Moccia, Rilling address Latino issues in South Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. – Both Republican Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia and his Democratic challenger, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, chose the same approach to establish a rapport with their audience Wednesday – they spoke in Spanish.

Can’t tell you what they said, but Rilling kept it up longer.

Both of the men were engaging in their first structured debate at the South Norwalk Community Center, where the questions focused on Latino issues. Each answered five questions submitted to them in advance, plus two questions from audience members, sparring back and forth in a lively exchange.

In some spots, Moccia said he agreed with Rilling, as he was already doing what the former chief suggested. In others, they couldn’t disagree more.

“I’ve heard over and over again that Norwalk City Hall is one of the unfriendliest places to do business,” Rilling said. “I have heard it so many times I have to believe that it’s true.”

“Totally incorrect about City Hall and if he knew, we have programs,” Moccia said, referring to employee training for sensitivity to ethnic issues.

Latinos account for roughly 25 percent of Norwalk’s population and 47 percent of the students in Norwalk public schools, according to a question written by El Sol News and La Voz Hispana.

“Yet,” the question read by Lourdes Montalva said, “of the 223 municipal board and community positions in Norwalk, less than 7 percent are Latino. This under-representation may be the reason Latinos feel disenfranchised. … What will you do to address this under-representation, not only on the boards and commissions, but also in all the city departments, including the fire and police departments?”

“As police chief, I was engaged aggressively recruiting and hiring people from all ethnic backgrounds, especially in the Hispanic community,” Rilling said.

“Please understand that for the eight years I worked as mayor the chief worked for me and my police commission and it was our direction, more minority hiring,” Moccia said.

After the debate, Rilling said that he brought candidates to the police commission. All the commissioners did was vote on them, he said.

Moccia said 10 percent of Norwalk departments have Hispanic employees and listed two highly placed Latino volunteers – Redevelopment Authority Chairman Felix Serrano and Norwalk Housing Authority Chairman Cesar Ramirez – as well as Olga Arteaga, a recent appointment to the Norwalk Parking Authority.

To serve on a city board you have to be an elector, he said. This is a problem, given that of 5,200 Latino registered voters only 800 voted, he said.

“The only person that can disenfranchise yourself is yourself,” he said. “… Don’t disenfranchise yourself. Vote. Then you can change it even more so.”

Rilling said something similar. “You have a strong, strong voice,” he said. “Use it.”

But, Rilling said, “Since this question had to be asked, then its a real problem. We have to make sure that you feel welcome on these boards and commissions. We have to hold voter registration drives geared toward Hispanic voters.”

They were asked how they could help the center achieve its goal of “re-inventing itself as a pivotal resource center for the Latino community and the greater South Norwalk Community at large.”

Moccia mentioned the Community Block Development Grant money the South Norwalk Community Center was awarded through the city.

“It all comes down to time and money,” Moccia said. “The entire budget in the state of Connecticut for the Latino commission is only about $340,000. You got $100,000, the rest of the state is only $340,000, and that’s chopped up, kind of hard to get to the cities.”

Moccia, who, in replying to Rilling’s recent endorsements by asserting that the former chief has bought votes with promises, mentioned the $100,000 twice. The money is from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rilling said the center’s goals are “amazing.”

“We need to be a partner,” he said. “You need to be certain that the city of Norwalk is going to be there for you. That the mayor is going to be sitting at the table with you. That when you need funding we’re going to explore all options, all funding opportunities that are out there, whether it be for private corporations, foundations, whether it be for CDBG money, whether it be money that the city has allocated to help you to achieve that mission.”

Moccia said he is already doing that. He held up a list of 40 agencies under the early childhood plan.

“I’ve been doing it for eight years,” he said. “I don’t need any on the job training.”

One Latino woman, who declined to be identified, said the debate was wonderful.

“I think they touched on a lot of specifics,” she said, but added that Rilling had a much more professional demeanor. Rilling is warm, and connects with the Latino people, she said. Rilling stayed behind to talk, while Moccia left as soon as possible, she said.

Another woman, who only gave her first name, Aleyea, said the debate “was good in a way,” but that they “didn’t get the answers we want.”

What did she think of the answers she did get?

“Some of them I didn’t agree with, with the current mayor,” the active volunteer said. “… I hear everything from the Spanish community that’s going on. As much as they say we have the services, we really don’t. Maybe we do, but they haven’t found a way to communicate what kind services, you know, because people are afraid or they might not know.”


