Middle East with continuous vollies of verbal rockets but no signs of peace. As a respected leader of the BOE, maybe you can use your important position for healing and moving on, as it is all about the kids many of whom are racial minorities who deserve respectful role models even if they may not be seeing it at times in their own community as you have indicated many times.

  22. Kevin Di Mauro

    @Mike Lyons

    Hi Mike

    Can you explain your silence when it was reported that Shirley Mosbey stated that she would pull out all the white hairs on your head? Statements like this should not be tolerated from members of the Board of Education. I’m really surprised that you have said nothing about it.

  23. Kevin Di Mauro

    @Mike Mushak

    Maybe your point was missed is because it’s always about Mike Greene or Joe Santo or Hal Alvord.

  24. WOW just WOW

    This is just more HOT air from Harry. If he were serious about racial issues, the first thing he would do is see to it that the cops that assaulted and tasered. Mr Simmms are fired. Mr Simms who was not guilty of any crime, hopefully will be filing suit against the city and officers involved. Also he would disband the Special Service Division, which has a long history of violating innocent citizens rights. The next and most important thing would be a civilian review board at the NPD. The idea of blue investigating blue is a joke on its beat day.
    I can all but guarantee that Harry will do nothing of any substance in regards to this issue as usual.

  25. piberman

    Maybe we have an upside down City. It’s OK to discuss hypothetical Ferguson at City Hall when no one is really concerned about police here shooting civilians. But not new initiatives to reduce drug and gang crime that mostly effects our minority communities. Nor is it ok to discuss at City Hall whether there’s any substance to discrimination claims by 3 Democrat BOE members. And not ok to raise the question of why the City’s minority communities deny themselves effective representation on the BOE by electing candidates not up to the task of effectively working with the BOE. Nor why Democrats claim to represent the legitimate needs of our minority residents when the evidence suggests otherwise.

  26. John Hamlin

    @Mike Lyons — beautifully said. You are totally on target.

  27. Mike Lyons

    Thanks, Mike. I just needed to get some fundamental points out to prevent ‘spin’ from obscuring the facts. Focusing now on finding an interim superintendent, getting the 2015/2016 budget ready, and getting the permanent superintendent search under way.

  28. Kevin, I wasn’t silent when Ms. Mosby said she’d pull out all my ‘white hair.’ My initial response was an attempt to brush it off and be conciliatory; as NON reported, “Members were surprised by Mosby’s behavior, Lyons said. “They didn’t view that as characteristic of Shirley,” he said. “So I’m very sort of counting that off as when you are angry you say things that you regret later” (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/11/new-board-has-rough-start-as-dem-majority-boe-re-elects-gop-chairman).

    When I realized that statements like this from Ms. Mosby were, unfortunately, quite characteristic, I later made other comments when the remark came up in other contexts (e.g., “these things are always two way streets. How about Ms. Mosby shows a good faith effort and (i) apologizes for threatening to ‘pull every white hair out of [Mike Lyons’] head’ at our very first Board meeting and (ii) withdraws an NAACP complaint that shouldn’t have ever been filed (but, at the VERY least, should have been kept private (as Councilman Watts would argue))?” (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/07/chiaramonte-persists-with-highly-offensive-racial-analogy-cites-other-reasons-for-boe-body-language).

    The tip-off was there at the beginning, though I had hoped at the time we could overcome in. When Ms. Mosby was questioned about her remark, far from regretting or apologizing for it, as NON reported, “If Mike Lyons sitting there and crying about that then he needs to give up the chairmanship right away,” Mosby said. “I did not want him to swear us in and he got attitude.”

    Anyway, as I noted above, I’m focused on more important things now.

  29. Student

    Respected Norwalk citzen, former Norwalk Zoning member, current Norwalk Task Force member, Mike Mushak, commenting to current BoE Chairan Mike Lyons;

    “As a respected leader of the BOE, maybe YOU can USE your important POSITION for HEALING and MOVING on, as it is all about the kids many of whom are racial minorities who deserve respectful role models.”

    Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons, response.

    “as I noted above, I’m focused on more important things now.”

    The things people say. Yes, there is allot of far too much talking past one another rather than talking to AND listening to one another.

    What the hell is the matter with you all, supposed grown ups? Too much caffeine? Lost hopes and dreams?

    Us kids have to turn on the Batlight and call Batman, Batgirl and Robin on all of you so maybe they can clue you in that your all adults now?

    Grow up already, we kids, ya know, the ones you supposedly care about, are growing and fast. Least you forget.

  30. Norewalk Lifer

    Thank you Student, words of wisdom, from the young.

    Norwalk Lifer

  31. Mike Lyons

    Nice deliberately misleading cut and paste, Student, but you know perfectly well that I didn’t say I was “focused on more important things” than “using my position for healing”. I said I was focused on more important things than Shirley Mosby’s threat to ‘pull out all my white hair’, and I said what that focus was – “finding an interim superintendent, getting the 2015/2016 budget ready, and getting the permanent superintendent search under way.” A key component of wisdom, Lifer, is telling the truth.

