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Norwalk political notes: Longtime DPW employee gets top slot

Brinton explains; Meek asks question, doesn’t like answer

Interim Chief of Operations and Public Works Vanessa Valadares presents information to the Common Council Public Works Committee last week on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political notes for you:

  • Valadares to be Chief of Operations and Public Works
  • Was Brinton ‘close’?
  • Can the City use water records to find illegal apartments?

Valadares wins Chief job

Vanessa Valaderes, who has been with the Norwalk Department of Public Works for more than 12 years, is set to be appointed Chief of Operations and Public Works at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

Valaderes’ title was Principal Engineer when she became Interim Chief of Operations and Public Works in September after Anthony Carr left the post.

Valadares began work here in 2010 as a junior engineer, according to her LinkedIn page. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at FAAP – Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, and her first job was in 1996 as Director/Partner at LCP ENGENHARIA S/C LTDA. Within the next seven years she was assigned to work on a $100 million project at Fairfield University as an employee of Gilbane Building Company.

Her later employment included more than five years for the City of Stamford.

‘I’ve come closest’

Independent District 25 State Senate candidate Lisa Brinton recently told a crowd in the City Hall community room that she “came close” to beating Mayor Harry Rilling in 2019. It’s a claim she repeated in a recent letter to the editor.

Rilling won reelection in 2017 with about 56% of the vote, and again in 2019 with about 55%.

Brinton was one of four Mayoral candidates in 2017, then went head-to-head with Rilling in 2019 as a Republican-endorsed unaffiliated candidate.

“As a moderate independent, I believe I got closer than any other Rilling challenger to date,” Brinton said.

That’s true. In 2015, in his first reelection bid, Rilling prevailed over Republican Kelly Straniti with 62% of the vote. Then in 2021, he won 60% against Republican challenger Jonathan Riddle.

Brinton likened her current run against State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) to her petitioning onto the ballot in 2017, in that she has “no chance of winning.” She has said that she got into the race this year to keep the Independent Party’s slot on the ballot and to highlight election reform needs, and that the Independent Party didn’t want to endorse Republican candidate Daniel Miressi.

“I am fighting for the moderate middle and all my campaigns have focused on what I’ve seen as Norwalk’s two major issues: zoning/overdevelopment and school funding,” Brinton wrote. “Six years later… we have fortress apartments, a water shortage, a sewer treatment plant that can’t handle the volume and an overcrowded, underfunded, failing school system.”

‘Flimsy response’

Council Minority Leader Bryan Meek (R-District D) doesn’t think much of the latest legal opinion he received from the Corporation Counsel Office.

At October’s Public Safety & General Government Committee meeting, Meek asked if the City could subpoena water bills to determine, based on statistics, how many people were living at the a given location. Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin recently responded by forwarding Meek an opinion from Assistant Corporation Counsel Matthew Sapienza.

“The short answer is, no, we cannot subpoena water usage records,” Sapienza wrote. “Additionally, even if we could, which we can’t, we’d probably need an expert to opine on how much water is used by a regular person versus multiple people.  It would get really complicated.  But again, I can’t just serve a subpoena on the water company without an underlying court action. Even then, the water company will fight the subpoena because otherwise they would get subpoenaed all the time.”

Meek replied to Kleppin and other Council members.

“This seems like a flimsy response from legal on a serious matter, but then again my takeaway from the meeting the other night is that we aren’t really interested in fixing the issue other than a having meeting to give it lip service,” he wrote. “The IRS and DRS subpoena third party supplier records all the time.  This position seems to indicate that our City has no authority in assessment or taxation matters even though they are granted by the state.”

The connection to taxing is a reference to the assessor’s office. Connecticut General Statutes 12-63c requires all owners of rental property to file a property income and expenses report, annually prior to revaluation. Meek brought this up Oct. 29, saying assessors “could drop the requirement to report revenues and expenses from 4+ to 3+ or 2+ non-owner occupied units on one tax parcel.”

He said:

“This is a real problem for the city as much as we want to ignore it and will worsen with the continued subsidies into workforce housing.  It seems we have no resources or energy to tackle it with the same gusto as going after decks being installed on AA land.  That’s disappointing.

“I don’t disagree with the position that some (who knows how many) of these are safety hazards and that something must be done, so why not start with our powers of taxation and assessment? Since safety concerns only seem to really materialize after the tragedies happen maybe its time to take a different approach?”