28 responses to “Moccia, Rilling address Latino issues in South Norwalk”

  1. The Deal

    Moccia is addressing Latino issues NOW?

  2. M Allen

    25 percent of Norwalk’s population and 47 percent of the students in Norwalk public schools.

    I had no idea it was that skewed.

  3. Mike Rotch

    Is this the same 47% Romney was talking about?

  4. Day Laborer

    Hiring based on race, ethnicity, and gender…..rather than hiring the best available is why we fail. In corporate America it means fire more white men to please those who only view someone’s value based on these characteristics. MLK rolls in his grave.

  5. Olga Arteaga

    Nancy, thank you for mentioning my name as an appointee to the parking commission. I have been a long time volunteer and worker in my community and my late husband, Guillermo was a member of the council for two terms and a justice of the peace. He is an example of what an immigrant to this country can achieve.

    I am a little confused as to your rude and dismissive behavior to me last night. When you were looking for people to speak with, once you realized who I was, to say that you didn’t want to speak to me because I was a supporter of the mayor is insulting. It shows the unfortunate bias that your writing and site have.

    You only seek to put the mayor and people working to make the city better in a bad light. You seem pleased with people who are trying to self promote because they pander to you and flatter you.

    You seem to support Harry Rilling quite openly. I have known Harry for many years, while he was supporting our Mayor and the Republican Party in our city. It wasn’t until after the leadership of our party told him that he could not run for mayor until Mayor Moccia retired that he suddenly became a democrat. Be careful what you wish for…

    1. Ms Arteaga,

      At the end of the debate I was looking for people who are not involved in the campaign, people from the community looking for information to help them make a decision, people who would give me an honest reaction to what they had heard. You are an appointee of the mayor and clearly a campaign operative, as evidenced by your words and image being used in a campaign-paid ad set up as a “letter to the editor” on The Daily Voice and in The Hour’s paid campaign endorsement section.

      I also was concerned about the veracity of anything you might say. You spoke at a council meeting several months back in support of Linda Kruk. While I respect the other people who spoke in favor of Ms Kruk, you spoke about Zoning Commission interactions as if the things you were saying were facts, yet I had never seen you at a Zoning Commission meeting.

      Now here you are, doing it again. Were you there when leadership of the Republican Party allegedly told Mr. Rilling that he could not run for mayor? Mr. Rilling hotly denies it. The rumor making the rounds claims Mr. Rilling approached two high-ranking members, identified to us in the rumor as Art Scialabba and Larry Cafero. Mr. Scialabba said he was not approached and had not talked to Mr. Rilling about this. Rep. Cafero says he was not approached, but the topic came up in a casual conversation. Who among us knows the truth? Yet, you speak as if you had witnessed it.
      Yes, I was dismissive. I thought you were rude. I had a limited amount of time to get reactions from people before everyone walked out the door. You did everything but grab onto to me to stop me.
      This was after the moderator asked if anyone there had a question and you took the microphone and said, “I do not have a question. I have a couple of statements.” When you got called on it, you came up with a question about something that had already been addressed.

      Again, I wanted real input from non-aligned members of the community (and I hope you are not suggesting those women were self-promoting. Neither approached me to try to make a statement). I was not looking for a campaign statement. When the mayor or his campaign addresses real topics, we report on it. We also publish responsible letters to the editor (unpaid letters that readers can comment on) and comments, attempting to vet statements, like your’s, asserted as fact. If facts look like partisanship, there may be a reason.

  6. A Curious Mind

    It’s 47 percent of Norwalk’s school population but 25 percent of Norwalk’s general population. Sounds like latinos get significantly more Norwalk tax dollars by way of services than they pay in?. Wonder what the actual ratio is of their tax dollars paid vs. value of services received? And if it’s along the lines of the ratio of school population to general population, why is this group claiming that it’s being under-served?