  32. Norewalk Lifer

    A key component of wisdom Mr. Lyons is listening, something you don’t like to do

    Norwalk Lifer

  33. concerned student

    How did the comments get totally off track.
    Clearly we need to have an open discussion regarding the board of ed, and whatever lingering animosity there maybe, but this article was about ensuring the NPD and the Norwalk Community continue to work together to ensure the safety of the people, and that your rights as a civilian are not violated.
    @ Mayor Rilling isn’t it time you started inviting your councilman to these meetings so that the town can stop assuming the council chose not to attend!!

  34. Norewalk Lifer

    Concerned Student, the whole point of waxing nostalgic was to point out when people really “know” each other, I mean consider each other valuable members of a community, you don’t have to “legislate” decency, it comes naturally. But to those who dehumanize via calls of racism, or those that speak in stentorian tones about their own perceived righteousness, they could learn a thing or two from the “Old Norwalk”. They have basically thrown out the baby with the bath water. All this fuss about Manny Rivera leaving, the truth to me? he tried, and he left, but those families are still here, and their combined efforts to bring up this town, if they ever used their collective powers for good, would make Mr. Rivera’s accomplishments in comparative terms, as significant as comparing a pea to a piano. That’s the point.

    Norwalk Lifer

  35. Mike Lyons

    Student, read the article again. The person who switched the conversation from the police to the school board was Mr. Burgess.

  36. concerned student

    It is in my opinion that the Superintendent came for a reason he gave no indication he was staying, and now he’s decided to move on, it doesn’t matter why because his decision is made, it’s up to Norwalk to hold onto what the Superintendent put into place, and Continue on the path he’s set.

  37. piberman

    Mayor Rilling has undertaken at least 3 out reaches towards the minority communities in his first year. First, he appointed the former Democratic Board Chair of the failed NEON to the highly visibly BET – a nomination criticized as inappropriate. Second, the Mayor responded to bizzare accusations by 3 Democrat minority BOE members accusing the BOE and Supt of “discrimination” by stating he would meet individually with BOE members despite an invitation.
    Reportedly the Mayor did not follow up with BOE members. Third, the Mayor held a community meeting on the Ferhuson incident following a public statement by Mr Crossland – head of the NAACP – that he feared a Ferhuson incident in Norwalk. That meeting has been criticized as disparaging the reputation of the well regarded Norwalk Police Department. It’s no surprise that Mayor Rilling has taken a special interest in minority community relations in view of the community’s enthusiastic support of his mayoral candidacy. In view of the resignation of our new Supt in part because of discrimination charges and a divided BOE it’s proper to ask could the Mayor have been more effective when the discrimination charges first appeared. And whether the Mayor has been successful in encouraging the minority communities to put forth their most able elected officials. Some but not all citizens believe progress in better relations require more capable candidates for public office from the minority communities. So far the Mayor has not publicly supported that effort. Some of us hope he will change course and publicly advocate more capable candidates minority elected. That would be a major contribution towards improving relations. To have a public meeting on a hypothetical Ferguson incident but not one on whether there is discrimination on the BOE seems misdirected.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Berman

      Facts, facts. The mayor did follow up on his vow to meet with the BOE members, but they did not get back to him. The accusation of racism was not leveled at Rivera, but at BOE leadership. The BET appointment (hardly minority community outreach) and the meeting with a group of minority city leaders were criticized mainly by you, which is certainly within your rights. But let’s not make up “facts” to suit the narrative.

  38. Mark, I did get back to Mayor Rilling, as he will confirm. The three dissenting Board members did not.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Mike Lyons

      Sorry Mike, I should have been more clear. What you said IS correct.

  39. EveT

    Thank you, Mark, for correcting the falsehoods in Mr. Berman’s post.
    Whether or not Bobby Burgess is “a nice man,” I think those who know his activities in the Democratic Party have to agree he is the epitome of an old-time party boss.

  40. Mike Mushak

    Mr. Berman would have more credibility if A) he got his facts right instead of fabricating so many falsehoods like he did here on this thread about the mayor and earlier this year about the mosque representatives which were debunked on these pages, and B), if he actually lifted a finger to help Norwalk improve, like volunteer for a board or show up to meetings night after night for no pay, like so many of us do despite constant attacks from do-nothing’s like him. Unfortunately he represents a cross section of Norwalkers who love to sit on their butts and whine about everything but don’t try to fix it. My challenge to Mr Berman which I’m sure a lot of folks would agree with, is why don’t you try to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem?

  41. Norewalk Lifer

    I remember a Dutch Physicist once saying that he would observe debates like this and use a humorous analogy, think of it as a ship, with several captains, each captain is calling out “My part of the boat is NOT SINKING!”.

    It’s one ship, one captain, and whole helluva lot of crew members, sounds to me that the crew isn’t rowing in one direction, and the pot shots being taken by others, well, it must be youth or immaturity.

