Opinion: Look who’s talking, and can you say ‘disingenuous’?

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).

Whither Andy?

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.


7 responses to “Opinion: Look who’s talking, and can you say ‘disingenuous’?”

  1. moonshot

    Hey M, read allot of Breslin in your day huh? Seems like your just getting warmed up. Love it, keep em coming. Disengenuous. Love it. That could be a regular feature, the word of the day in Norwalk.

  2. Don’t Panic

    Again, measuring the city’s ability to communicate by twitter is flat out wrong. All citizens need to be informed, not just those using smart phones and new media. Maybe its time for a communications director so that info from city hall can stop being “self serve”.

    Andy was seen carrying out his responsibilities at the Oyster Festival this weekend.

  3. Joe Espo

    I think the word “disingenuous” might also apply to you, Mark, when you protest that the Mayor is ignoring your enterprise. Could it be because he is disinterested in legitimizing what is the sotto voce essence of NON’s existence – retaliation for tapegate? I’m sure that when a NON operative is apparent within the Mayor’s gaze, he sees one big fat middle finger waving at his face- you know, like one of those over-sized foam index fingers that sports fans display at ball games to send the message that their team is number one. You send the message: (expletive) you! So when you write that the Mayor is somehow betraying the taxpayers by dismissing your journalistic legitimacy, you’re admitting less than what you know: that your raison d’etre is for the unmitigated prosecution of a campaign to unseat Richard Moccia. Whereas the dems are doing the same for political gain, you’re doing it for sport. Wearing the taxpayer’s mask is farcical. Me thinks that your lack of candor in that regard is the essence of being “disingenuous.”

  4. Daisy

    Moccia probably senses your bias, and may also have been waiting and watching while the Dems hang themselves, which they seem to be doing a good job of.

  5. Suzanne

    A smart person would get in the ring. If Moccia perceives bias or believes there is, the best way to quell the speculation is to talk directly to it and to communicate his perspectives as our Mayor about any issue of concern to this constituency. He doesn’t seem to talk to the Hour or Daily Voice either. To side step coverage because of some incident so many months ago of, now, insignificance, is fearful or resentful or angry or….can be characterized as showing little back bone letting such matters waylay information voters and taxpayers deserve to know. I would think such a seasoned politician as Moccia would know better. And to play to “retaliation” as Mr. Espo states, is just childish. Somewhere in here, I would expect the Mayor of Norwalk to be a better person, a better leader, more engaged with all of us so we could be confident our town is being led in the right direction. Instead? Fear of bias? Afraid of the big finger? If this were the case, I am sure there are plenty of NON readers who would set the editors straight. So far, I have seen NON just trying to get a word, any word, in response to campaign issues and city governance.

  6. Lisa Thomson

    As Mike Lyons said in his earlier letter to the editor, school safety enhancements are still being worked out. But before Newtown, there must have been a school policy or procedure on school matters involving the police? Is communicating that ‘everything was OK at Cranbury,” a school, police or mayoral matter, OR all of the above?

    Norwalk has the technology and uses it in so many other other instances. If the city can send out reverse 911 robo calls for the new garbage bins, storms and the like and the school district can send out robo calls to parents for delayed starts, snow days, annual events, summer school or district surveys (these are the ones that most readily come to my mind) then an “All Clear” 911 robo call could surely have been sent out to parents of children attending Cranbury School, once the police cleared it.

    I think ALL city and state officials could better serve the community by ensuring that a coordinated effort and policy exists regarding communication of relevant issues and events with parents, residents and taxpayers, rather than some of the seemingly endless photo ops we see each day in The Hour or posts via social media.

    Perhaps, on a more positive note, the BOE’s support at the new superintendent’s insistence of hiring a communications director based upon what he read in 3rd party reports, parent surveys and even his own job description, indicates that somebody is listening.

    (apologies for accidentally posting this comment on a previous – not relevant story…obviously it was too early in the morning 🙂

  7. YourDaddy

    Thank God the comments on here are interesting, because the bias shown by this site, particularly since Rilling started advertising on here, is obvious. Pot shots at Vinny, Miklave and Andy.

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