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Opinion: Norwalk is rebounding, with bi-partisan support

By Bruce Kimmel

Common Councilman, District A

NORWALK, Conn. – Listening to the four Democratic mayoral candidates competing for their party’s nomination, one would get the impression that very little is going right for the city of Norwalk. They are painting a portrait of a city in dire need of just about everything.

Ironically, a fair amount of positive developments have happened in recent months that create a much more favorable picture of the city. And despite the hyper-partisan rhetoric of the four candidates, these developments have all had some level of bipartisan support.

The most important piece of good news is the Board of Education’s decision to hire a new superintendent, Dr. Manuel Rivera, who, by virtually all accounts (both Democratic and Republican), is a highly qualified, award-winning educator whose children went to Norwalk schools.

Also, last month, the BOE, for the first time in memory, was able to fully fund its operating budget request, which enabled it to restore programs that had been eliminated because of the lingering effects of the economic slowdown. Four out of the five members in the official Democratic caucus opposed this budget when it was before the council. Still, it was passed with a bipartisan coalition of six Republicans and four Democrats (three of whom do not participate in their party’s caucus).

Add to that the city’s $20 million capital budget – which contains $2 million for textbooks as well as funds for the renovation of Naramake and Rowayton schools – and it is fair to say that our schools are receiving the level of funds they deserve. The council voted unanimously to approve the capital budget.

I should also note that construction of our new fire headquarters is on schedule and on budget. This is unheard of for major municipal projects. Plus, Waypointe, the mixed-use project on West Avenue, is under construction, and another mixed-use project is moving along steadily on North Water Street. All of these projects have received substantial bipartisan support.

Then there is the Washington Village transformation plan, which is now being evaluated by federal and state officials. Approval (and the possibility of receiving a $30 million federal grant) and implementation of this plan could lead to the construction of about 270 mixed-income units and will change South Norwalk for years to come. Apart from a lone Democrat, this plan was supported enthusiastically by both parties.

It is also worth noting that, according to our Buildings Department, permits for new construction are way up, higher than they have been in years, signifying at long last the city is past the Great Recession that began in 2008. This increase in permits, together with our healthy fund balance and other fiscal factors, will undoubtedly help the city maintain its critically important AAA bond rating. While the mayoral candidates might try to poke some holes in these numbers, I can’t imagine any of my council colleagues not applauding this development.

The closing of the Norwalk Museum in SoNo was definitely not a positive development, but there was silver lining that, in the long run, bodes extremely well for the city:

Our archival collection was moved to the Main Library, which has the space and personnel to organize it. Plus, it is being digitized so scholars the world over will have easy access to our history. And the museum collection is being moved to the city-owned Lockwood House and will be under the auspices of the city’s very active Historical Society (pending the expected bipartisan approval by the full council).

There is lingering controversy over the decision to outsource our solid waste pickup (the official Democratic caucus vehemently opposed it; I supported it as a member of a bipartisan majority). However, I believe the entire council supports the decision to adopt single-stream recycling, which began in July. It will save a bunch of money and is the right thing to do environmentally.

Unfortunately, the portrait being painted by the four mayoral hopefuls is not only tilted toward the extreme end of the negativity scale and distorts what’s going on in our lovely city, it is also at odds with what Democratic members of the council have been doing with their Republican colleagues.

Bruce Kimmel

Common Councilman, District A

Comments

13 responses to “Opinion: Norwalk is rebounding, with bi-partisan support”

  1. Tim T

    Bruce
    Why not make it official and become a Republican. Your letter sounds like an ad for Moccia.. I find your letter and you running as a dem when you are clearly a Republican insulting to the Norwalk taxpayer.

  2. loveforthecity

    This is the man who has no island to fall back on. The lonely Democratic who wants to remain a Democratic but have nothing to do with the Democratic Party. The Republicans won’t take him. Guys like this, Hilliard and Geake need to find another hobby. Norwalk wants nothing to do with these false Democrats.

  3. notaffiliated

    Looks like the truth hurts. Been to the beach lately? Sure looks much better than years past.

    If I had my druthers, I’d banish the party system on a local level. This way the blind party faithful would have to use their heads when voting. Nope, you can’t just check DDDDDDD or RRRRRRR

  4. Bruce Kimmel

    Tim, thank you for the response.
    .
    I am a registered Democrat. But after fifteen years of trying to work with the local Democratic organization, two years ago I decided it was not worth the effort and severed all my ties to the local party organization while retaining my Democratic registration. The fighting, backstabbing and personal agendas were too much to take. I had other things I wanted to do, like help govern the city. There is no rule that requires me to maintain an organizational affiliation.
    .
    Many constituents have said they respected my independence and willingness to evaluate issues on their merits. And that’s what I have always tried to do. Unfortunately, the local Democratic organization repeatedly condemned me for voting my conscience and working in a bipartisan manner. I believe it was in everyone’s interest for me to sever my ties to the organization while retaining the principles.
    .
    Before the 2011 election, I informed the local organization that I am who I am, I have always been that way, that I was not going to change, and that they did not have to nominate me. But, fearing a primary, they decided to nominate me anyway. During the campaign, I stressed my independence and commitment to the city’s future above all else.
    .
    After the election, as the internal discord intensified — and the fighting became physical but not public — I wrote a letter to party leaders indicating that it just wasn’t worth it, I had better things to do than participate in a dysfunctional organization. Interestingly, at the time most of them, including current mayoral candidates, did not disagree. However, they were more than a little surprised when I kept my word.

