Norwalk political notes: Council agenda, NAACP, POKO and campaign efforts

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho, third from left, waits for the first 2016 presidential debate to start Sept. 26 in the Station House. Camacho praised Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after that one, and said Sunday that she did well in the second debate as well. At left is Mayor Harry Rilling and at right is Common Councilwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A).

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho, third from left, waits for the first 2016 presidential debate to start Sept. 26 in the Station House. Camacho praised Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after that one, and said Sunday that she did well in the second debate as well.
At left is Mayor Harry Rilling and at right is Common Councilwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A).

Correction, 2:50 p.m.: BoE Facilities Committee meeting is Oct. 18; update 3:30 p.m., information about South Norwalk forum added.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Monday:

  • A Democratic take on the presidential debate
  • City hiring attorney to deal with Walk Bridge issues
  • OHPA and water usage
  • OHPA appointment
  • Crosland leaving NAACP presidency to be hearing officer
  • Crosland objects to police officer’s question
  • Source: POKO urged to rent out first floor
  • Sheehan still ‘confident’ on POKO
  • Klein knocks on 3,500 doors
  • Lavielle a ‘Legislative Champion’
  • Leagues combine to offer debate
  • BoE Facilities rescheduled for Wednesday
  • Council schedules early meeting


Camacho praises Clinton’s debate performance

The second presidential debate is over, and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho has a positive review for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, facing Republican Donald Trump after a bruising weekend for Trump.

I thought the visuals and the substance work very well for Hillary Clinton, and terribly for Donald Trump. Trump was rude, impatient, evasive and lacked substance. Clinton was poised, substantive, presidential,” Camacho said in a late night email.

(Republican response is in another story.)


Norwalk set to hire law firm to deal with Connecticut Department of Transportation

The agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting includes this item: “Authorize the Corporation Counsel to retain the law firm of Halloran & Sage LLP to provide legal counsel to the City regarding issues pertaining to the CT Department of Transportation’s plans to reconstruct the Walk Bridge and ancillary issues.”

The item is described as an executive session, but Council agendas have for months listed executive sessions for Corporation Counsel issues, and the issues have been voted on quickly in public.

Rilling did not reply to an email asking for comment.


Oaks Hills cutting back on water, chairman says

When Mayor Harry Rilling put Norwalk was under a water emergency, effective Sunday, due to drought conditions, some perennial critics of the Oak Hills Park Authority asked if the golf course at Oak Hills Park would cut back also.

OHPA Chairman Ernie DesRochers said in a Saturday email that the usage has already been reduced

“I know we have cut way back because of the drought…. We are trying to be very responsible through this difficult time,” DesRochers wrote.

DesRochers referred NoN to Park Superintendent Jim Schell, who did not respond over the weekend. Should Schell respond Monday this story will be updated.


Hough being appointed to OHPA

West Norwalk Democrat Vincent Hough, who retired in 2003 after 17 years at IBM, is being appointed by Rilling to OHPA.

The Common Council will vote on the appointment Tuesday.

OHPA member Paul Ciffate resigned in August. Hough’s term would end on June 24, 2018.

Hough is a volunteer for Person-to-Person (P2P) and the Open Door Shelter, is on the Board of Outreach for the First Congregational Church of Darien and is president of the White Oak Townhouse Condominium Association, according to his resume. He has a Masters Degree in Business Administration from New York University Stern School of Business and a Certificate in Non-Profit Leadership from the University of Connecticut.


Crosland to be mini-judge

Norwalk Branch NAACP President Darnell Crosland is not running for re-election, he said at the recent NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet.

The NAACP has existed for more than 100 years and has grown the likes of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, Crosland said.

“I am considering taking the bench as Justice Marshall has done, and in the meantime I have accepted an appointment by our mayor as a mini-judge, or hearing officer, for the town of Norwalk,” Crosland said.

Crosland confirmed Tuesday that he meant he’d be a Zoning enforcement hearing officer.

Crosland ran unsuccessfully for probate judge in 2014.

Rumor has it that Brenda Penn-Williams and Jalin Sead are competing to be Norwalk Branch NAACP president.


