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NoN’s Top 12 stories from 2014: Super news, mosque settlement grabbed reader interest

the closing of Barnes & Noble, top, was the top NoN hit getter of 2014.
The closing of Norwalk’s Barnes & Noble, top, was the top NoN hit getter of 2014. Also in the top 12 are stories about Chris Perone and David Watts, bottom left, NEON, and Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera, bottom right.

NORWALK, Conn. – There were a few surprises – to us at least – when we went back to see what ranked as our most-read stories for 2014. While the obvious choices made the list – the sudden announcement of the schools superintendent’s resignation, the mosque settlement, NEON’s bankruptcy – some stories on the list left us scratching our heads.

  1. Barnes & Noble leaving Norwalk as Shoprite shakes up the mix: This was the biggest surprise of all. Our most-read story of the year was the one we broke about Barnes & Noble leaving Norwalk when the lease runs out Jan. 31. The story was picked up by other outlets and linked back to us, giving NoN a boost.
  2. Sources: Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera set to leave Norwalk: This is another one NoN readers got first. A well-placed news tip and a couple of highly placed confirmations led to our story about Norwalk’s rock star schools superintendent resigning and heading home to New London to take over that city’s schools.
  3. Sources: NEON is going Chapter 7 next week: Another story we broke, although, to be fair, it was already damaged when we “broke” it. A very highly placed Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now source let it slip that NEON had filed papers and its Chapter 7 bankruptcy would be official May 7. Like everything else with NEON, we should have had that tip audited. It was off by several weeks, but the filing did finally happen.
  4. Rivera stresses that it’s personal, but also cites problems with Norwalk BoE: NoN had the first interview with Manny Rivera after he resigned. He told us the move was deeply personal, but yes, the racism charges by a couple of Board of Education members against one or two of their compatriots did sting, and hinted there were maybe a half dozen people that contributed to his decision.
  5. Norwalk High grad makes political history in Utah: Norwalk High Class of ’93 graduate Mia Love, 38, was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first black Republican woman and the first Haitian-American elected to Congress.
  6. Watts stuns Perone, wins Democratic endorsement for House in 137th District: Common Council member David Watts (D-District A) was full of surprises. He surprised a lot of people when he announced he would challenge fellow Democrat and five-term incumbent Chris Perone for his 137th District House seat in Hartford. Watts, who had laid the groundwork over a year earlier to take on the laid-back Perone, then pulled out a narrow victory for the party endorsement at the district nominating caucus. But, come the August primary, it wasn’t even close, and Perone retained his seat.
  7. Norwalk Board of Ed names interim superintendent: The Board of Education wasted little time following Manny Rivera’s resignation. The BoE members went behind closed doors and emerged with the news that James Connelly, a professional interim super since serving 18 years in Bridgeport, was their guy, although the other guy was equally good, but if they told us who that other guy was, they’d have to kill us.
  8. Norwalk parents vent, promise change at Board of Ed meeting: A lot of people were not happy when Rivera called it quits, and, amidst much finger pointing, parents and community members in general vowed there would be changes, both in community involvement and in the make-up of the board itself, starting with finding better candidates.
  9. Mosque settlement gets a thumbs up from Zoning: The news was no surprise, but that it is ninth on the list is puzzling. There was outrage on Fillow Street and environs when the Zoning Commission voted for a suit settlement proposal that would have allowed the Al Madany Islamic Center to build a mosque in the West Norwalk neighborhood. How much outrage? Think torches and pitchforks.
  10. Travis Simms arrested: The Common Council minority leader and former World Boxing Association super welterweight champ had a handgun and high-capacity clip – an unregistered high-capacity clip – stolen from his car. After an investigation, Simms, already facing charges alleging he interfered with police activity in 2012, was arrested. FYI, Simms was acquitted on the older charges.
  11. Schools, police top earners on Norwalk 2013 payroll: No surprise here. Citizens expressed their outrage again – as they do every year – about the amount of money hauled in by city employees, especially police and school employees.
  12. New Mosque settlement details leaked: When the Common Council balked at approving the settlement negotiated throughout the spring and approved by the Zoning Commission, city and mosque officials went behind closed doors to find another solution. Someone Who Was There leaked some early details, which were then “sort of” confirmed by Someone ELSE Who Was There, and NoN readers got the story first. The final details were tweaked, but the settlement was ultimately approved, and West Norwalkers collectively exhaled. No mosque. And taxpayers – the ones who were paying attention – breathed a bit easier knowing the bill for the deal was, according to the attorneys, millions of dollars less than taking the case to trial.

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