NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s mayor says the only reason behind his Notify Norwalk call Friday afternoon was to get a message out – nothing political, in spite of accusations made by NancyOnNorwalk readers.
Phones rang all over Norwalk just hours after a much-publicized Democratic mayoral candidates debate. Incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia was on the other end of the phone, announcing the city’s imminent switch to single-stream recycling.
At the time, there were severe-weather warnings issued by the National Weather Service and rain was falling steadily, all connected to what had been Tropical Storm Andrea.
A letter to the editor appeared on these pages within minutes. Reader “MWard” said he assumed the Notify Norwalk (also called Code Red) alert concerned a flood warning. “This could be a case of complete clueless ignorance to the weather conditions or a calculated maneuver hours after the debate of Norwalk’s Democratic mayoral candidates,” he wrote.
Kathy Gallagher agreed. “The use of Code Red for single stream recycling is inappropriate,” she wrote. “For the mayor to be on the line as a tropical storm is bearing down on us, for something so trivial, is questionable to say the least.”
Moccia said Tuesday that he had no motivation other than getting the word out about the new recycling program.
“Notify Norwalk is not just for emergencies but for important public announcements,” he said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “I wanted the message out; not sure the day of week makes a difference. When we have a change in our recycling program that will affect over 30,000 homes, this was the most efficient method of communication. Also we have a contract that allows us virtually unlimited minutes, so there is no extra cost.”
The recycling program, part of City Carting’s 10-year contract to pick up Norwalk’s garbage, begins July 1. City Carting was set to begin distributing the new 65-gallon bins for single-stream recycling Monday, Moccia said, another reason to make the call Friday. It was important to get the word out so people would not use them prematurely. If they do, he said, their recyclable materials will not be picked up.
City officials were recently involved in a public relations nightmare. Residents of the neighborhood near Norwalk Hospital who normally have their garbage picked up Monday put their cans and bags out Tuesday, the day after Memorial Day, following the pattern some said they have known for decades, expecting their garbage to be picked up one day late. Instead, the garbage sat outside for days in 90 degree heat, resulting in angry phone calls to City Hall.
City Carting’s deal with the city provides for holiday pickups to me made the following Saturday. After a deluge of phone calls from residents, city officials got the trash picked up one day early and promised to rethink the situation.
One NancyOnNorwalk commenter made reference to that incident.
“The Code Red System is in place to notify the public of emergency information use only,” Norwalk Dinosaur said. “Mixed recycling will be great, but it is hardly appropriate to use an emergency protocol to publicize the pickup. There is an appropriate avenue for this and it is called public notice in The Hour & norwalkct.org. And if the Mayor did feel a need to use the Code Red System, the least he could of done was to apologize to our neighbors who dealt with piles of garbage on their curbs for a week after Mem Day Weekend!”
Moccia said in a Tuesday email that the day of the week had nothing to do with it.
“No matter what date I did it, people will perceive what they will,” he said. “All I did was to notify people that new bins would be delivered and what to do. There was nothing more behind it.”