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Moccia banking on economic record, infrastructure improvements for re-election

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Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said it comes down to economics, infrastructure, public safety and education.

NORWALK, Conn. – It hasn’t been easy being mayor of Norwalk, Mayor Richard Moccia said.

“We’ve had a lot of storms, both economic storms and Mother Nature storms. I think we survived both very well,” the Republican incumbent said last week at the East Norwalk candidates forum as he made his case for re-election.

Norwalk’s finances are in “very, very good shape,” he said.

“I know some people get tired of me talking about our Triple A bond rating, but I assure you that the rating agencies or our financial people do not,” he said. “It’s very important. We have maintained our Triple A bond rating from all three agencies. Our pension fund is almost back to 100 percent from when the market collapsed. We were one of the first cities to set up an OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) retirement fund that employees contribute to. We now have $30 million in that fund. One of the first cities not only in the state but in the whole country of our size that implemented a separate fund similar to a pension fund.”

Yes, taxes have gone up over the course of his nearly eight years in office, but look what you’ve gotten, he said.

“There is always concern about taxes, but we have tried to balance the collapse in the economy with moderate tax increases to ensure that we maintain all of our services,” he said. “We have maintained our services. I think that our performance in the snowstorm was evidence of that. I think other cities were shut down for 10 days, we were up and running within three or four days, 99 percent of it. That was because of the investment we made in trucks and manpower and equipment.”

The city of Bridgeport requested help from the National Guard to dig itself out of the February snowstorm.

Moccia also touted the $30 million he said has been spent on Norwalk’s roads over the past six years and said flooding has been addressed in several areas. The city is looking to alleviate flooding around Burlington Place, he said.

Another reason the city did well with snow? The emergency planning under Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy and Emergency Management Deputy Director Michelle Deluca, he said.

“Unfortunately, after the Newtown incident, we’ve had to do more planning on public safety,” he said. “There’s been a lot of improvements in safety in the schools. I’ve added three more police officers in this year’s budget. They are now school resource officers splitting time between the four middle schools. Hopefully next year I can add more so we can have permanent officers in the middle schools, for each middle school, in more in the elementary schools.”

Education has improved in Norwalk despite budget constraints, he said, pointing to a recent letter to the editor by Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons.

“Quite honestly, we had concerns the way money was being spent at the Board of Ed. My first few years people were claiming we were short-shrifting the Board of Ed. Thanks to when Dr. Marks came in, she brought in some new people, it turned out that we were correct,” he said. “There was a lot of misspending up there. Thanks to the effort made by Dr. Marks, Tony Daddona and Tom Hamilton, from my staff, we managed to correct that, fund our healthcare and this year we were able to restore many of the positions that had to be cut over the years.”

Moccia neglected to mention former Chief Operating Officer Elio Longo, who was credited with finding a $4 million shortfall in the BOE insurance fund last year.

Schools are being renovated, he said.

Next on the schedule are Naramake Elementary School and Rowayton Elementary School. There are two more athletic fields going in at Naramake and Nathan Hale, he said.

Calf Pasture Beach is probably the best beach in the state now, he said. Part of Oyster Shell Park has been rebuilt. Cranbury Park is “phenomenal,” he said.

The switch to single-stream recycling was a little bumpy at first, but the latest statistics show a 60 percent increase in recycling, he said. That’s important because the city sells recyclables for $17.50 a ton and pays $86 a ton to haul garbage away. That’s a $103 a ton savings, he said.

“We’ve made improvement in the parks. We’ve improved our infrastructure. We’ve maintained our financial position, our emergency planning, restored much of the cuts that we had to because of the economy,” he said. “There is no easy solution. You’re not going to govern by cliches and you’re not going to govern by statements that we can do better. You have to perform. We have performed. Have we done everything perfect? No. No city is perfect. We’ve made some mistakes probably along the way but that’s normal. But two mistakes we haven’t made, that’s in emergency planning and in the environment. In saving energy in our buildings and single stream recycling.”

Comments

20 responses to “Moccia banking on economic record, infrastructure improvements for re-election”

  1. Tim K

    I didn’t know the fire dept plowed snow! Next time I’ll call the new volk station when I have a complaint.

