NORWALK, Conn. – Now here’s one you didn’t see coming. Frankly, neither did we.
NancyOnNorwalk’s crack editorial team was hanging after 5 p.m. Friday on the benches near the doors to City Hall when what to our wondering eyes appeared the mayor of Norwalk in full stride toward the parking lot. The mayor shot us a glance, acknowledged our presence, then answered a question NoN had sent him a short while ago regarding a “non-political” press conference featuring Democratic mayoral hopeful Vinny Mangiacopra and Common Councilman David Watts that had wrapped up a half hour earlier.
Now, regular NoN readers know the mayor has been, shall we say, less than responsive to questions over the nearly 11 months the site has been in operation. But Friday, the mayor stopped to talk, answered the original question and stood for an interview and impromptu chat that included some frank exchanges. The video from that interview – and a video from the “non-political” press conference — can be found by clicking here.
The off-camera exchange will stay between the parties involved – it was all quite civil and amiable — but here’s hoping that the mayor will continue to be as responsive to us between now and November as he was Friday. Because when he talks to us, he is really talking to you, our readers and Norwalk’s taxpayers who pay his and every other city employee’s salary.
Our word today is “disingenuous”
Now about that non-political press conference.
First of all, I’ve been around this biz a long time, and I am no prima donna, but my time is valuable. It gets that way as you get older. So when a political candidate calls a last-minute press conference for 4 p.m. four days before a primary election, it would be the right thing to do for the candidate to show up on time.
Oh, he and his friend/backer and Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) weren’t rock star late, just the kind of late that leaves busy members of the media, who are often on deadline, thinking “five more minutes and I’m out of here.”
Mangiacopra, with Watts off to the side, went before the cameras (NoN, Channel 12, and The Hour) to announce this press conference wasn’t about politics, but that the mayor had totally fallen down on the job after a teacher reported what might have been gunshots outside Cranbury Elementary School at about 11:25 a.m. Wednesday.
Then, after giving a blow-by-blow of how he found out from his wife, a Cranbury teacher, that the school was on lockdown and how the mayor, who was about to cut a ribbon to open the Oyster Festival at 11:30 a.m., did not yet know this when he called him, he made another obviously non-political reference.
He threw the entire Norwalk Democratic state legislative delegation under the bus.
That delegation – Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), Rep Bruce Morris (D-140) and Rep. Chris Perone (D-137) – just happened to have been at City Hall at 4 p.m. Tuesday to endorse Mangiacopra’s front-running opponent, former Police Chief Harry Rilling, for mayor.
And, one member of that delegation – Perone – happens to be targeted by one David Watts, who has formed an exploratory committee with the intention of putting the three-term rep and state Commerce Committee chairman out of work in November 2014.
So Mangiacopra, in a very non-political moment, said the three legislators, like the mayor, were “nowhere to be found” when the Wednesday lockdown went down.
Except that Duff, like Moccia, was at the ribbon cutting. And Duff, unlike Moccia, took to Twitter just as soon as there was concrete information to Tweet, it seems.
Mangiacopra, 31, part of the Twitter generation, complained it took Moccia, 70, part of, well, the typewriter and dial telephone generation, nearly three hours to send out his first Tweet to let the public know what was going on. And it did. But Moccia said he was in touch with the police throughout the incident, and postponed the ribbon cutting by a half hour until it appeared that the Cranbury situation was a false alarm. This is backed up by one “nowhere to be found” Bob Duff, who began Tweeting at 12:11 p.m. – about 45 minutes after the first report of possible gunshots – to let his followers know that he had just spoken to the mayor and that everything was OK at the school. Duff continued to Tweet until things were resolved, and even sent out the verbatim police update at 12:17 p.m.
Moccia admitted some things could have been done differently, communication-wise, and Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons said in a letter to the editor on NoN that the school system’s new emergency procedures are not completely implemented yet. But all involved – police, BOE chairman, Mayor – agree that the presence of politicians at the scene, and the mass alert of the citizens or even parents – would have been the wrong thing to do until the police knew what they were dealing with.
But the press conference? Ain’t no politics here…
A home run? A slam dunk? A knockout?
While speaking at a mayoral candidates forum at the South Norwalk Community Center, Mangiacopra suggested harnessing some of Norwalk’s favorite athletic sons to get involved with youth in their hometown as a way of giving back to the community. Mangiacopra mentioned three-time All-American and NBA Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy, former Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn and his pal, backer, former common councilman and current council candidate Travis Simms, a two-time WBA super welterweight boxing champ as people who could be examples of Norwalk youth working hard to make something of themselves. (About the slam dunk — that maneuver was not a part of Murphy’s repertoire. At 5-foot-9 the former Houston Rocket guard is the shortest player in the Hall of Fame).
We have had little luck getting in touch with mayoral candidate Andy Garfunkel throughout the campaign, and the former town Clerk, who came within 850 votes of unseating Moccia in 2011, has missed several candidate events. His website is clean and easy to read, but has remained static. Most observers give him little to no chance of being the Democratic nominee Tuesday night when the votes are counted. And this is too bad, because, when he did show up for a public event, Garfunkel showed a spark and a fire that was missing in 2011, and his call for a city charter revision to eliminate and consolidate positions at City Hall – and to make changes in key positions – is spot on. One can hope whoever wins will take a good look at those ideas.