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Norwalk political notes: DesRochers for Common Council

Former Oak Hills Park Authority Chairman Ernie DesRochers. (File photo)

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

  • DesRochers running for Council
  • Livingston, Igneri and Kydes seek reelection
  • Barbis: NFT still refusing health insurance switch
  • GGP steps over latest hurdle
  • Point/counterpoint on The SoNo Collection

DesRochers seeks elected office

Ernie DesRochers, a Republican famous recently as an Oak Hills Park Authority member, filed papers last week to run for Common Council, Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said Wednesday.

“I decided to run for a couple of reasons,” DesRochers said in an email. “I was termed out on Oak Hills even though I only served one full term of my own. The other term was a short term vacancy that I filled. Even a day of someone else’s term is a term. I guess the Mayor could not wait to get rid of me hahahaha!”

DesRochers, as OHPA Chairman, campaigned unsuccessfully to get a driving range built at the park. The controversial request for capital funding ran up against the need to build new schools, and was denied.

DesRochers is also a former Zoning Commissioner; he served seven years and enjoyed it, he said.

“I learned much during my tenure and on balance made Norwalk a better place,” DesRochers said. “I think I must have missed only a couple of meetings as I found being chosen to serve means you serve.

“We found as a group that we could work with the needs of the business community and the needs of the residents to achieve success,” DesRochers continued. “There were no politics during my tenure because all of the members believed in what they were doing was for the betterment of the community and not a stepping stone for something else. All business Everything regarding politics was left at the door – we were working together for Norwalk. Diversity of opinion was required and accepted.

“The 4 years I served on the OHPA was the same thing. What we were able to achieve there is nothing short of a miracle,” he said.

The improvements at the park, funded with $1.5 million of state money, are spectacular, he said, explaining:

“The master plan was implemented in terms of both the physical improvements and business improvements. Everyone contributed – Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated – all to make Oak Hills the multi purpose place it has become. Again diversity of opinion was required and accepted. It’s an example of what folks can do if they find commonality and work together.

“Both these experiences taught me for all the rancor there are people who can work together.

“I want to do the same for the city.”



Dems seeking reelection

Rowayton Democrats Thomas Livingston and John Igneri have formed a committee to run for reelection to the Common Council, District E Chairman Galen Wells said at Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting.

Igneri confirmed that but offered no further comment.

East Norwalker John Kydes is also running for reelection, he said Wednesday.

Livingston was first elected in 2015, while Igneri and Kydes are veterans. Igneri, now Council President, was first elected in 2011 and Kydes, who is in his second year as Majority Leader, was elected in 2013.

All are in-district candidates.

Republican Council candidates this fall include Board of Education member Artie Kassimis, former City Clerk Ellen Wink and DesRochers. Kassimis said he will run to represent District C, while DesRochers and Wink have not been specific.



BoE to begin recommending cuts

The Board of Education Finance Committee will begin next Thursday considering recommendations for budget cuts, given that the Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) is unwilling to make a switch to Connecticut Partnership 2.0, BoE member Mike Barbis said at Monday’s DTC meeting.

“We can’t realize the anticipated savings we were planning on and the budget that we have developed doesn’t work anymore,” Barbis said, in delivering a BoE update to Democrats.

“Despite accusations made by one of our bargaining groups, one of our employee unions, we didn’t know this plan existed and that it was available to us a year ago,” Barbis said.

NFT has filed a prohibited practices complaint against the BoE, alleging that the Board’s “inaccurate public comments” are intended to “mislead and intimidate the union and its members.”

The state plan is a “great plan,” and the BoE assumed that “‘of course’ everybody is going to join,” Barbis said.

One union has signed up and another is on the verge, he said. Three unions that were in contract negotiations anyway are going to sign up, he added.

Finance Committee members have been given a list of possible cuts and will discuss them Thursday and then follow up with the full Board, with a legal responsibility to balance the budget by July 1, he said.

The cuts will “obviously be painful,” and, “It is just a matter of where is that pain coming from,” he said.


Norwalk Redevelopment Agency OKs GGP’s requested changes

GGP faced no opposition from the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency in its drive to remove the hotel component of The SoNo Collection, clearing that hurdle Wednesday.

Now it’s on to a Zoning Commission public hearing next week.

Redevelopment on Wednesday unanimously approved changes to the Land Disposition Agreement and the Urban Renewal Plan for the Reed Putnam sites, with pushback on a change made by the Common Council and questions about oversight during construction.

Commissioner LaTanya Langely, an attorney, questioned the language inserted by the Council last week, at the request of Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B), regarding GGP’s $3.5 million payment to Norwalk in lieu of the hotel.

“It is the desire of the Common Council that $3.5 million be used for improvements in the neighborhoods surrounding the project,” in the line in question.

“The lawyer in me is concerned about that language. it doesn’t say Norwalk,” Langley said.