  2. Suzanne

    A little bit of this and a little bit of that? Where is there a comprehensive urban plan being followed for the Town of Norwalk? Clearly if this Mayor thinks Calf Pasture is the best beach in CT, he does not get out of town much. It is nice and I appreciate it but it speaks to the insular nature of this man as our mayor. I noticed he did not mention development, improvement of Wall Street and downtown, crime and the implications of crime especially in South Norwalk where businesses seem to be fleeing faster than occupying spaces as well as the fact that 60% of the operating budget goes to education for children and I don’t have any. How much civic responsibility are we supposed to bear for those who choose to have kids as opposed to those who choose to not have children? It is not a fair burden. “Not perfect” is not good enough unless there is a comprehensive plan about the direction and clearly stated goals for Norwalk that is implemented and followed. Willy-nilly just doesn’t cut it. (Oh! And the lack of transparency in the entire Commission/Counsel system that does not allow the constituency to present their case in a fair and balanced way.)

  3. Mr. Ludlow

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the money that goes to pay for the police and schools and pave (and re-pave, and re-re-pave) roads doesn’t come out of the pocket of the Wizard of East Avenue? Right? He knows that it’s taxpayer money he tells his minions how to spend.

  4. Bren McFadden

    Did the Mayor just support Susan Marks. Wasn’t she the superintendent who quit after creating loads of budget problems, and took over $80K in severance on her way out the door?

  5. spanner

    They are now school resource officers splitting time between the four middle schools. What happens on a day the poice officer who has a particular school isn’t on or available?I don’t think this statement has been explained well but was made to look good.Maybe if we were told the facts it may not sound as good as it sounded.This sounds like its from the playbook of our State reps.

    Flooding has been addressed in several areas How much to collect the recyclables? Is it possible for City Carting to just dump the recyclables as trash and cash in?They run the whole show who checks them?

    Emergency planning has been audited by whom?Who has come in and actually gone over such planning?How many new fire trucks, ambulances and equipment is coming that the city needs?(ambulances make money for the city as it is we train our firefighters to run one at times they ride in the Norwalk Hospitals and help)Now they are suggesting spending more than the new free 3/4 of a million fireboat just to house and maintain a profile in the water.Where is the planning on these high ticket items that the city needs?

    Part of Oyster Shell Park has been rebuilt,has anyone forget its still a hazardous waste site full of chemicals and unkowns?Big dredging going on in the harbor yet the three hazardous waste cells buried in the middle of Norwalk river still exists anyone feel like betting these three cells won’t cause a problem down the road?

    It sure does sound like an election is coming.

  6. Piberman

    Just who is going to take credit for 3 years of stagnant property values, a stagnant Grand List and the highest paid city employees in the state ? Who takes credit for negotiating the 5th highest teacher salaries in the state ? Who is taking credit for raising property faxes during the Great Recession ? Who is taking credit for City employees averaging nearly $100,000 ? Who is taking credit for median household income of just $72,000 – less than an average city worker’s salary ? Who has plans to reduce property taxes so residents have some realistic prospects of future property appreciation ? Who takes credit for stagnant property values amist a nationwide housing price boom ? Our elected officials are far too modest in not taking full credit for achievements. They have done their very best for City workers. Let’s return all our elected leaders to office. Their record is unmatched by any city in CT. Norwalk is “strong” – just ask the Tooth Fairy.

  7. Herb Eaversmels

    @suzanne. Where did you get your education and who do you think paid for it? At some point you were a “burden” now it is time to pay it back. Pretty selfish mindset you have…

  8. M Allen

    Oh Herb, see, when Suzanne and probably a lot of us went to school, a higher percentage of the population was paying into the social framework. Expanding middle class to cover it all pretty easily. Not so much today. So you’ll have to forgive the crazy idea that some people hate carrying a larger portion if they aren’t taking much out.

  9. The Deal

    @ Piberman; I’ve seen you make the statement city employees average nearly $100,000 in comments involving other stories. I don’t know if that’s true or not but could you elaborate on what department they work for, what their titles are, and exactly how much they make? I would guess many taxpayers would be interested in this information.

