Opinion: A rare act – or two – of political courage

Mark Chapman
Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman is a 36-year career journalist and is NancyOnNorwalk’s editor.

NORWALK, Conn. – Somebody had to say it.

Somebody with knowledge of the situation had to come out and make a statement – or two – about what is going on behind the curtains that cloak the caucuses of the city’s most powerful body.

We are not here to endorse Bruce Kimmel’s politics or past political hopscotching. We have been critical of Mr. Kimmel in the past for being elected in 2011 as a Democrat, giving the Dems the Council majority in what would become Republican Richard Moccia’s last term as mayor, then almost immediately leaving the Dem caucus and, eventually, joining the Republicans, one of three men elected as Democrats that year to jump the aisle.

We also were surprised to see him run in 2013 as a Democrat endorsed by Republicans and endorsing the Republican slate and platform. So we have paid special attention to Mr. Kimmel’s activities and performance over the past 10 months, and found that he is an independent voice, a part of a Council functioning in a largely bipartisan manner.

But, as with any group, there are people at the fringe who make life difficult for the rest. Since we began our mission of shining a light on Norwalk’s government to keep taxpayers informed about how their money is being spent, and how their city officials are behaving in their names, we have heard the stories and witnessed the actions of a few people who were elected to serve the people and do what is best for the city, but who may have other intentions.

Until now, no one in office has stepped to the fore to make public the situation. During last summer’s primary election campaign, former Common Council members Anna Duleep, a Democrat and current Norwalk Sheriff, and Republican Joanne Romano spoke out against second-term Council member David Watts (D-District A). But no sitting member had done so.

Now Mr. Kimmel has stood up to be counted, calling out Mr. Watts and Republican David McCarthy for their behavior and tactics that, Mr. Kimmel says, have no place in Norwalk politics.

In addition to the comments of support online, Mr. Kimmel has been slammed for “inappropriate” comments by Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B) and by One & Done for a lack of spine in standing up to “bullying.” Lack of spine? This from someone who fires at will at the city’s leaders from behind a screen name?

We applaud Kimmel’s political and personal courage in speaking out about a situation several government leaders in both parties have talked about, but only “off the record.”


And speaking of commenters…

Online comment sections are meant to give readers – or those who don’t read but want to expound on the topic – a place to get things off their chest. It is not meant to carry the weight of what is in the news section, but to provide a back fence, a neighborhood bar, a coffee shop or water cooler – a place to chat, argue and expound, all without getting out of your jammies, if that’s your choice.

Now and then, we see a few gems come through the comments. We don’t necessarily agree with them, and seldom do we agree with 100 percent of any of them, but we respect the tone and substance of the post. Here are a few recent comments that we liked and that provide food for thought:

From Michael McGuire:

“@Jeff – 30 years of commercial real estate is my background in the commercial real estate industry as an appraiser, corporate real estate consultant, developer, investor, and advisor. My livelihood requires me to track the changes effecting the industry, why they are happening, and what is the likely outcome.

“So to address the 50% gone in 20-30 years here is my response. 20-30 years is roughly 1/2 the life of a commercial property assuming no upgrades or major repairs etc. This is particularly true for special use properties such as a mall.

“To say that 50% wont be around in 20-30 years makes sense since most malls were built pre-1990 making most malls older than 25 years as of today. Add the mid-point of 20-30 years, or 25 years to the current mall age of 25 years = 50 years or older.

“Since you can’t move a mall but you can move people, and stats show a move back to the Cities with concentrations of wealth to the seaboards and major cities. Is it any wonder that lots of malls in the once thriving rust belt, Midwest, and less developed areas of the southeast have fallen on hard times. This fact is not in dispute.

“I agree that malls older than 50 years are likely great candidates for repositioning/recycling/demolition/etc(see my comment to Suzanne regarding life cycles).

“But I would bet that 99% of each and every one of those malls had a very productive part of their lifecycle. Right up to the point where either they were out-positioned by newer product, or had a decline in the local supporting demographics. It don’t see those issues as a factor to effect 95/7 in any foreseeable future.

Suzanne’s response, in part:

“There are filters people place on their opinions and on statistics when they are in the business they are in. Just like I have found numerous generalists who have a point of view, so have you represented the point of view of your industry. Generalists have no such buy in and are paid to do research at a neutral level:
“Retailers in Malls are failing. Malls like the one proposed are not being built – in the ENTIRE United States because they are dying. Not speculation, not a filter, but neutral reporting and research by a number of respected journals.
“This Mall is not a good bet for Norwalk just like more office space is not. If what is successful in America in terms of Malls, again without filters but from those researched reporters out there, are the retrofits that include multi-use elements and are open walking malls (as so prominently featured on GGP’s WEB site.) This is the retro “big-ugly box”, dressed up to look expensive for a demographic that does not exist or is hoped to exist at some point in the future with a life cycle of, what was it 25-50 years?”

