Norwalk Council leaders say they want to work together

Norwalk Common Council meets BOE Jan. 28 2013 067
Common Council members John Igneri (D-District E), left, and Jerry Petrini (R-District D) study the Norwalk Public Schools operating budget proposal last January. Both are expected to lead their caucuses this year and are promising to work together.

NORWALK, Conn. – Leadership of both sides of Norwalk’s Common Council say they are hoping for two years of Norwalk governance that are much less dramatis and more productive than the two years that have just passed.

Common Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D), who has been selected by the Republican caucus as majority leader, and Common Councilman John Igneri (D-District E), who has been selected by the Democratic caucus as minority leader — both second-term councilmen — say they are optimistic the council can avoid partisan discord and that they can work together.

“Jerry and I have met and talked about that,” Igneri said. “We’re going to really try to work together and do what’s right for the city. I have worked with him on committees in the last term. He’s a good, practical guy and he’s focused on getting done what’s necessary for the city. We didn’t play political games with each other. … I think this term is getting off – again very early stages – but we seem to be getting off on good footing, both parties. So hopefully this term will be more focused on accomplishing things for the city.”

“We really want to talk it out,” said Petrini. “I’ve met with (Mayor-elect) Harry (Rilling), I’ve met with John Igneri. We’ve met with our caucus, meeting and meeting and meeting. Everybody hopefully is on the same page. We know we’ve got some real serious things coming through this next year and we all have to be on board. I’m an optimist so I’m hoping. I’m usually a pretty good peacemaker, too.”

Republicans have an 8 to 7 majority on the council because of an oddity – Democrat Bruce Kimmel is in the Republican caucus. No one seems to think that will change.

“I think it will be issue by issue with Bruce,” Igneri said. “He’s a bright guy and he always has questions, so hopefully they’ll be asked, answered and he, too, will vote on what’s best to get the job done.”

Petrini described the last council as “dysfunctional.”

“I felt two years ago that the other side, their mission from day one was start arguments and discredit the mayor,” he said. “It seemed to have calmed down the last six months.”

Little known fact: Petrini said last spring that he wasn’t going to run again. One Democratic council member said at the time that was too bad, that everyone felt they could work with Petrini.

Petrini said the rancor was one of the reasons he was thinking of not running again. It was painful to watch and sit through, he said.

“I was getting frustrated because of all the negativity,” he said. “I think in our town, local politics, there’s no room for any of that. Then when they started to calm down I was asked, more than once, more than twice, would I please reconsider to run again. And here we are.”

Almost every member of the Democratic caucus asked him to run again, he said, adding that surprised him.

Now, having won re-election in District D, he’s taken on leadership responsibility. “I can’t do it halfway,” he said.

Igneri said he is “cautiously optimistic” this council will get along better.

Rilling is working with the Republicans in a way that Mayor Richard Moccia did not work with the Democrats, he said.

“Right now Harry is talking to the Republicans, giving them advance notice of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “What we’re going to try to do is something that wasn’t as successful last term, is give them as much advance notice of appointments, give them a chance to digest them, ask questions, and not get put on the spot in a council meeting. We used to get appointments the Friday before the meeting. If we had questions it was hard to get them answered. (It’s) something that we asked for last time. We’re trying to provide it this term.”

The initial appointments will hopefully set a more positive tone for the term, he said.

Does he think he’ll have a calmer and more even-tempered Democratic caucus this time?

“We are hoping for that and we’ll work towards that,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t guarantee it.”

Petrini sees the budget as the next big thing on the horizon. It’s tough, he said, because there are people pleading for help with flooding and other people who say they can’t handle another tax increase. The numbers aren’t in yet but, “We know right off the bat we’re going to have some apparent increases,” he said. “Significant increases, just with the Board of Ed alone. I don’t know how the pensions are working out. I’m hoping that with the stock market going the way it did, some of the investments that we had, hopefully will earn more us this year than it did last but I don’t know any of that yet.”