  10. Suzanne

    On the contrary, Mr. Eaversmels, M Allen is partly correct. I grew up one of twelve children in the country. Our teachers did not make a whole lot – I could just ask my Mom, she was one, but they were excellent and understood their mission. Sixty percent of our property taxes on one hundred acres of land did NOT go to education. I think I have reached my tolerance limit because the quality of education does not get many blue ribbons and I see so much money being spent in all kinds of unlikely places not related to education for the schools. The Hour, in fact, only last week published the good news: our students have a lower than expected incarceration rate. Wow! What a great scale to measure excellence: how many of the community’s kids are NOT in jail! I know education can be costly and I am all for supporting an education system that works: Norwalk’s seems very expensive and has little of consistent excellence to recommend it (I know, I know, all you parents out there are offended – I just know what I read in the papers.) I just think if we are going to have to pay into the “pot” more should be realized from it for EVERYONE not just for those people who happen to have children. Not selfish, I don’t think but a reasonable expectation given the economics of life. As an addendum, my father was a professor as are a number of my siblings professors and/or school teachers so I am well aware of education’s many perils and rewards. Me and my family have given back quite a bit since being “burdens” as you put it. That I should have to pay for educating other people’s children at such a high rate? I have to ask, why?

  11. Oldtimer

    PBerman has been asked for data to back up his oft-repeated statements about the excessive pay city employees are paid. He does not respond to such requests and his credibility suffers. The idea we pay too much resonates with people burdened with paying the taxes, but may not be accurate.

    The school system used to get aapproximately 40% of its budget from local taxes and a similar amount from the state, with the remaining coming from federal funds. As the state portion has shrunk, the local portion has increased to present levels.

  12. Tim T

    The Deal
    Most of them are cops making 65 bucks an hour looking at a hole in the ground. Other towns have all gone to flagman or traffic control agents at about 15 bucks per hour. The problem in Norwalk is the administration and the management of the PD are in bed with the police union. This will not change come November as both Moccia and Rilling support this waste. I figure it’s about 5 million per year. The city official will lie to you and say its being paid by the construction company but the thing they fail to tell you is the taxpayer is paying the construction company. If the contracts were figured with the lessor amount of 15.. per hour for flagmen that saving would go into the pockets of the taxpayer.

    FYI SOME ARE MAKING ALMOST 200,000

    https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/01/norwalk-schools-administrator-topped-city-earners-in-2012/

    https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/TOP-SALARY-2012.pdf

  13. Herb Eaversmels

    @Suzanne- May I quote you? “How much civic responsibility are we supposed to bear for those who choose to have kids as opposed to those who choose to not have children? It is not a fair burden”. You used the word burden to describe societies responsibility to educate children, not me. Perhaps the real burden is the high salaries and rich benefits our teachers and administrators receive. If you take into consideration money our State and Federal government have cut for funding programs they mandated, you can see why our share is greater.

  14. Suzanne

    Yes, you may. And while I bristle at the idea that what I am requesting as a no-child family is somehow selfish or unreasonable, I don’t think it is, an unpopular opinion or not. I do believe “it takes a village” and about that I am not complaining. But, 60 percent of my taxes going to what? Educating the children? Not from what I have seen so far. If I thought the monies were going to teaching kids, it would not sting and I would say, “Go for it.” But that is not what is happening in Norwalk. And it shows. Test scores at or below those of the State wide criteria (ranging in the 40 plus percent value) are nothing to celebrate. Even at 60 percent of my taxes, our kids are not thriving in our schools (if test scores are the correct parameter by which to judge this.) So, I see it as a burden I do not wish to bear. I love kids and I would love to see our community’s kids educated at an excellent standard but, until then, I say, let the parents pay for it and not my taxes, no kids, at 60%.

  15. Oldtimer

    Tim
    Nobody is forcing anybody to hire police officers for construction sites, except maybe their own insurance companies. If you drive around a bit, you will see a lot of sites where the contractor is using flagmen. The amount officers get paid is time and a half, as required by state law and the contract with the city. If you think you can readily supply flagmen, as needed, cheaper, and make yourself a few dollars, you should go into business. I should warn you that flagmen with no special training routinely, in many places, get paid close to $50/hr, plus benefits and they get time and a half, for any day over 8hrs and any week over 40. Nobody is getting reliable help around here for $15/hr, for any kind of job.

  16. Tim T

    Old Timer
    I suggest that you check with both Westport and Darien as they use town traffic agents at 15 per hour. Also your statement of flagman making 50 per hour is simply not true. Please provide some evidence of you ridiculous claims.
    As far as construction companies being forced to hire cops, that is the case as the thugs of the police union will not have anything bite into the cash cow of dirt jobs.