  5. Lisa Thomson

    Tim T. I don’t think that Bruce is a Republican. I think that he is a Norwalker who reaches across party lines to get things done. I applaud that quality in Bruce. As an unaffiliated voter and activist, I look for individuals in Norwalk who do what is best for the city and not their party. With 1/3 of a Billion dollar budget, residents can no longer afford the tribal warfare politics that stems from the individual districts and two major parties. And while I have been a vocal critic of the GOP good ole boy network, I am equally disgusted by what I have scene with the Dems. My hope (perhaps not this election cycle) is that voters with a fiscal conservative but social progressive bent will unite under a reform agenda and cherry pick those ‘reasonable people’ candidates regardless of party, since 40% of Norwalk voters are not interested in affiliating with either.

  6. loveforthecity

    Lisa what world are you living in? Get over it, this is a two Party system, especially here in Norwalk.

    Bruce you are a broken record already. The public is tired of your antics, who knows what you are as it seems you are confused yourself. Didn’t you just retire, why don’t you go enjoy the golden years?

  7. LWitherspoon

    I find it interesting that all of the attacks above on Bruce Kimmel do not dispute the factual content of his piece. Sounds like the attackers care more about the game of politics and what team people are on than about debating the issues.
    .
    If you want to play a team sport, join an adult recreational league. Lisa Thompson is right – when 40% of Norwalkers are not interested in affiliating with either party, that’s a clear signal that they want bipartisanship.

  8. Ken P Jr

    Norwalk isnt moving forward if you are a taxpaying resident. bHow is the Washingtn village thing moving forward? If we need MORE subsidized houseing then its obvious we have MORE people not being able to make it. Moving forward would mean LEES people on aid not more. But of course Democrats need poor people to vote for them so more welfare cases is good for them. We have a New FD in the works, thats great but honestly there wasnt anything wrong with the old one, take a look at our roads, which ALL Norwalk residents use, they stink, but all we get are excuses. The debacle on West Ave south of 95 is still at a stand still and the one North of 95 pushed many long time taxpaying businesses out so that a few people can make money.We see bi-partisan support because all we have is liberal representation. Sure theres republicans and democrats but no conservative voices. We farm out our parks for money, we use our beach as a tourist attraction, we use Taylor farm, a beautiful chunk of parkland, as a parking lot for non residents. Very little we do as a city is for anything beyond raising money or political bragging rights.
    In short the quality of life here has steadily gone down down down. There really is nothing much to brag about from my view. And I LOVE living here, Norwalk itself is beautiful, but its being ruined by people who care more about appearances than substance, people looking to make a living off of it, such as this candidate from what little I know of him.

  9. Joe B

    @Ken P A lot of what you say makes sense. The mess on West avenue is a glaring example. However, having never met this man, I’ve heard many good things about Mr. Kimmel. Whether anyone agrees or disagrees with his stance on an issue it’s refreshing to see someone who is not above speaking out at the risk of alienating his contemporaries. We as a whole need more of that sort of stuff. Party politics, at any level, benefit no taxpayer that I know. As a republican I would certainly explore voting for him unfortunately I am not in his district.

  10. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    So, Bruce Kimmel, since you have found a middle ground between fish and fowl, why don’t you run for mayor?

    It does seem that someone who knows how to work with both sides is the ideal man.

    If you are not willing or able fight the nasty fight of even getting to a primary, how about Harry Rilling who really has worked with both sides and who manages to keep a focus on civility while doing so?

  11. YourDaddy

    Bruce Kimmel is much more honest and up front than Rilling. Bruce maintains his Democrat registration but votes his conscience. Rilling (as a fence-sitting Unaffiliated) pals around with Republicans as Chief, then after he’s milked that for all its worth and sees an opportunity to switch to a desperate Democratic party to run for Mayor, he jumps over there, even going so far as to stand supportively silent behind the podium at the sad Morris-Brown-Krummel press conference. I’d rather deal with someone I disagree with than a flip-flopping opportunist.

  12. Piberman

    The most positive development in recent years has been the BOE’s securing of an Arbitration Award saving the City $2.6 million and the hiring of a nationally recognized Superintendent. The leadership of the BOE is Republican.

    Mr Kimmel is the only Councilman who prefers writing OpEds which the Hour feels obligated to publish in an attempt to boost his “party of one” rather than follow proper governance and put his energies into the Council doing the job he was elected to do. Mr Kimmel likes to talk about issues. But an effective Councilman works within the Council and earns the respect of all Council members. No other Council member writes OpEds criticizing other Council members. After a long career both at the BOE and Council Mr Kimmel is known for his entertaining OpEds, not for his legislative achievements.

    It’s time for Mr Kimmel to retire from public service in Norwalk. We thank him for his OpEds and service. All in all he has not been an effective elected official and has antagonized both parties. He was not elected to major leadership posts despite a long career in public service.

    Mr Kimmel would do well to reflect on the revitalization of the BOE in recent years doing their business with each other and not writing OpEds telling us what to do. At days end the public understands that dedicated public servants are valued for what they do working with their colleagues, not writing OpEds in a one man band telling us what to do. Leadership is not complicated.

  13. M Allen

    Actually, leadership is complicated. Real leadership anyway. Following the herd blindly isn’t complicated. Neither is being someone who can’t get along with anyone and thus is never part of getting anything done. Mr. Kimmel doesn’t strike me as someone who can’t get along. Just someone who won’t simply follow lemmings off a cliff.

    But really, even for Democrats in Norwalk, is Kimmel the big problem? The roadblock to “getting things done”? He may not be the classic, dyed in the wool party member that so many in these divisive times have come to expect, but neither was Joe Lieberman. And quite frankly, I think Joe was good for Connecticut.

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