From LWitherspoon:

“All newspapers, online or otherwise, generally provide background which includes a summary of an elected official’s past statements or actions related to the topic at hand. As an example, the article about Bruce Kimmel’s dissatisfaction with an unnamed member of the Republican caucus includes a history of actions by David McCarthy which may be a contributing factor to Mr. Kimmel’s unhappiness.
“NoN itself has run an article comparing Mayor Rilling’s campaign promises to his actions in office.
“In my opinion, pointing out when the actions of an elected official differ from his prior statements is one of the media’s most important functions. Give the voters the facts, and let them decide.”


11 responses to “Opinion: A rare act – or two – of political courage”

  1. One and Done.

    @Editor. Yep, a grown man crying about being bullied. That takes courage. And you are right. I’m weak because I chose to protect my family’s livelihood, which otherwise could be put at risk were I to publically speak my mind. Both local parties don’t tolerate free thinkers. In this respect, I always liked Bruce. I would just rather see him call Watts out for factual things like never being prepared, being a financial deadbeat, skipping meetings. Those are the things the electorate hears about, not some stupid political antics.

  2. MollyB


    I would not vote for Kimmel, McCarthy nor Watts. These guys need to grow up and get on with the peoples business. Did Kimmel provide any details? The press should demand examples of bullying behavior before going to print.

  3. Oldtimer

    Recently visited Midtown Crossing in Omaha. It is a group of high end apartment/condominium buildings with retail on the ground floor and parking under the buildings with a small park as part of the development. Regular concerts are scheduled in the park during the summer. Evening football games are shown on outdoor television and draw large crowds. Retail includes a large grocery store and a number of restaurants. It struck me as an excellent way to develop that 95-7 property for people looking for apartment living and able to pay for a prime location. There is a website for further information. http://www.midtowncrossing.com/about/default.aspx

  4. Jeff

    Good read. Despite not agreeing with him at times, I like that Councilman Kimmel is not glued to one particular party and can put on the independent hat and think for himself. He works hard and for humanity sakes treat him with respect. There should be no room for this with the mounting challenges the city faces . . . As for O&D, despite not always agreeing with him as well, I think net net he adds dimension to the comment board and is a valuable catalyst for thoughtful debate.

  5. Ethics-Schmethics

    @MarkChapman, would you kindly repost the link to the NON election article where Mr. Kimmel happily endorsed “the bully” Mr. McCarthy at the Norwalk Inn. Mr. Kimmel had no issue with Mr. McCarthy’s unpleasant tactics when they were not directed at him. “Courageous” may be slightly generous in the case of Mr. “it’s ok for you to bully other people, just not me” Kimmel.

    1. Mark Chapman


      Mr. Kimmel did not endorse Mr. McCarthy at the Norwalk Inn. Mr. McCarthy nominated Mr. Kimmel, who was subsequently endorsed by the Republicans as an at-large Council candidate. Shortly thereafter, Mr Kimmel endorsed Richard Moccia for mayor.

  6. Bruce Kimmel

    I did not endorse Mr. McCarthy or anyone else at the nominating convention. I am a Democrat and thus not a member of the Republican Town Committee.

  7. LWitherspoon

    It would be a great loss for Norwalk if Mr. Kimmel’s time on the Common Council ended. I don’t always agree with Mr. Kimmel but I like the way he takes the time to communicate with voters via well-reasoned letters to the editor. I also like his thoughtful, pragmatic, and independent approach to decision-making. Let’s hope fences can be mended and members of the Common Council can get back to serving Norwalk rather than fighting with each other.
    Mr. Kimmel is generally not prone to overstatement the way some other elected officials are, so I was surprised to hear Kimmel use such strong language when he said that David Watts has “destroyed” the Democratic caucus.
    @Mark Chapman
    Thanks for the highlight. I hope NoN will continue to hold all our elected officials accountable.

  8. Ethics-Schmethics

    @MarkChapman and @BruceKimmel I was not referencing the legally binding portion of the NRTC nominating convention. I was commenting on the political display of backslapping and happy talk that Mr. Kimmel displayed towards Mr. McCarthy and the entire Republican ticket during campaign season. None of Mr. McCarthy’s behavior is new, yet when it was politically advantageous for Mr. Kimmel to turn a blind eye, he did just that. I have searched your site for the link and cannot find it. The article and associated video show a Kimmel and Republican happy fest despite Mr. McCarthy’s tone and behavior.

  9. Ethics-Schmethics

    Apologies @MarkChapman, you did post the link in your response. Mr. Kimmel did not mind accepting “the bully” McCarthy’s endorsement, despite his inflammatory tone.

  10. Norewalk Lifer

    Yes, I remember the comments posted to this link that Mark Chapman supplied, thank you Mark.

    Mr.McCarthy characterize a whole body of people as “thuggish” and Mr. Kimmel said nothing.

    Now we hear Mr. Kimmel is decrying the less than collegial behavior on both sides of the street; as it once was famously said by a British royal: One cannot run with the hounds and ride with the horses.

    Norwalk Lifer

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