Norwalk Dems trot ideas out for Cinco de Mayo(r)

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), center, joins Norwalk’s next Democratic nominee for mayor — one of the four men standing around him — Sunday.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Democratic mayoral candidates made promises – some new, some old – Sunday in a small South Norwalk gathering that featured guacamole, Mexican decorations and, oh yes, a visit from a United States senator.

About 60 people made their way to the South Norwalk Community Center on a weekend day with stellar weather for the Cinco de Mayo-themed Democratic Town Committee (NDTC) mayoral meet and greet. They listened to campaign speeches and chatted informally with the four men who would be mayor. One observer estimated that about a dozen of them were not affiliated or committed to any one candidate.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) took the first swing of the bat with a pitch aimed straight at the Cinco de Mayo theme.

Making a reference to immigrants, Blumenthal said the Senate Judiciary Committee will this week begin drafting the final bill to provide a path to citizenship for “the 11 million people who are in the shadows right now.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) looks for support on two issues Sunday at the South Norwalk Community Center.

“For too long we have pushed people into the shadows,” he said. “Many of them paid taxes, contributed to our community, made the kind of community that you have in Norwalk better. We have a rare opportunity here.”

The senator also said he was impressed with the “resilient and resolute” families of the Newtown shooting victims.

“The country was changed by Newtown and Connecticut can help to lead the country towards the measures it has taken,” he said, urging continued support.

Standing off to the side of the senator were former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, District D Democratic Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra and Common Councilman Matt Miklave, the men vying to be the Democratic Party challenger to Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia.

NDTC Chairwoman Amanda Brown said they would speak in order of their entry into the race, which meant Garfunkel, whose candidacy she described as “a continuation of last cycle,” went first.

The 2011 Democratic Party candidate reminded everyone that he and his team nearly won last time, and that he won five city-wide elections for town clerk. Then he threw a new platform idea out there.

“Upon taking office we will start a charter revision,” he said. “We will change the way Norwalk does things. There are combining of services, combining of boards and commissions that can save the city money, that can make programs run more efficiently.”

Mismanagement under the Moccia administration includes not having a functioning electronic entry into Calf Pasture Beach he said, adding that the 80 to 100 pipes under Norwalk streets need to be replaced.

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Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel chats with Rilling for Mayor campaign worker David Murchie Sunday at the South Norwalk Community Center.

“This administration doesn’t want to tear up the streets because they are afraid people are going to complain about it, yet we can’t bring businesses here economically that would like to establish themselves here, thinking that possibly ‘I’m going to have to pay for the infrastructure in front of my own building,’” he said.

He also mentioned a plan to invigorate small businesses.

“We need to establish grants for these people to fix up their own properties,” he said. “We’ve had damage from storms, from economic times.”

The other candidates, who have been much more visible, repeated themes from their previous campaign speeches.

Miklave, co-owner of a $150 million law firm with 1,000 employees in 10 cities, mentioned his hard-scrabble roots, including working in a blender factory and at a gas station.

“If you’ve never changed a heater core on a car, it’s a dirty job. I know how to do that, that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

That “uniquely American” background is the reason he wants to be mayor, to give children the opportunities he had, he said.

“I have a plan to build a cityscape that reflects the diversity, the cultural significance of our community and our history,” he said. “I have a plan to fully fund the board of education, close the achievement gap, how our kids can be ready for jobs in the 21st century. I have a plan to make Norwalk government more accountable, more assessable, responsible, and yes, more respectful. Because what our citizens encounter when they talk to City Hall should not be tolerated.”

Mangiacopra had just announced his plan for a department of economic and community development the day before at his campaign kickoff. But he added a new wrinkle to his speech by referring to the highly noticeable lack of lines on his face.

“I’m 31 years old, I will attest to this upfront, but these are 31 weathered years,” he said. “As with Councilman Miklave, nothing has ever come easily for me as well. Though hard work and determination, I have been able to lay a foundation for my career that has put me in the position to be very successful as your mayor on the first day.”

He repeated another promise.

