Norwalk is our American Dream, and we must all work together to shape it to serve its residents. As I drive around town, I note all the ways that Norwalk has improved in the last six years under the Rilling administration. Whole sections of town are cleaner, safer, more attractive, more vibrant and more connected than they were six years ago. Our quality of life has improved drastically, with better schools, parks, infrastructure, and safety.
When I began as an advocate for Norwalk Public Schools, I was frustrated and angry. The schools were overcrowded, and every budget cycle was a fight over which service would be cut next. I remember staying until midnight to have the opportunity to beg for funding. Mayor Rilling listened to parents like me, and has invested in our schools in an unprecedented way. This year was the first since my eldest entered Kindergarten that parents didn’t have to fight, beg or march for adequate funding. We are building our first new school in decades, we are fixing schools, we are staffing appropriately and providing excellent programs and curriculum. Our budget conversations are about possibilities and not cuts. We are rebuilding our schools and finally supporting our staff and students. There is a sense of pride in our schools, as we celebrate being the top urban school district in the state. Our students are excelling, winning state and local competitions, and showing the world that Norwalk is special.
A myriad of improvements to our parks please all ages. My kids love the splash pad at the beach, the cleaner sand, the new pier, and Ripka’s. For the active set there are the new kayak racks, volleyball and skate park. For folks who need more passive enjoyment of the beach, there is now handicapped access at the beach, and beautiful benches and tables every few yards. I remember when my children were little the parking lot was dangerous, the sand was filthy, there was no healthy year round food, and there was poor crowd control. Cranbury Park is also much improved, with beautiful landscaping, marked trails, maps, and an upgraded Gallaher Mansion and bunkhouse for events. Fodor Farm has also had an incredible facelift, and is operating programs and rental space that adds value for the community. Many new and improved playgrounds have been installed across the city.
Under Mayor Rilling, the sense of neighborhood character has improved. Neighborhood Associations have been heard, and improvements to streets, sidewalks and bike paths have been implemented.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail is growing, and has the potential to link our region and generate tourist revenue. The mayor has championed walking, leading weekly neighborhood walks with residents. Wall Street is full of new businesses that are driving culture in our city, with a special shout out to Troupe and the Wall Street Theater. The libraries have generous hours and diverse and vibrant programming for all ages, and the new parking is fantastic. Our crime statistics are down, and our community is safer. New and interesting stores that were vacant are renovated and luring Norwalkers, not to mention the mall which has been a sensation. The Norwalk Historical Society and Mill Hill are renovated and providing amazing programming and exhibits to celebrate our shared history. Norwalk Hospital continues to grow and set an example for the region of excellent care. NCC supports students of all ages to be lifelong learners. Members of Norwalk Acts work together to provide the services and support our youth need to be college and career ready.
As Norwalk prospers, we will not leave anyone behind. The new Community Services Department is a great step towards ensuring residents are connected to support if it is needed. Senior tax relief allows for seniors to stay in their homes. New affordable housing means that people starting out can afford to live in Norwalk, especially new teachers, police officers or fire fighters who would qualify to live there.
And all of this has been achieved while holding taxes down and building a healthy general fund to help us weather any future storms. Norwalk is my American Dream, and Mayor Rilling shares a vision of abundance, inclusion, balanced services with financial prudence, and civility and neighborly behavior. Together, we can build our community to be better with each generation. Please consider joining me in voting for Mayor Harry Rilling on Nov. 5th, and continue our positive momentum.
Norwalk Board of Education member