  7. SoNoCC

    South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) thanks both candidates for a lively and informative debate last evening. SoNoCC is pleased to have hosted this debate free of charge to the public. Unfortunately, an upcoming Mayoral debate elsewhere in town will be charging $35 per person to attend. We believe that charging the public to obtain first-hand information involving the democratic process is unconscionable. Yet, a major local newspaper neglected to announce last night’s debate while accepting advertising dollars in promoting the pay-to-go event.
    We would also like to clarify that SoNoCC’s $100,000 Community Development Block Grant is a federally-funded HUD grant. Our use of these funds is restricted to badly needed renovations and handicap accessibility to our more than 30-year-old building. Not even a penny can be spent on providing social services. We are very thankful to the local government officials and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency for their support in the approval process. The renovations will allow the Center to introduce a multitude of new programming right here in the heart of our community in South Norwalk. Among the programs planned for 2014 are: a unique dual language Early Childhood Development Center; after-school one-on-one tutoring; and, adult education programming. Unlike some other local non-profits, we currently do not receive a dime of local or state funding. We are relying on strong strategic partners soon to be announced publicly, along with support from foundations, corporations and private contributors.
    Finally, a few words about our local Latino community. It is a relatively young and growing population when compared to Norwalk’s overall population. 25% of Norwalkers are Latinos and 47% of the kids in our public schools are Latino. This latter percentage is relative to the fact that the Latino population has a younger demographic and have yet to experience a high degree of “flight” from our public schools.
    SoNoCC believes in the chinese proverb:

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

    Our 12-month operating budget for 2014-15 is $265,000 with an anticipated $4 million value in services to be provided. That means for every dollar received we provide $15 in services. We believe that SoNoCC is a great investment for the future of our beloved town. We urge you to lobby on our behalf with city and state officials and to personally invest in us so that we may provide our community members with the tools they need to achieve their dreams.

  8. RU4REAL

    The Norwalk Fire Department currently have four Latino and six African Americans working.
    Not very diverse for the demographics of Norwalk, although Moccia has tried (in his mind) for eight years, what ever he’s done or doing clearly isn’t working.
    Time for another set of eyes, I think Rilling will take a fair look and do what he can to make diverse city departments, as a community we should demand it.
    The proof is in the pudding, under Rilling the Norwalk Police Department is quite diverse, with many minorities and women in administrative positions.
    Whatever Rilling was doing, it did and is currently still working under the current Chief and his administration.
    What it really comes down to is, leadership reflects attitudes.

  9. David

    @A Curious Mind: City services are funded primarily through property and consumption (sales) taxes. Latino’s pay both, whether directly through the sales tax or indirectly as a part of their rent payments.

  10. Lorie

    “Rilling stayed behind to talk, while Moccia left”.
    Hey, showing up, at all, was a big step for Moccia. Not like he stays up at night worrying about minority blocks waking up and voting. Good call, NON, on dismising the noise.
    $1.00 gets $15.00 back in services? Beat that Red Cross. Thanks for pointing that fact out SONO CC.

  11. Oldtimer

    Sales tax is a State tax and all goes to Hartford, it is not a City tax. Most of the City income is from property taxes on real estate and on motor vehicles. There are also fees for property transfers and building permits, but most of the money comes from property taxes.

  12. Olga Arteaga

    Nancy, Calling me rude for reacting to your dismissive tone is not exactly fair. You now admit that you didn’t want to speak to anyone who was remotely favorable to the mayor, at least you are honest.

    Are you saying that you assume because I am an appointee to a board and volunteer to help the city that I somehow would be untruthful in my reaction to the debate? Were you really going to go on until you found someone with something negative to say?

    You mention Linda Kruk, she is a long time friend and another strong woman stepping up to serve her city. You belittle her in one breath and me in another and say it’s ok? Yes, I supported her, again, does this make my opinion about a mayoral debate meaningless?

    I never touched you and for a member of the press to take the time to attack an every day citizen just because they dared call you on your bias is unbelievable.

  13. Joe Espo

    Nancy: I read and took a screen shot of your response to Mrs. Arteaga for posterity. As the facts are rendered by you and her, your encounter with Mrs. Artaega was repulsive and it was the penultimate betrayal of your journo and personal bias. I’m sure there is a greater betrayal lurking somewhere in the NON archives, but I don’t have the time to research it. But this one is enough to take the cake.
    Mrs. Arteaga and her family represent the best of Norwalk citizenry: integrity, accomplishment, achievement, success, and unimpeachable character. Better than you, better than I, better than almost anyone I can think of. Her late husband was a pillar of the community. She was his partner. Her children, as well, have accomplished great things; more than you, more than I and more than almost anyone I can think of. And the Arteagas emigrated to these shores having almost nothing, expecting nothing and achieving everything. If ever there were to exist a plot line for a homeric movie on American latino success, Olga’s life is it! But you denigrated her status; clearly and unambiguously. Why? Because she’s NOT a democrat, it seems. You should be ashamed. Is it because she doesn’t present herself as a victim? Was this question swirling in your head at any time: is Olga latino enough?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Joe Espo

      Did you read the response and simply dismiss it in favor of the highly partisan post of the mayor’s campaign worker? Or were you so offended that you simply did not bother to see Nancy’s response? This highly partisan refusal to see or accept evidence that goes against what one wants to believe is the same thing that drove — and drives — the absurd birther movement.