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan explained that Council members Michael Corsello (D-At Large) and Livingston, also attorneys, and Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola

had cautioned against changing the language on the fly but that the Council had agreed to Bowman’s request.

“It was the best that could be done under the circumstances, and at least Councilwoman Bowman was satisfied when she heard the language,” RDA Attorney Marc Grenier said.

“I know you know this – I didn’t draft that,” Grenier said, drawing chuckles.

“I just want to put it on record because you know it’s going to come back,” Langely said.

The Council knows it has no authority over the Board of Estimate and Taxation, which ultimately allocates the $3.5 million from the general fund, Sheehan said.

Commissioner Lori Torrano asked who would be supervising GPP as it builds The SoNo Collection to make sure that the design is followed in accordance to the Urban Renewal Plan.

“There will be ongoing reporting… There are a whole host of eople who are out in the field, representing the city, in terms of watching what is going on at that site,” Sheehan said. “GGP is paying a substantial sum to the city to actually have those folks out there to ensure what you are saying.”

If GGP strays from what is agreed to, it would be asked to remove those errant materials and install what has been approved, he said.



McQuaid: Washington Street will survive

“I think the mall is going to be a spectacular failure,” a Norwalker said Saturday at the NancyOnNorwalk fundraiser.

It will close after two years, and if not, it will force SoNo businesses out of business because people don’t leave a mall, the patron said.

McQuaid, on Wednesday, thought that unlikely.

Washington Street is mostly restaurants now, and GGP is limited to a certain number of restaurants for The SoNo Collection, he said.

They will draw a different clientele, he said.

The clincher for his argument is his 23-year-old daughter, who, according to McQuaid, goes to Washington Street every Friday night.

“She will go to the mall to buy the clothing to go to Washington Street,” he said, explaining that you don’t wear that kind of clothing in a mall.


4 responses to “Norwalk political notes: DesRochers for Common Council”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    There is a mistake in the first note: The Common Council and the city’s finance department decided not to fund the driving range after reviewing the report on its potential costs that was provided by an independent consultant. It was never a question of schools versus a driving range.

  2. Rick

    Rowayton Democrats gave no support after many requests to those on Quintard ave ,good luck with your election you will now get the same support in return.

    This is not to say we have no support our reps in South Norwalk haven’t missed a beat along with those Republicans who joined us in our fight.

    Be interesting to see who wrote letters to zoning and who didn’t before the next election .

    We never got new sidewalks every picture that appears in the media with the old Pivot house shows why the street needed sidewalks.This was clearly a joke when some sidewalks were done that didn’t need it.

    I would suggest a scorecard for anyone running this next election it may prove to be worth the effort .

    For those who were elected to serve the city ,Zoning will still take letters at the june 7 meeting ,this was not a political fight so we still don’t understand why some of our elected officials acted the way they did.

  3. Rick

    Its great there is so much conversation on the mall,some of us are more concerned what it will do to the city and its public safety depts.GGP malls are changing, increased traffic flow with state of the art attractions from food trucks to ferris wheels in their high end malls tells us the city never banked on what they will probably get in the end.

    Who will own GGP by the time the mall is built has been an interesting journey as well to follow.The option to sell is not a rumor.

    Maybe its time for the taxpayers to chip in for a city hall subscription to the Wall St Journal .

    GGP’s consolidated debt in 2016 was $12.6 billion—lower than 2015’s debt level of $14.4 billion. Over the last five years, GGP’s total debt has decreased moderately from $20.6 billion in March 2011 to $18.4 billion on March 31, 2017.

  4. Donna

    @Rick, I have not paid attention to who is NOT writing letters to P&Z in opposition to Firetree. Next Thursday’s continuance and ZBA vote will center on the appeal and not the special permit application. The immediate impact, if Firetree overturns the Zoning denial of a fit up permit, will be felt most keenly on Quintard. Few residents realize the city wide impact of expanding the ZBA’s understanding of “same use” until a LULU comes into their neighborhood of course.

    Quintard neighbors need to get out in front of this story in order gain town wide support. It should not be a quid pro quo scenario. They should be writing Letters to the Editor here and elsewhere, as well as letters and calls to our congressmen, etc. When I looked at the file Tuesday in the zoning office, I was told it was only the second time someone NOT related to Firetree had asked to view the material. And I don’t even live on Quintard. All those neighbors who came to theZBA hearing on May 4th wearing “vote no” stickers need to step up their game now in advance of next Wednesday’s continuance. If they won’t advocate for themselves, no one else will. The last Quintard meeting I went to was attended by two other people.

    The Mayor and the Chief of Police received letters about Fiiretree’s intended use of 17 Quintard long ago (September 2014) and sat on the information. I am not ready to call Mayor Rilling a neighborhood hero just because he showed up for a photo op BBQ last fall on Quintard. And you’re 100% correct about the visual impact of the old Piivot House with its crummy sidewalks. Part of Firetree’s narrative is that they will improve the neighborhood. Only a highly mobilized and energized group of neighbors can fight this leviathan.

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