NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Tuesday:
- Adamowski: Political numbers don’t support ECS fight
- Brenda Penn-Williams ‘suspicious’ of NHA
- Zoning confirms it: mall traffic goes up at Christmas
- Passports at the library
- Karen Lyons unopposed
- Mushak seeks to prove it: There are Norwalkers in favor of ‘zip-line’
BET battles on ECS
Norwalk Public Schools are shorted about $7 million a year through the state’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said to the Board of Estimate and Taxation last week, responding to a question from BET member James Feigenbaum.
“How much would it help us if we somehow, somehow, we talked about this for years, got a handle on ECS funding where we are getting screwed?” Feigenbaum said.
There would be a tremendous impact, Adamowski said.
The Board of Education recently voted to approve a resolution supporting the effort being made by State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) to get the state Education Committee to consider changing the formula. Feigenbaum suggested that if there was going to be parental outcry over anything, it should be the ECS formula.
In 2012, a bus was chartered to take people to the statehouse, in a push to change the formula. The bus was far from full.
“We are getting hosed,” Feigenbaum said Thursday. “We have been for years and we go blithely along and say, ‘OK, OK,’ and we don’t do anything. That funding would solve half or three-quarters of the problem.”
“I think somebody ought to sue the state,” BET member Ed Camacho said, drawing some laughs.
The lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Educational Funding is finally in court. It’s in recess, after the plaintiffs spent weeks making their case, former Mayor Alex Knopp said.
“I think you ought to have somebody up there talking about it, in front of the state,” Feigenbaum replied to Camacho.
Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton explained the familiar facts on ECS: it’s weighted on grand list, not on income, thereby shorting Norwalk even though the median income here is in line with the state median income.
“There have been ongoing efforts in this area, from our mayor, from several of our legislators and so on,” Adamowski said. “The problem with this is there are only two cities in the state that are impacted, to this degree by the current formula, and that’s Norwalk and Stamford. You know, the rest of the state, if you are a city you are very happy because your income level is much lower, your grand list is lower, you are winning on both counts. So the political numbers on this, in terms of who is representing who in the legislature, are really all stacked toward the status quo.”
“Every mayor that I know of since the ECS formula has been in place has been fighting to try to get more and so have the legislators, but unfortunately in Fairfield County we are looked upon as the Gold Coast,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.
Hopefully, Norwalk will prevail in the CCJEF suit, he said, mentioning, as he often does, that former Mayor Richard Moccia had pulled Norwalk out of participating for a while.
Years ago, Moccia told this reporter that he felt it inappropriate for a Republican mayor to participate in a lawsuit against a Republican governor, Jodi Rell. Rilling, a Democrat, apparently has no such reservations despite having a Democratic governor.
When Dannel Malloy was mayor of Stamford, he joined the suit. Since becoming governor, he has joined the state in fighting it.
Get your passport on Belden Avenue
It would be a win/win, as described by Norwalk Public Library Director Christine Bradley: The library is looking to offer a passport service in the next fiscal year.
“The passport service is looking beyond the post offices and that should be revenue producer for us,” Bradley told the BET on Thursday.
The Milford Library does it, Finance Director Bob Barron said, citing recent personal experience.
He had paid $32 for a half an hour, so the library was taking in $64 for an hour’s work, he said.
Bradley called it a nice revenue stream and said, “The passport people are much happier with the way libraries do it.”
This would be at the Belden Avenue library, where there is more space, but perhaps special times could be arranged for the SoNo branch, Bradley said. Part-time staff members would do the work, and training is provided, she said.
“Even if it’s just break-even, it’s a wonderful service to provide the community,” Barron said. “I didn’t have to drive 20 miles and wait in line three hours, I just showed up at my appointed time and was done.”
Doyle Lyons: Two more years
Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons, who had to battle for re-election two years ago, is expecting to cruise to a victory this fall.
“I am thrilled to announce that I will be seeking re-election to the Republican Registrar of Voters. I look forward to serving Norwalk with smooth, trouble-free elections,” Lyons said in an email.
Last week in her office, Lyons said the Republican Party is getting along very well now, and she didn’t expect a challenge.
Republican Town Committee Treasurer Brian Smith, sitting across from Lyons as a part-time helper, gave the thumbs up on that comment.
“I know of no one other than Karen seeking the office – she is unopposed,” RTC Chairman Andy Conroy said in an email.
Lyons has been Republican registrar since 2001.