Crosland: All Blackman aren’t to be lumped in one box’

In what appeared to be a delayed reaction, an Sept. 30 email from Crosland objected on to being mentioned in a Sept. 2 Norwalk Police video of an interaction with Common Council member Travis Simms (D-District B).

Crosland’s email was sent from Antigua on Sept. 2. It landed in the NancyOnNorwalk inbox on Sept. 30.

At the end of the video, a Norwalk Police officer asks another officer if the person they had been talking to was Crosland.

“I am actually offended by this, what would possible make this officer think Crosland had anything to do with the behavior exhibited in this video?” Crosland asked Rilling and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik in the email, copying the press. “The only thing I have in common with anyone in this video is that I am black.  Unless, the affiliation is I am a councilman or a trouble maker which I am neither.  I want to know what officer (his name) and why he would interject my name in this.”

Crosland sent another email directly to the press:

“I find it very offensive that the officer who was involved with this incident who can be clearly heard engaging Travis Simms a City Councilman and public figure can be heard on video asking another officer ‘what’s his name or who is he Crosland?’.

“Aside from being just another Blackman there should of been absolutely zero reason I should of been confused with a man who just cursed them out and who has had a history with the police.  I feel like this is a case of ‘just another (n-word) and it upsets me.’

“I am demanding something done and that our police learn that all Blackman aren’t to be lumped in one box and they should know the difference between a lawyer and boxer unless we are as Malcolm X once said, just another … “


Kulhawik said in a Sept. 30 email to NoN that he had never received Crosland’s email.

“I’m not sure what the issue is, as when I viewed it initially it appeared that the officer was confused as to who the individual was,” Kulhawik said. “I confirmed with the officer that in fact that was the case.  He was checking to confirm who they had been speaking with and was corrected by the second officer.”

Rilling did not reply.

Crosland said he had spoken to Rilling about it four nights earlier at the Democratic Town Committee debate watch party.

Crosland and Rilling had been very friendly during the event.


POKO rumored to have switched to pressboard

A person who was present at a recent meeting with representatives of Citibank and POKO Partners, speaking on condition of anonymity, relayed details concerning the stalled work at Wall Street Place.

A Citibank representative was unhappy with POKO, mentioning as part of the discussion that an OK had been given for a switch from steel construction to wood, but, “We didn’t realize you went to pressboard,” the source said.

“She was very plain, the bank does not own this property, POKO owns this property,” the source said. “…She said they (are pressuring POKO) to solicit bids now to finish the retail because they actually have tenants for at least the Wall Street frontage, and to hire somebody to finish the skinning of the building.”

That would be renting out the first floor space to restaurants.

Citibank declined to comment.

POKO Partners Principal Ken Olson, in an email, called the comments “silly.”

I was told that Citibank is reaching out to all the usual suspects to see who wants to buy it but I guess they’re going to have problems because it’s 40 percent affordable,” the source said.

Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland has since said that his concern had been with the flammability of the materials at the site. He was concerned that they would lose their flame resistance due to being exposed to the weather but had been shown research materials that showed it wasn’t a problem, he said.

Ireland said the information about first floor restaurants was inaccurate.


Sheehan reassures Council members on POKO

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan is standing firm in his opinion that construction on Wall Street Place will resume.

The topic came up at Thursday’s Planning Committee meeting.

“We see dribs and drabs of stuff in newspapers,” Council member Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said to Sheehan. “So there was another article of concern, because the way you read it, (Belpointe developer Paxton Kinol) was kind of – I’m sorry, reading an article and I’m reading between the lines about someone in the business, that this could go on for a very long time. Paxton saying, ‘I want no part of this because of all the strings attached to all the stuff.’”

“I’ll leave it at this in terms of my response,” Sheehan said. “Developers who aren’t actually developing a project shouldn’t talk about other developer’s projects.”

Hempstead pressed a bit.

“We have been in communication with Citibank and we still remain confident that the project is going forward,” Sheehan said.

“Will there be a pause for a year or so or will it be going forward?” Council member John Igneri (D-District E) asked.