10 comments

Scott Vetare November 7, 2022 at 8:34 am

Thanks for your work Brian. Looks like this group wants to sweep certain things under the carpet. We need to reclaim our city and state. Tomorrow’s election is big. As a lifelong Norwalk resident, I’ve had enough of all the building and allowing out of town contractors to get rich on our tax money.

Johnny cardamone November 7, 2022 at 9:12 am

Norwalk is out of control but I guess we’re in good company with the rest of the country and the world!🥵🙈🇺🇸🌎🙏🏼🦔

David Muccigrosso November 7, 2022 at 12:25 pm

What’s the point of the item about Lisa? Nancy doesn’t even name anyone who’s contradicted Lisa’s account.

Ken Werner November 7, 2022 at 1:35 pm

Bryan Meek asserts that the problem of (presumably) unsafe rental apartments will become worse because of the subsidies for workforce housing. The opposite is the case. The construction of more legal workforce housing would allow the the average occupancy of existing low-cost housing to be reduced. Or does Mr. Meek intend we should kick people out of existing housing and not provide better rental units for them to move into? In that case, who will mow Mr. Meek’s lawn? Okay, maybe Mr. Meek mows his own lawn. Who will mow my lawn?

David Muccigrosso November 7, 2022 at 2:22 pm

Meanwhile, there’s a LOT of real estate that either (A) is simply sitting idle in SoNo due to speculation, or (B) its current uses have grown wildly out of sync with the ACTUAL neighborhood character.

Hey @Brian, what’s your plan for addressing THAT problem? Look, I know that the crusade against the “fortresses” (as Lisa so affectionately calls them) is some easy political points for you to score, but it’s also empty calories for SoNo-ans.

If you want to prevent more fortresses, then your best strategy should be to strengthen the neighborhood that exists, not push for a crackdown that will never happen and which would only further deprive the neighborhood of its workers and residents – you know, the REAL tax base.

And strengthening this neighborhood, right here and now, is what needs to happen. We can’t have more fortresses, but we need to grow. And growing moderately means addressing the real problems, not whining about what Harry and the libs do to address those problems. So here’s your challenge! I know I’m supposed to be the wild-eyed progressive here, but I’m offering to give you a full hearing.

Tysen Canevari November 7, 2022 at 5:33 pm

@ Ken. Are you assuming that all the people and companies that mow lawns are here illegal and live in illegal apartments? Thats a pretty broad and arrogant statement.

Mike O'Reilly November 7, 2022 at 8:24 pm

Brian is lifting up the hood and taking a look at all the acorn’s and squirrels that follow eating away at our car/ city. Let’s discuss “Affordable Housing”. How much does “Affordable” Housing really cost?
One example . Washington Village 136 unit’s originally built in 1941. Washington Village broke ground in 2016.As a Zoning commissioner I requested a Sq. ft. cost for this proposal. Finally it was acknowledged to be $335 per Sq. Ft. We could have bought each family a condo .

Bryan Meek November 8, 2022 at 7:30 am

David, Without getting too deep into economic theory, the solution is a simple one. Let free markets work. Subsidies might feel good to those on the receiving end, but when the government is picking these up and controlling prices (not the free market) costs soar. The “fortress” apartment rents are artificially inflated by the subsidies and tax breaks and because they can get more, enabling the 100 year old sub code ones too charge more, making housing more unaffordable for everyone. The taxpayers foot the bill. Money that could have been spent elsewhere in the economy. The lawmakers in Hartford just don’t understand this. They do what their Developer donors tell them to do in the name of fairness, but it is actually making things less fair and more expensive for the neediest in society.

As for the racebaiter here, my landscaper is a classmate from Norwalk Public schools I worked with at Gregory’s store in High school. He lives in Cranbury. I doubt either of us would pick Cranbury to live in today given the state of the city and the property tax armageddon that is about to fall on the residents of this city thanks to years of mismanagement.

Fran Di Meglio November 8, 2022 at 9:02 am

Congratulations Vanessa – Wishing you much success! Great to see promoting from within. I got to know Vanessa during my tenure on the Planning Commission. Always responsive and well versed in all details. She once called in to a Commission meeting from Brazil to present an agenda item. Great work ethic!
Fran Di Meglio
(Former Chair – Planning Commission)

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