“I will be that mayor that walks the beat,” he said. “If you talk to our rank and file (police),  they tell you they need more bodies. I can’t give you a master plan on how we’re going to be able to get them more bodies, but I can give them one on the first day and that will be myself. I’ll be out there with our police officers walking the beat of our community, leading the way.”

Rilling made mention of his own kickoff speech; he had mentioned the dirtscape at the Waypointe site on West Avenue as an example of Norwalk’s stalled development, but it didn’t stay a dirtscape for long.

“If anybody’s going to take credit for that one I’m going to take credit for that one because I mentioned it and they started building,” he said.

Echoing Miklave, he said, “I promise you a government that is open, transparent and inclusive,” before moving on to a version of his campaign slogan, “Proven Leadership.”

“When the sun is shining and the wind is in your sails and the seas are calm it’s an easy job,” he said. “But you’re going to hit that storm. Believe me, we’re just about in the middle of a big storm in Norwalk. When those storms hit you need a strong leader at the helm. I have a history of strong leadership in Norwalk. I am the person who can bring us through the storm.”

Brown also took a shot at Moccia.

“We went through the economic storm and certain things in City Hall were done that none of us knew about,” she said. “You better believe that, whichever of these gentlemen gets an opportunity to serve, they’re going to find things that they would never have imagined was there.”

She said that once a candidate is chosen from the four, Norwalk Democrats need to stick together.

“Unified we win,” she said. “Divided, Dick Moccia wins.”

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A minor dispute over who began campaigning first is resolved amicably as Andy Garfunkel takes the opportunity to speak first.


7 responses to “Norwalk Dems trot ideas out for Cinco de Mayo(r)”

  1. KSully

    All the candidates seems to agree with Matt Miklave. They agree with Matt’s plan to make Norwalk’s government more transparent. They agree Matt’s plan for economic recovery, they agree with Matt’s plan for budget reform and they agree with Matt’s plan to fully fund Norwalk’s public education system. We all agree that Matt Miklave has the best ideas. Why don’t the other Democrats get out of the race and let the man with the best ideas, Matt Miklave, take on Moccia?

  2. LWitherspoon

    What exactly is Mr. Miklave’s plan for fully funding Norwalk’s Public Education system? Please, share the details with us. How is it paid for? Also, how does he define “fully funding”? Without those details, it could mean anything. Mr. Miklave has demonstrated a tendency on the Common Council to promise all things to all people – how do we know that this isn’t just more of the same?
    Up to this point all that we have heard from any candidate is that he supports transparency, education, law enforcement, good jobs, motherhood, apple pie, and of course low taxes. Of course they do – everyone does! The real question is how will they pay for it. How they answer the question tells us how they go about making difficult decisions.
    Is this going to be another campaign where candidates make promises but conveniently fail to mention how they will pay for their promises? I hope the press and the voters won’t let that happen. We should demand specifics, especially from candidates such as Miklave who have been involved in the City’s budget process for eight years.

  3. Tom

    Simple answer KSully; Miklave can’t win. He has had eight years on the Council and has accomplished nothing through his own initiative. Why should be believe him now?

  4. NormalNorwalk

    Vinny is our best hope to take back the mayor’s seat.
    Matt is smart, but not hard working. Harry used to be friends with the Mayor and was appointed by Republicans and Andy has already tried to run and lost.

  5. Tim T

    Rilling can’t win. He has had a 41-year career which included 17 years as chief of police and has accomplished nothing through his own initiative. Why should be believe him now?

  6. Tim T

    What you forget is Vinny also ran for the low end position of sheriff last time around and lost. On the other hand Andy lost against an sitting mayor that had 4 times as much $$$ last time around. Also with the additional screw ups of Moccia in this current term Andy seems to have the best chance of sending Moccia packing.

  7. LWitherspoon

    I believe Miklave’s time on Council is actually ten years, not eight, as stated in my comment earlier. With so much time on Council involved in the City’s budget process, Mr. Miklave should know the budget inside and out and it should be easy for him to tell us exactly what items in this year’s budget he would increase or decrease, along with how he would pay for it. The voters deserve to know. It is an insult to our intelligence if Mr. Miklave and the municipal employee union members who support him believe that they can use PBB to promise all things to all people.

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