  14. @Olga,
    Exactly who attacked who here?
    You called my behavior “rude and dismissive.” You assigned to me motives I did not have. (You continue to do that.)
    You would not allow me to walk away from you after I indicated I was not interested. You stopped me as I was trying to walk by you.I needed to get to someone else – anyone I did not recognize as a campaign operative FOR EITHER CANDIDATE would have been fine.
    The only thing I admit to is that you have a problem with reading comprehension. My desire to ignore you had nothing to do with avoiding “anyone who was remotely favorable to the mayor.” I did not know the next person I talked to (see comment above) and had no idea what that person would say. I know all about you – see previous post. Read it again. Maybe you will get it.
    You cannot say I went all about the room until I found people who would say what I wanted them to say. I spoke to two people, and I mentioned both of them in my story. Believe it or not, reporters have limited time. I had comments from two UNALIGNED people. By then most of the people in the room had left.
    I belittled Linda Kruk? Really? Please go back to my previous comment and find the part where I did that. Copy and paste it into your inevitable reply to this one. I’d like to see it.
    Your support of Ms Kruk is not the issue. The reliability and veracity of your commentary is.
    I also never said you touched me. I said, “You did everything but grab onto to me to stop me.”
    The operative word there is “but.”
    We have to live up to a different standard. We can not and do not write gossip as fact, spread rumor and innuendo in a bid to discredit. We have to have proof to back up our reports. And even then, even when proof exists and we have seen it, we cannot use it unless those who have the proof are willing to give it to us on the record.
    You are certainly entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts, or to asserting motives that simply do not exist.

  15. blue bird

    “penultimate betrayal of your journo and personal bias.”
    Says Ed Walker of Fox to Jay Carney.
    Think folks are wising up and becoming sick
    of the after taste of those tea totalers?
    Like Rush Limburger and Zeeda Andrews
    and that incubus Palin. Wont she ever
    fade away with just a tiny bit of grace?
    Linda McMahon, Sara Palin needs a job.
    Now, I would pay to see Palin in a ring.
    … We know … what is lurking
    underneath in that partsian, divide
    and conquor, sinister old school playbook.
    Paranoia is treatable.
    Call 1-800-GET-SANE

    (This comment has been edit to comply with our policy.)

  16. M Allen

    blue bird – didn’t you post some similar tripe the other day under a different name and get kudos from Mike Mushak? Could you please post something legible that doesn’t look like you’re tying to write a poem?

  17. David

    @Oldtimer: It was my impression that a portion of the sales tax is returned to the district where it was earned. If I’m wrong then it is just (or primarily) the property taxes that fund our Government. My point is, and you have reinforced it, that Latino’s in Norwalk pay the relevant taxes that support our city.
    Regarding the sales tax question – I certainly HOPE a portion of Sales tax is returned to the city in which it was earned, that, after all, is one of the justifications for opening big box stores in our city. That’s a different conversation for a different day, however.

  18. Oldtimer

    A portion of the State’s revenue, including sales tax, does come back to the City, but it is not evenly distributed. Aid to schools, for example, is much less per pupil to Norwalk than it is to smaller communities upstate. Of course latinos pay taxes, if you rent, taxes are part of the rent, if you own a car, you get a tax bill from the City. If you own a house you get a tax bill. If you add on to the house, you pay for building permits, etc. The point is, a lot of Latinos believe the City takes their money, but puts very little effort into serving their needs, and their is hardly anybody to listen. The way to change that is to become a force in local politics. Make sure everybody you know votes and supports latino candidates. In this election vote for the people you believe will better serve you. Remember, once elected, they work for us. Vote for the candidate you believe will remember that after election day. A guy who sounds like he is doing you a favor coming to the community center is not your friend.

