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McCarthy comes out swinging in Norwalk council candidates forum

NORWALK, Conn. – A relatively sedate forum for Common Council candidates was book-ended with drama Thursday night when candidates from District A and candidates from District E engaged in sparring that was quite debate like, especially the smoldering embers flying back and forth between incumbent Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) and incumbent Councilman John Igneri (D-District E).

Jabbed by Igneri for voting to raise Norwalk taxes, McCarthy responded by saying he expected to be called “mean.” Igneri said voters must decide (in 18 days) which approach they are looking for in Norwalk government: heated debates or action.

The City Hall community room was packed with politicos for the League of Women Voters in-district Common Council candidates forum, where each candidate was given two minutes to explain who they are and what they want to do in office, before being given another minute to add whatever sentiments they thought necessary as their turn came up again.

First up was District A, where Edmund Ryan was the first Republican to say that the Moccia administration has done the right things, citing improvement in city parks, road paving and “reasonable” taxes. Other Republicans followed suit as the forum went on.

Ryan then took a shot at incumbent Democratic Councilman David Watts.

“I’m committed to serving for the next two years if I am elected unlike my opponent who, I read in the paper that he plans to run for the Connecticut legislature in a year or so, and he’s filing papers to do so,” Ryan said.

Watts replied that Norwalk needs its fair share from the state via the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. He said he had gone to Hartford 20 times this spring at his own expense.

“I filed that (exploratory) committee and I am going to be open and transparent about it because we are getting $900 per student and $900 per student is not going to control taxes when 60 to 65 cents of every dollar goes to the Board of Ed,” he said.

Someone else may need to step up and go to the legislature and change that, he said.

After the debate Watts pointed out that Councilwoman Joanne Romano (R-At Large) ran against state Rep. Chris Perone (D-Norwalk) in the last election cycle, and then resigned from the council. If he did go to a primary against Perone and follow it with winning election in the fall, his term would start in January, he said, meaning that he would have served more than half his term on the council.

District B’s discussion included a spirited defense from Councilman Michael Geake for leaving the Democratic Party, becoming an independent and caucusing with the Republicans. Geake, who re-registered as a Democrat to vote in the primary, was endorsed by the Republicans as a last-minute addition to their ticket to fill an open slot.

District C’s discussion stuck to biographical concerns and District D featured Republican Councilman Jerry Petrini commenting on the “huge learning curve” involved in joining the council before touting the accomplishments made by the Republican caucus and the council.

We will post those videos over the next several days.

Igneri began the District E segment with a comment about dozing off, before giving everyone reason to wake up.

“The last two years have been difficult ones, with economic and political impasses at times on the council floor,” he said. “But I have refrained from heated debates or writing articles about issues which were really attacks on others. I did not participate in the heated blogs. Some have called me a voice of reason.”

That’s not what fired up the NoDoz.

LWV Norwalk in-district council debate 101713 019
Republican Councilman David McCarthy, left, shakes hands with Democratic Councilman John Igneri, right, after a spirited District E discussion Thursday. At right is council hopeful Kate Tepper.

Igneri turned to McCarthy and confronted him on the tax hike Norwalk received this year.

“You were talking about the difficulty the taxes are on our citizens and yet you voted for a 4.97 percent tax increase,” Igneri said.

Given the microphone back, McCarthy fired away in a raised voice, emphasizing the word “reasonable” in the following statement:

“Your comments about bipartisanship have fallen short when you have voted with the Democrats every time,” he said. “I have proven my abilities to work with other reasonable people to get things done via compromise, intelligent discussion and even some factual debate. Being a reliable vote for a party apparatus that does not seek to improve Norwalk but only its political standing is inexcusable and it’s not what we need in this city.”

Norwalk was facing a crisis in education while Igneri never said a word about what he would do differently, McCarthy said.

“I understand that my opposition is going to characterize me as ‘mean,’” McCarthy said. “If it’s mean to not let partisan game-players do away with doing partisan favors for friends, if it’s mean to make sure that only appropriate and reasonable things are done in our city and that we don’t cave in to those who yell among us, then call me mean.”

