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Norwalk political notes: Rilling’s cane; Zoom criticism; missing dashboard

Mayor Harry Rilling, left, at Wednesday’s Norwalk Police ceremony in City Hall. (Harold F. Cobin)

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

  • Rilling recovering from surgery
  • Meek says Zoom should be second choice
  • Mayor’s Dashboard to return in July
  • ENNA comments on eliminated ‘diversion signal’ plan
  • Yeosock retires

Rilling on the mend

Mayor Harry Rilling said he’s recovering well after having a hip replacement last week.

The surgery went “extremely well” and he’s already “walking without a cane for the most part,” he said. “I bring it with just as a cautionary measure.”

He also had a hip replacement in 2014, his first full year as Mayor.

Rilling was absent from Tuesday’s Common Council meeting because he didn’t want to conduct the meeting remotely, he said. He asked Council President Greg Burnett (D-At Large) to run the meeting “because the agenda was light and there was nothing controversial on it.” The 14 Democratic Council members decided in caucus that only one item wouldn’t be on the “consent calendar,” a list of every item on the agenda that no one opposes, that gets voted on as a single item.

The Council’s lone Republican, District D representative Bryan Meek refused to allow the consent calendar, vowing to not vote to approve any more City spending until “this City figures out how to conduct public business in public.”

What does Meek want?

Meek’s commentary Tuesday evening focused on a glitch two weeks before, when Burnett and others decided to cancel the in-person aspect of the Council meeting because City Hall’s internet service had ceased to function. What had been planned as a hybrid meeting became online only, at the last minute.

So when Meek said, “This has to stop,” and the City needs to figure “out how to conduct public business in public,” all he had mentioned was a one-meeting issue. The meeting may have been illegal due to inadequate notice to the public, he said.

Queried about this by NancyOnNorwalk, Meek referred to meetings being held virtually. Almost three years after the pandemic prompted social isolation, “we are still preventing members of the public from seeing who from the public has attended, isolating citizens and making them feel like they are talking to themselves instead of a crowd,” he said.

NoN pressed to learn what he hoped for going forward, to address his concern. He replied:

“I’m not opposed to zoom meetings but that should be the second alternative. The first should be in person and if the internet is out videotape and post to youtube a day later like we used to.

“Also the zoom option should allow members of the public to see everybody from the public who’s in attendance who chooses not to remain anonymous.  Not doing this has an isolating effect on members of the public and it needs to stop.

“Moreover what this demonstrates is a lack of concern by management. They should have posted signs in city hall or at least let the security guard know what was going on so he could communicate.

“This isn’t the first time that technical difficulties have come up and they should stop relying on zoom as the first alternative.”

The Mayor’s Dashboard.

Where’s the dashboard?

In mid-2019, Rilling unveiled a new City website function: The Mayor’s Dashboard, stocked with municipal data for anyone to inspect.

You can’t find it anymore. In February, Chief of Staff Laoise King said the administration took it off the landing page the previous December because they felt it needed a revamp. They were waiting for a new Norwalk Communications Director, as Josh Morgan had left for a similar job with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT).

Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews was hired in March.

On Tuesday, Woods Matthews said the City is preparing to have the new dashboard ready “by the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, 2023.”

ENNA’s thoughts

Transportation, Mobility, and Parking (TMP) Principal Engineer Mike Yeosock said Jan. 3 that a plan for diversionary signals had been scrapped. Presented to the public in 2019, the 12 electronic traffic signs were intended to reduce cut-through traffic in local Norwalk neighborhoods and expected to be installed in 2021. When an accident or other occurrence obstructs traffic on I-95, these signs would have routed exiting motorists along major local arteries to a point of highway re-entry.

TMP Director James Travers later explained that the administration felt “these signs would be too large (over six feet in length) and would not add aesthetic value to our neighborhoods. Additionally, the signs were intended to move traffic diverted from the highway to city roads, and we were concerned with the impact this would have a local traffic.”

