Norwalk resident ‘insulted’ by ‘short-sighted’ comment in email exchange

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Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) responded at length to a Norwalk citizen’s email this week.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk woman says she feels insulted by an email she received this week from a Common Councilman – but at least he responded to her outreach.

Dawn Calle sent an email to all members of the council Monday morning about the proposed transfer of a city property – estimated to be worth about $2 million – to a private developer. Only two council members responded.

Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) wrote back in about an hour. Councilman Warren Peña (D-At Large) wrote back the following day. After three days as of Wednesday night, she has received no other responses.

Calle, the mother of young children, wrote to them about the transfer of 13 and 20 Day Street to the Norwalk Housing Authority, which will then give them to Trinity Financial if a HUD Choice Neighborhoods grant is obtained, using the property as in-kind contribution. She wrote to the council, telling them not to give away city money.

“Our dollars need to be better managed,” she said. “You all need better people giving you financial planning advice.”

McCarthy wrote back and the two exchanged more emails. The exchange touched on the idea that housing projects breed crime and perpetuate poverty, the lack of library time in Norwalk elementary schools this year and last year’s school budget reconciliation.

Calle said there doesn’tt seem to be any real information available, and questioned the financial benefit of the deal.

“It just seems to me that no one really looks at the big picture,” she said. “The same is true for the school budget.  There is a shortfall or not?  In June I sat in that concert hall waiting to speak until midnight and now I see there is not even a shortfall.”

Her son had not been to the school library in the month of January because he does not have full time librarian due to budget cuts, she said.

McCarthy’s response included this passage: “Unfortunately, most parents get a little short-sited [sic] when it comes to the schools, because they want the best for their kids, and they don’t always remain logical.  So, we have to balance the educational needs of our kids with the financial burden on the taxpayer.  Not easy, but necessary.”

Calle said she felt insulted, as she felt she had been called short-sighted. McCarthy responded, “I apologize if you feel I called you short-sighted. I didn’t. I made an observation in general.”

McCarthy said no money was being given away, that city-owned property would be used in addition to $40 million in HUD money, with the goal of replacing the oldest public housing project in Connecticut, Washington Village.

Calle said she thought the entire concept of public housing needs to be rethought. “They just become breeding grounds for drugs and crime,” she said. “They seem to perpetuate poverty.”

McCarthy agreed.  “The one way out of this is to do projects like the proposed Day Street project, which will turn a terrible public housing project into a project that is one third public housing, one third affordable and one third market rate,” he said.  “If you look at Stamford’s success in this area, I think you would agree with me that if you have to do this, this approach works best.”

The city doesn’t own the property Washington Village sits on; the Norwalk Housing Authority does, he said.  Of the property being transferred as the in-kind contribution to get a HUD grant, he said, “You tell me what you think two dirt lots next to a dilapidated public housing project are worth. Given where we are, I think moving forward to make a positive change is the best path.”

Peña thanked Calle for reaching out about Day Street, and said he had thought the same thing when he first heard of the proposed transfer.

“There is much more that will and needs to come out to the community so that people understand what is going on,” he said. “On it’s surface, that’s what it looks like, but it’s much more complicated than that. … More will come out before this project goes ahead.”

He also said he sympathized with her school budget complaints.

“After everything we/I fought for last year, all of a sudden it looks like the city is going to forgive the debt to the BOE,” he said.  “So why go through all that we went through last year? It’s a serious game that this administration should not play with the people”

Despite the “short-sighted” remark, Calle tried to put a positive spin on the response to her email.

“I will say that I have contacted council members in the past and heard crickets,” she said. “The mayor called me back on a Sunday once. I was impressed. I think he thought he would catch me off guard, but I held my own.”