He got spirited applause from some members of the audience, drawing admonishment from moderator Lisa Thomson about applauding for individual candidates.

McCarthy looked toward Igneri when the Democrat got his chance to respond, seeming to expect barbs fired back in return. But Igneri never used the word “mean.”

“Our approaches and values are what differentiate us,” he said to the audience. “You have to decide that. Only you can decide that when you are at the polls. Do you want heated debates or do you want action? That is really what has to be decided in this election. I will continue to fight for transparency and civility in city government. It is time. It is the only way we are going to move forward.”

He ended his comments by saying “We need to work together” to tackle the difficult issue of next year’s budget, where money must be found to fund a pay raise for Norwalk teachers, as mandated in their contract.

Igneri got 1,697 votes in 2011. McCarthy got 1,785.

The LWV forum featured an innovative format: Each candidate had to submit written answers to questions in order to be able to participate in the face-to-face encounter with those who came to the community room Thursday. We will be presenting those answers to you over the next several days.

The league is presenting a Common Council At Large forum next week in the community room, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Comments

19 responses to “McCarthy comes out swinging in Norwalk council candidates forum”

  1. Joanne

    Couldn’t let it go could he? Watts had to bring me back in the mix of which I have stayed away from for almost a year! Once again he twists things to his little ways and can’t see the truth if it bit him in the…..David, since you felt the need to bring me into this, try telling the truth for once. I didn’t leave the council because I lost the election, hell, I’ve lost elections before and bounced back to win again…I left because of rudeness(yours in particular), disrespect and ultimately tired of the dog and pony shows that occurred on a daily basis! I learned a long time ago that when you are elected you work for everyone not your own agenda! Just goes to show you that you have your own agenda, if not you wouldn’t be running against someone you always professed was your friend! Save the taxpayers dollars David, you don’t stand a chance against Chris! I’d be surprised if you even got past a primary! I asked you before to keep me out of your conversations and once again you choose to use me as your little target for your own benefit…Get over it David, try running on your own merit and not at the detriment of others. I have purposely refrained from weighing in on this election so as not to bring negativity to anyone’s campaign but that could change in a heart beat should you choose to continue your cheap shots.

  2. EveT

    For McCarthy to call the Democrats “partisan game-players [who get] away with doing partisan favors for friends” is the pot calling the kettle black. He apparently thinks voters are too stupid to notice that his words fit the Republicans to a T. When the mayor says jump, the Republican Common Council members say “how high?”

  3. Bruce Kimmel

    For the record: Mr. Igneri was incorrect when he stated that the current operating budget raised taxes 4.97%. The actual tax increase, after the Board of Estimate finalized the mill rates and found some savings, was about 3.7%. When the Council approved the cap a few months earlier, we believed taxes would rise 3.9%.
    .
    The previous four years, property taxes had increased on average 1.8%. But this year, because of a spike in pension costs, increased insurance costs, and the need to fully fund the BOE budget request after the fiscal beating the board took the previous year, we agreed that we would have to live with the 3.9% increase.
    .
    Mr. McCarthy is correct in asserting that Mr. Igneri did not say a word during the budget debate. Nor did Mr. Watts or Mr. Pena, both of whom are running for re-election. To this day, I am not sure why the three of them voted against a budget that funded all of the programs that the BOE said needed to be funded.
    .
    One final note: There has been some talk that the Council really did not fully fund the BOE budget because the Board did not get all the money it had asked for. Budgets don’t work that way. Our goal on the Council was to fully fund everything the Board asked for, how much it would eventually cost would be based on several factors other than the cap. When we approved the cap, we were aware that the Board’s finance department had already scrubbed their accounts to the tune of $700,000; they soon discovered $200,000 more in savings. Also, we knew there would be some amount of state aid coming in; our estimates were fairly accurate. Thus, all the programs were funded, thus the budget was fully funded.