    Oldtimer in the interest of interest of full disclosure do you not think it would be the correct thing to do and state how you profited off this cash cow for years as a retied NPD police captain.. Thus your never ending support of the waste of millions and millions of tax dollars yearly.

  17. “We demand strict proof for opinions we dislike, but are satisfied with mere hints for what we’re inclined to accept.”
    **John Henry Newman

  18. Tim T

    “You Can’t Handle the Truth.”
    **Colonel Nathan R. Jessup’s (played by Jack Nicholson)

  19. piberman

    Readers interested in Norwalk’s comparative fiscal affairs can begin with the recent Arbitration Award Committee Report, BOE Tom Mooney’s detailed report prepared for the Committee, Finance Department Head Tom Hamilton’s extensive report prepared for the Arbitration Committee hearings, the most recent Municipal Outlays in CT Report prepared by CPEC in Hartford, the comprehensive Municiipal Outlays in CT I prepared at the request of CPEC some years ago – the first and only comparative study of municipal outlays in CT, various CT gov’t sources in Hartford and the Yankee Institute for starters. Other in depth compreheneissve studies were prepared for the CT Commission on Business Opportunity, Defense Production and Industrial Policy – CT’s first and only Blue Ribbon Business Commission that held over a 100 meetings throughout the state at the behest of the State Legislature. I was a member of that Commission, prepared some of its studies and have given dozens of testimonies on municipal finance matters prepared for the state Legislature and Legislative Committees. These are for starters.

    For those willing to get to the heart of the matter quickly the Arbitration Report quoting both Tom Hamilton’s and the CT Gov’t sources identifies Norwalk as having the 5th highest public teacher salaries of any city in CT. Only 5 small communities have higher salaries. Since public school teachers are by far the overwhelming portion of Norwalk municipal employees its easy to do the arithmetic. It’s also worth noting that the NFT’s attorney’s brief claimed that Norwalk was one of the wealthiest towns in America without citing evidence. The obvious question is why wasn’t the BET paying attention to NFT contracts all these years ? The BET is a party to BOE and all other union contract negotiations. And why was the Common Council out to lunch also. The escalation of our municipal salaries has a long history. Without the Arbitration Report the facts would have remained obscured – Norwalk’s “little secret”.

    For those interested in tracking residential housing prices data there are various real estate firms that provide detailed data for Norwalk and surrounding towns going back several years. Data on the Grand List is available from CT gov’t sources in Hartford both for all communities and historially.

    The seminal study of “transitional cities” was done by CPEC in Hartford some years ago and periodically before then. Norwalk ranks 3rd in CT as the most transitional city after Hartford and Bridgeport.

    CL&P also maintains useful data sources on municipalities as does the CT Conference on Municipalities.

    The linkages between property taxes, property values and municipal salaries is well documented in an enormous professional literature. In our own state, Bridgeport is a good case study of municipal failure by elected officials to reign in spending, salaries and benefits amidst an eroding economy which precipitated an unstoppable outflow of its most financially capable residents to secure housing and jobs elsewhere. Detroit is a more recent example of egregious lack of financial oversight.

    Stagnant property values over successive years along with a stagnant Grand List and highest municipal salaries of any city in CT ought to be a clarion call of alarm for elected officials and concerned citizens. So far the only ones “getting the message” are posting “for sale” signs. Norwalk long prided itself on maintaining a vibrant retired class of residents with a vested interest in curtailing tax increases.

    Finally, its worth noting that several decades Norwalk was considered a well managed City with its finances under control, especially property taxes. What’s changed ? A once active citizenry comprised mostly of local small business folks who studied up on the budget and kept elected and appointed officials on their financial toes has moved on and hasn’t been replaced. Since neither mayoral candidate has taxes and spending on their front agendas its easy to forecast where future residential property values are headed.

  20. Suzanne

    piberman, You have detailed the financial instability and issues for a long time on these threads and I always read them with great interest. Your opinion, since you do seem to be most informed on this matter, WHY isn’t this being discussed by either candidate? Don’t you think it would be better to “take the bull by the horns” so to speak? Or, do both think it is too risky to take on the unions and their influence in these high municipal salaries? But, why not address the Grand List and property values? Where is the risk? (Especially if one of them has a plan….) I don’t get avoidance as politics but, rather, stick to the elected as servants of the community. Maybe a bit old fashioned (as in John Adams, George Washington, etc.), but I still believe it to be an essential fact. But, again, why do you think these issues are not being addressed?

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