Political notes: It’s a consensus – Norwalk needs good candidates

Are two heads better than one?
Are two heads better than one? Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano, left, and Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho, right, have their work cut out for them.

Correction: In the section about District A minutes, a sentence that appeared in a preliminary  draft NoN received was amended in a later draft. The new sentence, “Broderick reported that Ganga complied with his violation notice for an inspection he personally did at 27 Wall Street,” has been inserted in its place.

NORWALK, Conn. – There’s already talk of who will run in the November election, including from outgoing Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera.

“Every day I see people and they express disappointment, ‘they’re going to miss me,’ and I’m going to miss them, too,” Rivera said. “There are lots of well-meaning people, but my biggest hope and desire is that, as board agencies evolve, that people run for the board for the right reasons, and those reasons being concern for children and doing the best for the system. And then also willing to commit to really being able to operate as a school board member should. It is not to run the system, it is not to operate the system, it’s to address a need for policy – you hire a superintendent to run the system.

“I think some people get into it for the wrong reason” he said, “thinking ‘this is my opportunity now to take care of business and tell the superintendent what to do,’ and that’s a dilemma. It’s not just Norwalk, it’s something you see nationally with folks, but it’s got to be a commitment to training … a commitment to ongoing training and check-ins and so on.”

Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano said it’s too early to name who the party might field as Board of Education candidates, which will be in-district this time around, meaning five candidates.

“As I had said when first chosen to lead the Republican Party in Norwalk, one of my objectives, and the objective of all five district leaders, is to try as best we can to recruit and run the best people for all offices, not just the BoE,” Torrano said. “We are looking for people who understand and are willing to commit to the responsibilities of each elected office. I think that the three current Republicans on the BoE have demonstrated that commitment. Agree or disagree with them, they know the requirement of their office to oversee and not manage the day-to-day operations of the schools as Dr. Rivera has stated and you reported. I have confidence that the people we select this time will do the same.”

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho did not respond specifically to Rivera’s comments, but has said he’s looking for good people.

“In my view, it is important that both parties field candidates who bleed green (for Norwalk) first, and blue or red secondarily,” Camacho said.


Serasis also looking for good candidates

Former Democratic mayoral candidate Steve Serasis said this week that he is planning a run to represent District A on the Common Council, but only under certain conditions.

The right team out of District A would be incumbent Common Councilwoman Eloisa Melendez, former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel and himself, he said. If Melendez and Garfunkel want it, he won’t force a primary, he said, because, “I believe their heart is in the right place, in regard to our city.”

Garfunkel’s response to questions on the topic is light-hearted and evasive, a joke: “I’m always running,” and “I’m running for my life!”

Serasis, a 2009 opponent to former Mayor Richard Moccia, said he’s had a hard eight years taking care of his father, who passed away in March.

“My significant other and I volunteered 150 hours each to build community through music on the Musictochina-Norwalk Recreation & Parks Tour this past summer. It took my mind off of Dad, and was an attempt to show politicians it’s not about themselves or their ego,” Serasis wrote. “They were elected; they should do more than somebody that isn’t in office. Too many of them bicker and fight for their own agendas and misguided egos. It’s about  Norwalk and the people who live in it. … Both my parents told me I should care about others more than myself, and to be a protector of community values.”


District A is a happening place

NancyOnNorwalk first found out Serasis was running through minutes of the Jan. 7 District A meeting. There’s lots of other stuff in there, too.

Councilman David Watts, District A chairman, said he didn’t like what’s going on with the Board of Education and will “openly campaign against Democrats because they did not support other Democrats. People all over the state keep asking why Norwalk Democrats don’t support each other,” the minutes say.

Watts challenged five-term Democratic state Rep. Chris Perone in a primary last sumer. Perone won and retained his seat for a sixth term. In 2001, he forced a primary election against fellow Dem Linda Townsend-Maier in New Haven’s Ward 2 Alderman race. Watts also leveled a charge of dirty politics against his opponent, to whom he eventually lost.

Watts recently protested the re-election of Mike Lyons, a Republican, as BoE chairman because the Board is dominated by Democrats. He called Heidi Keyes and Mike Barbis “fake Dems” because they supported Lyons.