  4. LWitherspoon

    What was Mr. Igneri’s alternative plan that would have avoided a 4.97% tax increase? What specific spending reductions would he have made? Can Mr. Igneri point to any examples of voting differently from the rest of his caucus?
    .
    Same question for Mr. McCarthy – when has he ever voted differently from the rest of his caucus?
    .
    Please NoN, your news site is informative, but the greatest value comes when you insist on specifics beyond the carefully-crafted soundbites.

  5. David Angelo Watts

    Joanne,

    I am very sorry for this clumsy statement and I hope you could forgive me. You’ re a class act and you do a lot for this community.

  6. Mike Mushak

    Dave McCarthy said last night he was proud of having served as a Zoning Commissioner before he was a Common Council member. McCarthy admitted in his own words in a written response earlier this year that he had never read the ZC by-laws when he took his oath to uphold them when sworn in, admitting he didn’t even know what was in them, and then he claimed the by-laws really don’t matter anyway. All in his own words.
    .
    The current issues at NEON (reported in the press) including lack of accountability and transparency, and the refusal of staff to provide financial statements to the board as the by-laws require, are eerily similar to how the GOP leadership has approached their responsibilities on the ZC, in spite of my numerous requests over the years as a concerned Commissioner that we change that and do our due diligence the law requires. This must change.
    .
    The GOP leadership of the Zoning Commission now includes the by-laws-phobic Joe Santo BACK on as Chair yet again after the 4-3 vote this past Wednesday, after serving over 20 years including as Chair numerous times, (it’s like that great movie Groundhog Day on the ZC these days.) Santo’s reappointment last year and now his umpteenth turn at Chair is classic Moccia cronyism at work, contradicting the hypocrite Mayor Moccia’s claim earlier this year that he wanted “fresh blood” on the Commission when justifying not reappointing the well-respected and very smart Democrat Adam Blank. I guess GOP blood just stays fresh longer! Must be pasteurized, or perhaps it just runs cold!
    .
    McCarthy’s running mate Emily Wilson, who is currently Zoning Chair, also ignores the Zoning by-laws (as well as state laws and numerous taxpayer-funded studies and the city Master Plan as she recently revealed in the BJ’s debate, a project Mayor Moccia and the GOP leadership strongly supported)as they relate to fiduciary responsibility and staff responsibilities to provide information. She denied an expanded traffic study and independent peer review for reasons she stated “were in the regulations”, yet when I asked for specifics, she did not answer, finally saying on the record that they were in the minutes and I should just look for them. Which I did, and they weren’t there. I then asked her for the specific location in the minutes where the answers were, and again she ignored the request. This is all on the record including here with NON’s excellent coverage of this nonsense.
    .
    I have been accused of being too political on the ZC, which is so ironic when all I am doing is pointing to how politicized, dumbed-down, and corrupted the process has become under Moccia and his cronies on the ZC who are told how to vote from on high, and do everything they can to manipulate that process to favor what Moccia wants, which is often not in the best interests of the city. It is a mess, and I intend to stick around and help clean it up after Moccia and his cronies are gone, which may take a little time but it WILL happen. Our city is too wonderful to be ruined by this nonsense, and developers and investors should be very concerned about cleaning up this process as the Master Plan and all the expert studies are there to help all of us by making the city better, and they should not be ignored as they routinely are by the GOP leadership as the record shows (exhibit One: BJ’s).
    .
    As it turned out in the BJ’s application, , there WERE no regulations preventing the ZC from doing its due diligence as Ms. Wilson repeatedly claimed, a fact even supported by state law. She was
    WRONG to deny an agenda item I requested for a discussion and vote for an expanded traffic study and independent peer review. I requested this due diligence to protect the public health and safety of entire neighborhoods like Cranbury and Silvermine that would have been seriously impacted by the BJ’s proposal. Ms. Wilson simply appeared to not care at all about protecting neighborhoods, contradicting her claim that she is on that nasty flyer she is passing around in West Norwalk.
    .