10 responses to “Norwalk resident ‘insulted’ by ‘short-sighted’ comment in email exchange”

  1. Diane C2

    You go Dawn!
    Mssrs. McCarthy and Pena and the rest of the Planning Committee passed the Day Street sale unanimously last evening, and without asking the tough questions that we residents are, and without even one public hearing. Having a ‘Community Day’ at washington Village doesn’t constitute a PUBLIC forum or hearing.
    Last night I attempted to correct what I think are inaccuracies and misconceptions in what they are being told, but in Norwalk, developers and folks who don’t even live here get all the time they need, but taxpayers get 3 minutes!
    Mr. McCarthy refers to Day Street parcels as two dirt lots next to public housing? He failed to mention their 2009 value of over $2 million! And water views! Did he happen to mention estimates as high as $10 million needed for public infrastructure improvements for the project? That money will come from you and me.
    “Hold your own” with all of them – the ones we elect, and especially those whose paychecks come out of our wallets….

  2. Andrea Light

    My reading of the agreement is that if the project is not going forward the $1 purchase price option for the Day Street parcels expires. This is an opportunity for NHA to get 30% ($30,000,000) of the project cost granted by the federal government for a project rectifying a problem that needs to be addressed. The Washington Village complex requires significant maintenance and repair not to mention the flooding issues. I think this is a forward-thinking collaboration all stakeholders can be proud of. My only concern – and I’m no expert on this project – is the underground parking.

  3. Sue Adams

    It seems like the city is actually doing something here and I like that. The area is dilapidated and whatever you think about public housing, this seems like an easy decision, kick in the extra lots and get $40M in return from the feds? I’m in.

    I think I detect the same tinge of racism under another name that often pops up in these discussions. We know who will live here, it will be “them” and we must not allow that to happen. Quick…make the argument about the park or the infrastructure, but the reality is these people are not willing to help “them” so they come out and fight these projects. Shame.

  4. LWitherspoon

    I agree with Andrea. Also the article states above that the NHA will “give” the land to Trinity Financial. I don’t believe that’s correct. While I’m not familiar with all the details, my impression was that the land would be leased to Trinity rather than given to them outright.

  5. Joe Espo

    Now we know that Diane is a racist. She’s against the City’s land deal so that the residents of Washington Village can have a home at least as good as she has. What do you resent about public housing, Diane? If the City is willing to commit the use of land for the betterment of Washington Village residents – so that they can have some decent housing to look forward to – why would you object to giving the residents equal opportunity to have what you have? This one-shot deal will help more people for a longer period of time than the $1.5 million per year that NEON wants, much of which went to line the pockets of staff and to put up Joe Mann’s ex-wife in a NEON-owned rent free apartment.

  6. Diane C2

    @Andrea – Nice to hear from you. To be clear, there are some “fine print” items that call into question the conditions under which the deal would be off, not the least of which are references in documents to “other grant”, potentially keeping us on the hook, but without the benefit of the Choice Neighborhood Initiave.

    Also, I know you’re aware that once we are “on the hook”, it’s all in, and that no matter the consequences, the developer and NHA can come back to Council with all kinds of changes; if past history is any indication, the current or future council will lack the courage or political will to say “no”. As I’ve state before, this falls under the “wink wink” deals and “holding the council hostage”.

    I want to see how many people are screaming support for this when our precious AAA bond rating is questionable due to tens of millions in capital for public infrastructure improvements. Redevelopment has already confirmed the number is so massive as to “exceed that which the city itself can or should address through any given year’s Capital Budget allocation and will require additional governmental assistance just as every other recent large scale development in the city’s redevelopment plan has recently”.
    Hold on to your wallets folks.

  7. Diane C2

    @Lwitherspoon – correct that NHA “leases” the land to Trinity for 40 year period, but the terms of lease are unknown. trinity and a Limited Partnership will own the buildings. Plus it appears to me that Trinity mays it at the end of the contractual time period.

  8. Tim T

    McCarthy is a joke..

  9. BARIN

    First of all, every council member should have responded to your email. Besides, if you dont respond it looks a little sketchy. If you dont live here you should’nt be making the decisions for residents, this should apply to department heads too. Most importantly, our elected officials should make that clear from the start, all they need is transparency in every thing they do.
    Mr. Mccarthy could have at least said two dirt lots with a great water view. C’mon man.
    @Ms. Adams, What?
    @Espo, What?

  10. I think I should add that Ms Calle lives in District E, which Mr. McCarthy represents.

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