“David Watts said it is important to prevent people from flipping the council, to not endorse a candidate who can’t be trusted to work with Democrats. The Republicans always stick together,” the minutes say.

Also, the minutes say:

Eloisa (Melendez) asked if it is OK to judge other Democrats on their opinions. Nicol (Ayers) said yes, because we voted for that person to represent us. There is a lack of party allegiance. You have a party chair, or mayor, who is supposed to ‘squash’ that. I want to know that I elected a Democrat, not a clone of me, but like-minded, that they will caucus and come with one voice. There are more Democrats in Norwalk than Republicans. Why in Norwalk do we let someone come in off the street and get an endorsement and run.

Rosa Murray reported that the Interim Superintendent will be starting January 19. They will be doing an accelerated search and have a permanent superintendent in place by July 1. The interim is experienced and the Deputy Superintendent will help him.

Broderick Sawyer asked about the Board of Ed situation with Shirley Mosby’s complaint and asked why they are not bringing proof. Nicol said this kind of accusation should not be made without evidence. Kate Tepper said that body language can convey a message that may not be conscious or intentional.

Tepper said she had been at the meeting because she is DTC secretary and has made a commitment to sit in on at least one meeting from each of the districts.

Ganga Duleep’s burned-out Wall Street building was also a topic of discussion at the meeting. Serasis said the Wall Street business owners want the Democrats to clean it up before the election, the minutes say.

The minutes say:

Tod Bryant reported that in the Ordinance Committee meeting, Jackie Lightfield said the Fairfield ordinance for commercial properties has been functioning well and asked Norwalk Corporation Counsel to examine it. We also want to rework the current [residential] blight ordinance to make it more enforceable.

Steve Serasis said the posting of handbills on light posts is also a nuisance and business owners are very aggravated by it. Since the club’s address and phone number are on the handbills, it should be possible to cite them. Nicol Ayers reported that she recently saw a man putting up the handbills and saw a police officer go by and see the man doing it and the police officer did nothing. Broderick Sawyer said it should be easy to call up the business and fine them. Broderick also mentioned that there are other burned-out buildings in Norwalk, but the Ganga property is the most obvious.

Steve Serasis said he walks a lot in the area and he mentioned to 2 fire inspectors that a house near Continental Manor was about to fall down, and within 3-5 days it was getting fixed. Broderick said the fire inspectors go by CT Gen Statutes, and a property owner can fight it or  they can just comply. If it is commercial or a 3-unit building or more, fire inspectors have authority. Broderick reported that Ganga complied with his violation notice for an inspection he personally did at 27 Wall Street. The fact that the Ganga fire was classified as arson may change the situation. Tod Bryant said the bank probably looked at the building and said it was not worth what it was insured for.”

Serasis stepped down as District A vice chairman, and Garfunkel was elected to replace him, the minutes say.


Registrars weigh in

The Common Council on Tuesday approved a $43,087 special appropriation to cover the costs of last year’s primary.  You don’t budget for primaries, Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said.

Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons said the office keeps the primaries as cheap as possible. “We hold poll workers to a minimum. We also try to cut costs for election supplies. Stuart (Wells) and our office provide as much service and work extra hours in order to cut cost to the taxpayers,” she said.

Wells, Democratic registrar, said he doesn’t know how many primaries there will be this summer.

“I hear from Republicans that they don’t think there will be anybody on their side,” Wells said. “I very much doubt that there will be any city-wide this time. It’s kind of hard to say about the districts, Council or Board of Ed, at this point, but generally both parties are scrounging around for good candidates rather than having good candidates all trying to run against each other.”

Rosh Hashana will help make this year a little different, he said.

“It’s vaguely interesting that the primary in this area will be on Wednesday because the normal day would be Tuesday after Labor Day, but when it’s on that date under statute it goes to the next Tuesday. But that’s a religious holiday so when that happens it becomes the next secular day, which in this case would be a Wednesday,” Wells said.

Wells and Lyons were sworn in Tuesday.