    GOP Corp. Counsel Robert Maslan (who is also Moccia’s personal attorney which I thought set up a conflict since Moccia so strongly supported the BJ’s), also made dubious claims which appeared to favor BJ’s, including advising the ZC that the ZC need NOT follow the Master Plan, clearly contradicting our Special Permit regulations that require exactly that condition for approval, a fact immediately pointed out in a “point of order” from audience member Diane Lauricella even though she was yelled at to shut up by a GOP Zoning Commissioner. It appeared the GOP was working very hard to NOT allow further scrutiny that might delay a monstrosity of a project, over ten times the size our Master Plan recommended, and which could have led to huge taxpayer subsidies in necessary road improvements, and huge traffic impacts to the existing local businesses and nearby neighborhoods.
    .
    Is it any wonder the public has lost trust in the ZC to make fair and informed decisions, that protect the interests of the public based on the evidence, not on what Moccia and his cronies want regardless of the impacts on neighborhoods or the future of the city? It will take years to clean up the mess and dubious inbred appointments left behind by Moccia, including the corruption of process on the land use boards and in the Planning and Zoning Department. I am not alone in this opinion for sure, but the GOP will always trot out that old claim that it is ME who is the troublemaker, while they routinely ignore laws and studies on large applications! It would be funny if it wasn’t also just so sad, especially for the good folks of Norwalk including developers and investors who expect and deserve excellence but are getting dumbed-down mediocrity from this corrupted process.
    .
    It is this approach, that rules don’t matter when you don’t like what they say, that indicates a much deeper problem with the idea of Mccarthy/Wilson on the Common Council. Mr. McCarthy skirted an ethics violation when he ran last time for Council, when he was also serving on the Zoning Commission (notice a pattern here?), when he shoved a letter in front of the entire Commission during a meeting asking all of us to endorse him for Council. It was a very uncomfortable moment, as I was told everyone else had signed it and I should to. I didn’t sign it, and not everyone else had signed it when I was told they had.It was a nasty pressure technique to sign an inappropriate endorsement letter. No bi-partisan Commission in Norwalk that is selected to represent ALL Norwalkers should ever be asked to endorse anyone for office. Applicants who expected a fair hearing might fear they had supported someone else and this fact was known by McCarthy? It was low point in Norwalk politics that was reached even before McCarthy was elected the first time two years ago.
    .
    Can anyone imagine Harry Rilling asking the current ZC which he is serving on to endorse him for mayor in a letter? Of course not, as the notion is just so absurd, but it didn’t stop the megalomaniac McCarthy from pulling that stunt two years ago. At least Wilson(who is an attorney and knows better we would hope) had the smarts to not try it as she runs for Council while still serving on the ZC.
    .
    McCarthy and Wilson are also still distributing the inflammatory flyer (covered in a previous story here on NON) around West Norwalk that makes false claims about city policy and the actions of others, including me, which jeopardizes millions of taxpayer dollars in a current lawsuit just to get some votes. The flyer describes a local Norwalk religious institution as a “special interest threatening the sovereignty of the city and imposing its wants and needs above the safety of the people of Norwalk.” Can you imagine a local church or synagogue being described in that same way? It’s ugly and there is no place for that in Norwalk politics, and I have asked the RTC, Moccia, McCarthy, and Wilson for apologies and the immediate stop to the distribution of the flyer, with no response.
    .
    I saw Mr. McCarthy face to face last night and asked him again for an apology, and he used a schoolyard phrase I haven’t heard in years, about an action I should conduct on a part of his body. Nice, Councilman. District E should be so proud of you representing them.
    .
    McCarthy’s behavior is so beyond the pale anymore that every city resident needs to be very concerned about rewarding him another term, as well as the other GOP candidates who are all his strong supporters including Emily Wilson. He’s dragging them all down into the gutter, and this town is just too small for Karl Rove swift-boating tactics where lies are spread around as truth just to gain power, laws are ignored, and the public is treated with arrogance and disdain. What we saw last night on stage was a profound difference between the real class of Igneri and Tepper and the ugliness and nastiness of what the GOP in Norwalk has become, sadly manifested in McCarthy and Wilson.