  19. M Allen

    David – no justification for box stores in Norwalk has ever included sales tax generation.
    As for the property tax issue, you can make the case they are paying what is required through property taxes in one way or another (own/rent). But what is required versus what is proportional are two very different things. Family of 4 living in a single-family dwelling pays tax. Family of 7 living in a single-family dwelling may also pay the same in taxes, but uses far more city resources. In no way shape or form does 25% of the population generate anywhere near the taxes to support a 47% population demographic in the schools, let alone any other part of the budget. Is that even sustainable over time? Man, we need to some serious revenue from the state. Or maybe its time we get rid of town-based school districts altogether so towns like New Canaan, Wilton, Darien, etc can start sharing in the problem.

  20. Olga Arteaga

    Nancy, it is a shame that I have to explain this to you, but when you walk up to someone and they extend their hand to you, it is common courtesy to shake it. It is rude and dismissive to say something like “I don’t want to talk to you, you’re a supporter of the mayor” and that made me very angry, so I did follow you.

    Perhaps if you shook my hand and said something like “I am looking to speak with non-affiliated voters, but have a nice night” this could have been avoided.

    Now you are speaking ill about my ability to comprehend the English language because I disagree with you? Of course I am a native Spanish speaker, but I speak and understand English perfectly. How dare you suggest otherwise simply because I disagree with you and point out that you were rude to me (and you were, no matter what you intended to do).

    You are the one that brought up Linda Kruk and used my support of her as a reason for you not to speak with me. If saying that is not an insult, I don’t know what is. If I start telling people I will not speak to them because they support you, or speak about you, will you not take offense?

    You write so many inflammatory things about so many good, hard working people, and yet when someone points out your rude behavior, you simply cannot understand it.

  21. Day Laborer

    David and his liberal contemporaries exemplify a mindset that continues to hold back the very minorities in society they pretend to care about.
    To them you are a people who are to be categorized and pandered to for votes. Rather than embracing you as individuals, you are lumped into a group where they modify their message to .

    You see, unless you are a victim and need Democrat handouts you are useless to them.

    (This comment has been edited to conform to our policy.)

  22. David

    Oldtimer / M Allen:
    I hear, (and agree) with what you’re saying. Our entire tax system, in various ways, is based on dis-proportionality. The more you earn, the higher your marginal tax rate. Obviously, the bigger the house, the higher your tax bill, even though you may not have ANY children in school, you’re paying the standard property tax rate, right?
    I don’t think the math you provided IS sustainable over a long period of time, but the numbers will eventually equalize (if for no other reason, the 25% will increase when the 47% turn 18!).
    As someone who has followed the ECS issue (mess) for quite a while now, I agree with you on the town/city based funding matter. Norwalk would fare much better if we just got rid of ECS altogether. It would need to be replaced with something else, no doubt, but the rules could be re-written at that time, based on real rather than fluctuations in local property values.

  23. M Allen

    David: just one correction worth noting. The numbers won’t equalize upon anyone turning 18. 25% of the population includes the children. The children will obviously grow up, but oddly, grown children have a tendency to multiply. So something tells me we can’t age our way out of this.
    Look, this isn’t a Latino issue so before someone yells “racist” because the original statistic referenced the Latino population. The problem is broader than any one ethnic group. This is a income and expense issue. Hell, this may be a zoning issue. We talk about not wanting big box stores because they are harmful to the community (debatable) and generate low tax income to the city (fact). On the flip side, concentrated housing that contributes less tax revenue than the services they require must be equally bad. Perhaps we need to curb growth in certain forms of housing that promote low tax, high expense scenarios, such as in education.

  24. David

    M Allen: Yes, good catch on the population math. Most of America’s growth will come from the Latino population over the next 20 years, if the statisticians are correct.
    You make good points, and I think as we grow as a city we need to ensure we’re attracting people to live here from all of the socio-economic spectrum. But creating the “value” proposition for families at the higher end of that spectrum means addressing issues that affect us all – the Latino community included – like quality schools, parks, general livability, good governance with Government, safety, etc. Anyway, that’s getting off the subject!

  25. Oldtimer

    That is not off the subject. Some politicians assume, because a part of the community is not as active in voting or in city politics or because their English is heavily accented, that their needs are not important. The fact is, latinos are a vital part of the community and all of us came from somewhere else and had parents or grandparents who had to deal with the same problems latinos deal with now. All of us want pretty much the same things for ourselves and a little better for our children. It won’t happen until latinos get to be a significant force in politics, as voters and as elected officials. Now the best way to get recognized as a significant force in local politics is to get out the vote for the candidates you believe will work for you. If the ones elected don’t do the job, work to elect somebody better next time, two years from now.

  26. David

    Oldtimer: I wholeheartedly agree!

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