“While we are always in the background it is our office who make election fair and trouble free,” Lyons wrote. “Everything starts with elections. … President, governor, every law every road etc. We are dedicated to serve all of Norwalk.”

Speaking of primaries and Council meetings, Watts on Tuesday recused himself from the vote on the special appropriation to cover the primary – just to be sure, because he was a candidate in one of them.


Keeping score

Attendance counts, so we hereby point out that three Council members – John Kydes (D-District C), Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) and Finance Committee Chairman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) – attended the Jan. 5 Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting to hear the presentation about Oak Hills Park Authority’s finances. Kimmel heard them again the following Thursday at the Finance Committee meeting.

Watts did not attend the Jan. 6 Public Works Committee meeting. He arrived one minute late to Tuesday’s Council meeting.

BoE member Migdalia Rivas has not been to Board meetings since Rivera resigned. Lyons said that’s strictly due to health problems.


12 responses to “Political notes: It’s a consensus – Norwalk needs good candidates”

  1. SA

    See and hear BOE members will be challenged and held to account for “running the school system into the ground and running the chancellor out.” Baseless charges of racism with no proof and chronic mismanagement got to go. They aren’t life appointees and Norwalk has better.

  2. Yankee Clipper

    How long has it been since Migdalia Rivas has been at a BOE meeting?

  3. Piberman

    Once upon a time elected officials in Norwalk refrained from negative public statements about other elected officials and focused doing their duties at their respective meetings. Not in the press seeking attention. It’s unclear how we regain that standard where elected officials respected their colleagues. But Party Chairman may be the key to reminding out of step officials to observe proper behaviors. As long as it’s open season in City politics many well qualified citizens will avoid the “circus”. Readers also have a responsibility to observe courtesy in their comments about public officials, especially when avoiding their identities. Both the Hour and NON have a responsibility for encouraging couteous commentaries. All of us overstep the bounds of propriety on occasion. But that should be the exception. We’ve come a long way from when Norwalk was an admired City for its governance. Asking candidates to state their platforms would go a long way towards restoring useful public debate. As would asking them how they expect to achieve their goals. Once upon a time both parties expected candidates to work through the apprentice sysytem learning how City governance works. Nowadays anyone can run for any office. That has not been to our advantage. Finally we ought apply the gold standard of behavior when commenting to our chief elected official who represents all of us. Not because the mayor is always right. But because he is our mayor.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ PiBerman

      All quite noble and I agree with you. But the genie, unfortunately, is out of the bottle.

  4. Amanda

    Are District A meeting minutes available online?

  5. LWitherspoon

    David Watts believes that our elected representatives should put party first rather than vote in what they feel is Norwalk’s best interests. Let’s hope Mr. Watts and any like-minded individuals aren’t re-elected in November. Norwalk needs elected officials who value bipartisanship over party loyalty. We also need elected officials to be current on their taxes. Mr. Watts still has unpaid tax bills stretching back to 2012.

  6. Mike Barbis

    There is no such thing as a fake Democrat … sorry Watts. But you don’t seem to be able to work with any kind of Democrat. What’s up with that? You keep on missing the point that Heidi and I are part of a bi-partisan coalition that is actively working to improve the schools and lower our cost structure … Something that the BOE heretofore had not been able to do. We are coming in with small budget increases, have labor peace and are working to narrow the achievement gap. What’s wrong with any of that?

  7. Karen Doyle Lyons

    I wish to Thank the voters in Norwalk for choosing Fred Wilms, 142 State Representative and myself, Registrar of Voters to be their candidates.

  8. Nora King

    @Barbis U r dead on. Watts doesn’t know the issues and comes up with broad statements but has no clue on what the specific issues are. He loves to preach

  9. mollyB

    @Nora King

    I find your comments in very poor taste. You’re not a very good zoning commissioner nor were you a very good Councilwoman. The voters kicked you out of office after one term. I guess you really didn’t know this issues! According to another publication Norwalk is expected to lose a true public advocate (Watts) and I will be sad to see him go.

    Thank you, Watts for a job well done!

  10. Oldtimer

    Why does Torrano look so unhappy ? Can’t find candidates that can fund their own campaigns ?

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