NHA Commissioners publicly voice distrust
Norwalk Housing Authority Commissioners Deidre Davis and Brenda Penn-Williams recently refused to approve the minutes for the Jan. 4 Board meeting, because they were inaccurate, they said.
“The minutes should reflect what happened in the meeting, which is that the commissioners in attendance … discussed proceeding with the Community Action Agency,” NHA Attorney Donna Lattarulo said at the Feb. 17 Board meeting. “That they were in agreement that they should go forward.”
The item shouldn’t have been on the agenda for the Board meeting but on the agenda for the Norwalk Housing Foundation, commissioners said. It had been voted on in the Foundation meeting, Lattarulo said, but Davis and Penn-Williams said otherwise.
This was a matter of two commissioners versus one, as the Rev. Jeffrey Ingraham, the only other commissioner present at the meeting with Davis and Penn-Williams, agreed with Lattarulo that there had been a discussion in public but a vote in secret.
The minutes are “like lying to me and I’m not going to do it,” Davis said.
“I am so suspicious of you guys. I’ve got to tell you, I am just very suspicious,” Penn-Williams said.
The matter was tabled after 10 minutes of contentious conversation. NHA board Chairman Cesar Ramirez then had a meeting in the hall with Ingraham, away from the public. He called Penn-Williams into the hall, but made it clear that Ingraham wasn’t with them and there was no quorum, and therefore no violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Back in public, Ramirez expressed “concerns about remarks that have been made.”
NancyOnNorwalk contacted Penn-Williams after the meeting and asked why she is suspicious.
“I can’t disclose that information,” she said.
Wilson: That’s why we hired our own traffic consultant for mall project
A traffic study of a nearby mall during holiday season shows that you can, indeed, expect more traffic for Christmas.
Norwalk Zoners, in their preliminary work on General Growth Properties’ application to build a mall at the intersection of Interstate 95 and West Avenue, requested a traffic comparison to a nearby mall during holiday season, Norwalk Senior Planner Dori Wilson said recently. A study was done from Dec. 17 to Dec. 21 by GGP traffic consultant Langan CT Inc. at all five entrances to the Waterbury Brass Mill Center Mall.
The Brass Mill Center, which is operated by GGP, is visible from Interstate 84 and close to an interchange with State Road 84, making it similar to The SoNo Collection in its traffic-generating aspects, Langan reports in its memo to Zoning.
The Friday evening traffic was 17 percent higher than would be expected on a non-holiday Friday, Langan wrote. The Saturday afternoon traffic was 9 percent lower than would be expected on a non-holiday Saturday, Langan wrote.
Langan thought the results balanced each other out, but “maybe, maybe not,” Wilson said.
“That is why we are hiring traffic consultants to represent the city,” Wilson said. “We want to make sure that our consultants agree with the analysis that has been prepared and that it takes into account those examples and says are these the right volumes to be plugging into the city’s system, because that’s what we need to see. That is why we are hiring traffic consultants to represent the city. We want to make sure that our consultants agree with the analysis that has been prepared and that it takes into account those examples and says are these the right volumes to be plugging into the city’s system, because that’s what we need to see.”
There are two traffic studies being done for the proposed project, in addition to the one done by Langan for GGP; one for Planning and Zoning and one for the Redevelopment Agency. GGP is paying for all of them.
In favor of the ‘zip-line’? See Mike Mushak
Cranbury residents angrily opposed to the proposal for a treetop adventure course in Cranbury Park have said no one is in favor of the proposal, but Democratic Town Committee member Mike Mushak has set out to prove otherwise.
As of 2 a.m. Tuesday there were 106 signatures on a petition that Mushak has started online. Most are from Norwalk residents.
“This project will benefit the park,” Celia Maddox wrote.
“I think this will be a benefit to Norwalk, just like the beach, soccer fields, baseball fields, golf course, etc.,” Jud Aley wrote.
“I initially wasn’t crazy about encroaching in natural space, but after reviewing the information and videos and how minimally the trees are impacted, I have to say that it would be nice to have a positive activity like this in Norwalk, and it’s just a small part of the park,” Lisa Grant wrote. “Better than just using it for partying like people did in the ’70s.”
Mushak was the only person in support present at the Common Council Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee meeting last week, surrounded by angry Cranbury residents. He was threatened after the meeting, he said.
Mushak, former Bike/Walk Task Force co-chairman, left the Council chambers in close proximity to a zip-line opponent who said, “Great, great job on Strawberry Hill, too.”
Mushak and others have said that they agree that the bike lanes on Strawberry Hill Road are poorly done, attributing that to the previous administration.