East Avenue was one of the proposed locations. What does the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association think? On Jan. 14, ENNA leader Diane Cece said:

“ENNA was under the impression that the proposal for ‘diversion signals’ was actually removed from consideration a couple of years back, so we were surprised to hear that they were still in prior to last week.

“Our original concern was over exactly who would control usage, routing, etc. As we understood it, the diversion routes would have been exclusively to US Route 1, though for Exit 16 we all know that wouldn’t happen, especially in this age of GPS routing tools such as Waze. The path of least resistance in highway overflow in all of Norwalk is almost always through our residential neighborhoods.

“ENNA continues to express concern with I-95 congestion that creates cut-through traffic (both south- and north-bound), but especially now that the City and State project to widen/lower East Avenue at the train station will mean tractor trailers can fit under the railroad overpass, and we will continue to work with City and State officials to mitigate the quality of life and environmental issues.”

A retirement

Transportation, Mobility, and Parking (TMP) Principal Engineer Mike Yeosock. (Contributed)

Transportation, Mobility, and Parking (TMP) Principal Engineer Mike Yeosock is retiring, Mayor Harry Rilling said at Tuesday’s Traffic Authority meeting, thanking Yeosock for “keeping our traffic system safe.”

Traffic Commissioner Fran Collier-Clemmons told Yeosock that he doesn’t look old enough to retire.

Yeosock has worked for the City since 1989, according to his LinkedIn Page, which already identifies him as “retired.” He began as an assistant civil engineer.

Comments

6 responses to “Norwalk political notes: Rilling’s cane; Zoom criticism; missing dashboard”

  1. Bryan Meek

    Congratulations to Mike on a well deserved retirement.

    Summer of 89 was my first year as a DPW intern. I remember Mike being brand new to the job. As I recall the biggest thing on that side of the house at the time was the Marvin Beach drainage project headed up by Pete Goldner. Marvin Beach used to flood worse than Water Street does today. Back then we engineered solutions. Today we blame global warming and ignore the over-development and lack of infrastructure improvements. Sure there are tidal forces, but water is collecting on Water street worse than ever because of the poor development decisions.

  2. Bob Giolitto

    Let’s see now. The mayor gets a hip replacement and can’t make the meeting; fair enough and I wish him a speedy recovery. But, “He asked Council President Greg Burnett (D-At Large) to run the meeting ‘“because the agenda was light and there was nothing controversial on it.”’ So because the mayor can’t be there business stops? Moreover, is Greg Burnett, who through my observation is an excellent and extremely capable public servant, only competent enough to run meetings “because the agenda was light and there was nothing controversial on it”?

    Never thought I’d agree with Bryan Meek but he makes good points regarding public meetings. Seems we’re still using covid as an excuse behind which we can hide. Public meetings should be public, and include zoom.

    Last, it seems The Mayor’s Dashboard was canceled in December 2021? A new director of communications was hired almost a year ago. And still no dashboard. Of course we’re still waiting, since May of 2020, for the mayor’s Equity and Justice For All commission. Anyone see a pattern: promises, promises with no action?

  3. John O’Neill

    I like Harry Rilling…Looking at this picture makes me hope he’s smart enough to get out while the going is good. He’s going to need more than a cane once DC FUN money dries up…Is the plan to get elected and hand over the real mayoral decision to the Democratic Committee ala Kimmel and Johnson replacements…
    The Republican Party should be all over this..
    Harry — I understand there’s a place right next door to Tom Keegan in Sarasota waiting for you. He’ll come by with a Cold Beverage and some Common Sense…

  4. Lisa Biagiarelli

    Congratulations, Mike Yeosock on your retirement. Thank you for everything you have done for Norwalk. You have always been hardworking, professional, thorough, easy to work with, and absolutely brilliant. A lot of hard earned expertise is walking out the door with you. You will be missed.

  5. Steve Balazs

    There’s no reason that meetings can’t be both in person and Zoomed to the public

  6. Drew Todd

    All
    Meetings should be in person period! There should be a zoom link available for the public to watch only. If they want to attend then they should do so in person.

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