  7. Sad Sally

    @bruce kimmel

    I respect you for running on issues that you believe in, but your unabashed support for the likes of Mr. McCarthy is appalling. Your credibility is seriously weakened by standing up for this guy. Have you not been paying attention for the past 4-years. Mr. McCarthy is the Ted Cruz of Norwalk, worse yet, he is mean spirited and cruel. I fear that you have completely lost the plot in your aggressive support for this guy.

  8. David McCarthy

    David Watts…I give you some respect for that apology.

    LWitherspoon, as someone who has consistently been at the forefront of issues, I have set the agenda, and therefore I consider most people to be voting with me. That being said, I didn’t join my caucus in voting for the current Asst City Clerk. There are many other issues that saw the votes all over the place.

    As I said to Mr. Watts last night, for someone to sit and do absolutely nothing for two years and then try to run for re-election by claiming that his silence and inaction were a positive attribute is ludicrous. That I stand up and take action and am not afraid to speak my mind is what makes me effective in leading.

  9. Mike Mushak

    Mr McCarthy, is an example of the “effective leadership” you claim to possess indicated by that flyer full of lies you are distributing all over West Norwalk, including misrepresenting my vote (which is on the record which directly refutes your claim), which jeopardized the city’s position in a lawsuit, and which blatantly and deceptively ignores the fact that your own GOP running-mate Emily Wilson actually negotiated the settlement that she than voted for along with Harry Rilling and me, following legal advice to protect Norwalk taxpayers from a potential huge liability? Is misleading the public your idea of “effective leadership”?
    .
    And what were the “many other issues that saw the votes all over the place” where you are implying you do NOT always vote with your caucus? You made the charge that Dems, in particular John Igneri, voted with their caucus (imagine that), as if you don’t. Please back up your comment with examples of the times and dates when you voted AGAINST the GOP caucus. That would prove your claim that you are truly bi-partisan and that voting with any caucus like Igneri does is somehow a sign of weakness.
    .
    If you think the caucus system is so awful, then why don’t you “stand up and take action”? Or is it that the GOP Caucus is the only one true caucus to worship, and the Dem Caucus is bogus and must not be respected? Is that the line of crap you have been feeding to the Dem turncoats which they seem to have bought into? Me thinks your bogus claims of “bi-partisanship” are about as truthful as the material on that disgusting and inflammatory flyer.
    .

  10. Harvey

    It appears that Mushak and McCarthy have quite a lot in common. Both are outspoken and passionate, Irrational and untempered. The both of youse need a lesson in manners.

    David Watts. Leader of the “what have you done for me lately clown brigade”. Can’t you find a real job someplace?

  11. RU4REAL

    “Don’t cave in to those who yell among us”, very nice phrase Mr. Mccarthy.
    Here lies the problem, I personally witnessed you, Mr. Cavallo and brand new council member at the time Ms. Mann, really YELL at Ms. Duleep and Mr. Watts for requesting a ruling from the state on some issue Moccia was against.
    The three of them would hardly let anyone else speak, the ONLY Republican who made an attempt at discussion was Ms. Maggio, at that point the three of them paused for a moment, respectfully looked at her while she spoke, then turned back and starting yelling at Duleep and Watts again when she was done speaking!!
    Don’t take my word on it, did I embellish the story, maybe?
    I think NON recorded it! If not Its Relevant did, this way you cant accuse NON of only recording the screaming trio.
    The three of them teed off fast stealing the show (popcorn?), I think they were their to disrupt and it worked, a three adult giant baby tantrum.
    It was a terrible display from our elected/appointed Republican officials that evening, I don’t care how passionate you are on an issue, they were out of line.
    It would appear Mr. Mccarthy would like to have it both ways when convenient for his party, hoping no one is paying attention, hopefully voters WILL pay attention on Election day, see through this deceit and not re elect or appoint them, whether you are Democrat, Republican or Unaffiliated.
    For heaven’s sake why would you folks continue to distribute campaign flyers with lies on it, this must be a joke, are you folks trying to lose?
    I’ve noticed while driving around that Ms. Maggio shares space on her lawn sign with another candidate, I hope she can get her money back.
    Do you think they yelled to get all those lawn signs up around town?
    LOL!!