    If a community organizer like Bobby Burgess organizes the churches, they have to LISTEN to him first don’t they? do they hear what they want to hear? do they agree with him? and if they do, which way do they vote?

    Has Ms. King ever spoken to the good people of Norwalk, South Norwalk who attend those churches? has she ever attended a praise dance? a recital, a tent revival? a fund raiser? Maybe she has, and they don’t listen to her, that’s a shame, if it’s true.

    Why would Ms. King refer to this as a “business model”. and why does she bring “conflicts of interest” to this BOE meeting?

    In my limited, 35 years in business, we called this “grandstanding”, conflict of interests is a serious charge, a very serious charge, and it deserved dissection and discussion but by a group of peers, not elected officials.

    So I see the irony in the comments, while Ms. King thinks that those in the limelight, who were “elected” to the BOE are not of the same intellectual property as the rest of the members, I would argue that it must be Ms. King’s inexperience that caused her to grandstand at this BOE meeting, if the charges are true, please engage those who are more versed in the definition of “conflict of interests” before something like this is made public, that comment just inflamed, it did nothing to illuminate.

    Norwalk Lifer

  42. Hold your Horses

    If the mayor and the minority community leaders are serious about racism allegations how come the fire department has not been included in the conversation, our elected and appointed politicians are totally ignoring the problems there, why? You have zero credibility when you focus on one aspect of racist behavior in Norwalk and completely ignore ten years of racist behavior when convenient, another way to put it is you are full of ….! People are forgetting in Norwalk there have been African American men shot and killed by Norwalk police, Mr. Fuller, Mr. Gainor and Mr. Sumpter. They have not been mentioned, we’ve also had a police officer hold a child in front of him while looking to make an arrest with his gun drawn. Where are these officers now? Cut the crap and do what’s right for the community NOW.

  43. EveT

    In answer to the question about why church members listen to Bobby Burgess and vote the way he tells them to: Burgess is an example of a community leader who controls the information that is spread in the community. If he says a certain candidate is good, people listen. Why? Partly because they are not informed about how to get to know the candidates on their own. It is not that easy to find out when and where meetings are held (Democratic Town Committee, district subcommittees — I mention Democratic and not Republican because Burgess is a Democratic party boss). Many voters don’t even know what district they live in because it is not that easy to find the boundaries on a voting map. The process of becoming a voting member of the DTC or district subcommittee is not self-explanatory either. And even people who have found out when and where the meetings are held can’t necessarily get off work or get free from other commitments to attend. So, when a fellow church member says that the word is we should vote for so-and-so, that word is often trusted and people vote accordingly.

  44. Donald Trump

    Like it or not, the Rilling apologists need to understand one thing.

    He is the leader. He wanted the job and he is failing miserably.

    The three BOE members may not have called Rivera racist directly. But by extension of calling the people who hired him racists, they are implying racism is permeating throughout.

    The apologists for Rilling here are just pathetic and a perfect example of why we as a society can’t get real leaders. Because we don’t expect them to lead. We make excuses as Eve, Mark and Mushak have here. And its on both sides of the aisle.

    Too bad the Mayor didn’t convene a meeting to find out how we can prevent hard working cabbies from being killed by hoodrats instead of legitimizing Mr. Crosland’s race hustling opportunism in public forum that key civic leaders were left out of.

  45. Mike Mushak

    Donald Trump, you ‘re fired. (To use your own phrase). “Pathetic” is the word you use to describe me personally, so let’s get real here.

    “Pathetic” can easily describe the GOP leadership in Norwalk that tolerates the nasty, petty, and retaliatory Joe Santo on the Zoning Commission and defends the corrupt and unqualified Mike Greene who makes $165,000 a year fighting against Norwalk’s best interests including its small business community, which is the backbone of our economy.

    Pathetic is the GOP-led Planning Commission that completely ignores it’s critical charter responsibility to “plan and coordinate all economic, social, and physical development of Norwalk” but instead plays petty political games and wastes it ‘s time on irrelevant issues, and has no clue what professional planning is all about. Just look around the city for all the proof.

    Pathetic is a GOP leadership that calls for resignations of all the black Dem BOE members while pretending there have been no sinners on the white majority side. Give me a break.

    Pathetic is not being sensitive to the racial differences and diversity that have always made Norwalk strong, going back nearly 400 years.

    Hubert Humphrey said “The ugliness of bigotry stands in direct contradiction to the very meaning of America.”

    Who ‘s really being “pathetic” here?

    You’re fired.

  46. Donald Trump

    Stay focused Mushak.

    When is the mayor going to have a meeting to figure out how cabbies won’t be killed for doing a job?

    When is he going to say anything about the crime and violence? Or is he going to make sure police stop caring to protect us by helping Mr Crosland’s career ambitions?

    Don’t rebut with more GOP issues. There are plenty of those we can rehash under relevant topics.

    The mayor is failing us here and educated open minded people can agree on this.

    You’re fired.

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