“My sense is that it will be going forward,” Sheehan said.


Klein’s been busy door knocking

Tuesday marked a milestone for Darien Democrat Randy Klein in his drive to unseat State Rep. Terri Wood (R-141) – he knocked on his 3,500th door, according to a press release.

“From the very first day that I decided to run for office until now, I have been motivated by one central goal – to speak with as many residents of Darien, Rowayton, and Norwalk as possible about the issues that matter most to them,” Klein said in the Thursday press release. “I use the opportunities to hear how people think their representation could work most effectively for them in Hartford.”

Klein owns a small business in Norwalk. The 141st assembly district covers Darien, Rowayton and a part of Norwalk.

“I’ve had hundreds of informative conversations that will definitely influence how I will represent this district if given the opportunity,” Klein said in the release. “It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know so many different people with such different stories that brought them to this district. I would be honored to represent this district in Hartford.” 


Lavielle lauded on public water supply issues

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) has been named a “Legislative Champion” by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) for the fifth consecutive year, a press release said. Of the 14 legislators to receive the recognition this year, she was commended particularly for her leadership on issues affecting public water supply during the 2016 legislative session.

“Environmental stewardship is always a priority for me, as it is for many of my constituents,” said Lavielle in the release. “I firmly believe that conservation of natural resources goes hand in hand with conservation of financial resources, and that should underpin everything we do in the General Assembly. The League of Conservation Voters is a valuable resource and does excellent work, and I am honored to be recognized by such a distinguished organization.”

“During the 2016 session, Lavielle was a vocal supporter and co-sponsor of a constitutional amendment resolution protecting land set aside by the state for conservation,” the release said. “She also actively supported or co-sponsored bills protecting the public water supply, reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to essential pollinators, improving the approval process for the statewide water plan, and prohibiting the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals used in children’s products.”


Himes/Shaban debate the product of lots of Leagues of Women Voters

The debate scheduled for Oct. 23 between U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) and State Rep. John Shaban is being presented by The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Norwalk and 11 other Fairfield County Leagues, a press release said.

Co-sponsors of this event are LWVs of the Bridgeport Area, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton, which is hosting the event, the release said.

Stamford’s Kay Maxwell, a former president of the League of Women Voters of the United States and currently executive director of the Stamford-based World Affairs Forum, will moderate the debate. The debate facilitator is Jara Burnett of LWV Greenwich.

It will be possible to register to vote and get Absentee Ballot information prior to the event.

The event, free and open to the public, will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Clune Performing Arts Center at Wilton High School, 395 Danbury Road/Route 7 in Wilton.


Board of Ed’s Facilities Committee to try again Tuesday

The Board of Education Facilities Committee is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18, in City Hall room A300, to discuss the next steps in the effort to expand Norwalk Public Schools’ facilities.

The Committee’s meeting Wednesday was cancelled after State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) pointed out that it had not been properly noticed under the rules of the Freedom of Information Act. That meeting was scheduled for noon; Morris complained that this is not a good time of day for working families.

The committee is expected to discuss the next steps involved in expanding Ponus Ridge Middle School and a possible new school in South Norwalk. Also on the agenda is the renovation of Columbus Magnet School and topics for a community forum scheduled for Oct. 26.


Council meeting starting early

The Common Council is having an unusually early start for its meeting this Tuesday.

“Out of respect for the Yom Kippur observances, which begin at sundown on Tuesday, Oct. 11, the Norwalk Common Council will begin its meeting at 5 p.m. instead of the usual 7:30 p.m.,” a press release said.


Bruce Kimmel October 10, 2016 at 10:16 am

The BOE website states the Facilities Committee will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 18 (not tomorrow), at 5:30.

Missy Conrad October 10, 2016 at 3:12 pm

The League of Women Voters of Norwalk is also a co-sponsor of the Sunday, Oct 23, debate between US Rep Jim Himes & CT StateRep John Shaban. We hope to see many of you there!

Norwalker October 11, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Sheehan is very much in denial. But the Common Council is worse for letting him go on as the responsible entity for thie Poko project of doom.

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