  12. Norwalk Lifer

    Dear Ms. Wilson:

    A lot of us have invested a lot in the City of Norwalk, I see a distinctive tone in your discussion, I too, have invested a lot, a lot of Norwalkers have invested a lot. While you may be more focused on certain city issues, please let me remind you, that the very issue with this council is the word “I”, you are not working together, I listened to the words of David McCarthy also, I worked with six other republicans and three democrats. Why not say I worked with my fellow council members.

    It’s very telling when you say things like I worked on campaigns, we don’t care if you work on campaigns, the people of Norwalk deserve better.

    If Mr Igneri cites civility and compromise, there is no reason to attack him for this.

    If Mr. Igneri cites tax increases, whether they are or are not necessary for backfilling fiduciary issues in BOE, is not the issue.

    The issue is this council is not your public forum for campaigning, Introducing yourself and showing your ability to work together would go farther to impress the voters of Norwalk.

    But when you and your fellow councilman, Mr. McCarthy use language that shows your real intent, it’s not the kind of investment Norwalk needs.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

  13. Don’t Panic

    Lifer has it right. There has been no show of bipartisan compromise in this council. One the majority caucus was flipped to the Republicans, there was little debate or discussion. Often motions were made to stifle debate after any item introduced by the Democrats. Once elected it is important to remember you represent ALL of Norwalk.

  14. Suzanne

    “…as someone who has consistently been at the forefront of issues, I have set the agenda, and therefore I consider most people to be voting with me.” Does anyone see a problem with this view? This assumes that others have NOT been “at the forefront of issues” and, since this cannot be true, just because Mr. McCarthy “sets the agenda” should it not then follow that those who have joined him on these issues of agenda would be voting their conscious with an informed opinion intact and not simply “be voting with (Mr. McCarthy)”? I don’t know whether this is arrogance, excessive egoism, what? Given this writing by Mr. McCarthy, I was still glad to hear of his background, education and training. I am surprised he doesn’t use it to Norwalk’s benefit with logic, instead of high octane politics, more often.

  15. Jesse Stone

    Is there anyone who has any evidence that Igneri has ever done anything while on the council? That is my takeaway, I know what I will get from Watts as Harvey has written better than I can. Mushak is just Mushak. McCarthy is the only one who stands up to The Mushaks and Watts types to prevent them from really messing things up. Igneri just sits there. Just my two cents.

    (Editor’s note: Igneri, McCarthy and Watts are on Common Council. Mike Mushak is on the Zoning Commission. Common Council and Zoning do not generally do combined meetings.)

  16. Joe Espo

    Mike: whatever you perceive as McCarthy’s school-yard demeanor probably pales in comparison to your junk-yard-dog defamatory comments about him that are publicly well-documented on NON. Why would you think that he should accord you any respect in private?

  17. Suzanne

    Mr. Espo, It’s called “taking the high road” and, of course, is at any individual’s discretion. This kind of conflict always reminds me of the House of Commons where yelling and insulting is the norm. Afterward, there is cordial interchange. At least the Brits know where to keep their politics while maintaining civil relations elsewhere. Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Mushak might want to try it.

  18. RU4REAL

    If you have a problem with Mushak, YOU just may be the problem.
    The guy stepped up, even when personally attacked to inform US that something was wrong.
    We All should be thanking him, not bashing him, look at it this way, if you had information that would help the community after watching Mushak getting beat up, you may not say anything, its not worth the trouble.
    Ignorance is bliss people.
    So some folks are detrimental to the truth being told, why would anyone do that, oh I forgot, politics.

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