It’s a balancing act with many factors, and not enough information yet to work with, he said.

“Is there any way of avoiding a tax increase? I don’t think so, but where are we going to be? I hope we can do something without a tax increase but we have a lot of issues to address. That’s going to be the most important thing,” he said. “Hopefully within the next month or so we’ll start getting some preliminary numbers out. … One of the things that seems encouraging – the conveyance tax. I think we budget in a percentage of what we thought we’re going to get and I think we’re well over that this year. Then again, I wouldn’t want to budget on the high side and say we’re going to get a lot more sales this year and then have it turn sour. So I think the way they budgeted that was perfect. If it comes in higher, hopefully that will help us with some of these We’ve got the revaluation, I think that’s going to be kicking in for this tax year coming up. Maybe it will change some of the emphasis from residential to commercial.”

Maybe, given Gov. Dannel Malloy’s support of Rilling — Malloy was in Norwalk to congratulate Rilling on election eve, and plans to swear him in as mayor Tuesday — Norwalk can get more money from the state via the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, he said.

“Maybe he’ll open up some of the purse strings and help us some there,” he said. “God knows, we’ve tried. I went up to Hartford three times on a bus. We get ‘yes, yes, yes,’ but the net result is we got a little bit but not a whole lot. So I’m not saying there’s more coming but it would be nice.”

Petrini said he built Rilling’s house on Cannon Street in the ’80s.

“I’ve known Harry a long, long time,” he said. “Actually Harry was a police officer back at Norwalk High School in the ’70s when I graduated. I’ve known him a long time. I like Harry. I met with him on, I believe, Tuesday, and we talked for quite a while. He seems concerned about the same things I’m concerned with. That’s why I’m hoping we’re going to work together. I know I will.”


8 responses to “Norwalk Council leaders say they want to work together”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    A very good start, with cooperation from the state, and two individuals who will handle their caucuses with an even hand, along with a mayor that is transparent; well, Norwalk has a fighting chance.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Oldtimer

    Harry has always been a results oriented guy and is not likely to change now.

  3. Joe Espo

    This council is going to be far less toxic because Duleep, Pena and Miklave- the democrat Occupy Norwalk, break everything malcontents from 2011 – are off the council. Watts is the only rancorous hold-over from two years ago, and he seems to have mellowed out because his fellow disconsolate enablers are gone and he seems real interested in rehabbing is image for a run against Perrone – yea, right. Igneri being the democrat minority leader is a good thing for the Republicans: a milquetoasty bloke of few words and even less ambition; as demonstrated during his first term

  4. Norwalk Lifer

    @Joe Espo, you dont’ need Viagra to be on the council, just a brain,

    Norwalk Lifer

  5. Tim T

    Norwalk Lifer
    You State
    “along with a mayor that is transparent; well”
    Those are just words that Rilling used to convince people to vote for him. Time will tell if its the truth.
    You state
    “Harry has always been a results oriented guy ”
    This certainty was not shown with his time as police consultant. If anything it was the exact opposite with one excuse after the next as to why the NPD failed and failed horribly to prevent or solve crime. Attempting to rewrite history I see.

  6. R(obot) TC

    @ Joe Espo

    Democrats stood up for the right reasons. The voters decided it was time for a change.

    Thank you, Duleep, Miklave, Pena and Watts.

  7. RTC,
    If the liberal lefties stood up for the “right reasons” (whatever that means in fine details) – then good ol’ NoN will be there to measure EVERY inch and EVERY promise and EVERY “right reason” that was voted for (oh… but wait, NoN is just as lefty liberal and WON’T dissect EVERY promise, “right reason” or any details that Rilling will fail to live up to because that would not be on their agenda to discredit the liberal cause).

  8. R(obot) TC

    @ irishgirl,

    Moccia, had the hour, the patch and the voice and fake polls. The council democrats did a great job and I am proud of their service.

    The voters looked at both sides and voted for change.

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