Opinion: Once around the city

(Once around the city is a new feature that we hope to run every Saturday, featuring some opinion and information gleaned from city press releases and other sources.)

NORWALK, Conn. – The election is over, the turkey leftovers are gone, and Norwalk’s new mayor and Common Council are beginning to cobble together the government that will be responsible for the city’s direction for the next few years.

To put it another way, the sausage-making has begun.

In recent years past, the process of appointing volunteers to boards and commissions was pretty straight forward. The mayor and his Republican Party wanted A, B and C, and, for the most part, that’s who he got. With a Republican majority on the council, the appointments were, mostly, waved through. Oh, things got messy a few times, with Democrats raising a ruckus, but in the end, they had no recourse.

Things are different now. With a Democrat as mayor and the Republicans holding a narrow 8-7 edge on the council, things aren’t so black and white. This is especially true because one of Republican caucus members is technically a Democrat and has a history of jumping the fence, not just with his votes but with his caucus affiliation.

In addition, Council Majority Leader Jerry Petrini is a reasonable, center-right kind of Republican, and Mayor Harry Rilling is a center-left kind of Democrat. Add to that Council Minority Leader John Igneri, a mild-mannered gentleman leading the Democrats, and it seems like Norwalk might well have a functional, “what’s-best-for-the-city” government in place.

So while there has been a lot of back-and-forth about who is acceptable to both parties, Norwalk should be better off for the checks and balances, just as the authors of the charter intended.

Education Mandate Relief Task Force

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) attended the first meeting Dec. 4 of the Education Mandate Relief Task Force, which has begun its work on preparing legislation for consideration during the 2014 session. The formation of the task force was required by legislation that Lavielle authored and introduced earlier this year, according to a press release from her office

Lavielle is one of eight legislators appointed to the task force and the only one from Norwalk. The group is charged with identifying opportunities for relief from mandates that may be detrimental to teaching and learning in Connecticut’s public schools.

During the first meeting, the group committed to completing a legislative proposal early enough to allow its consideration during the next legislative session, which opens on Feb. 5, 2014, the release said.

While the language of the statute refers specifically to high-performing school districts, the group agreed unanimously to expand its recommendations for mandate relief options to all school districts.

“I was especially pleased by the group’s decision to consider all public school districts in our deliberations,” said Lavielle. “Our goal is to help ensure that schools can provide the best possible learning environment and education to our students. That goal is critical for every single one of our public schools.”

On Nov. 21, Lavielle and Weston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer, also a task force member, hosted a public meeting in Westport where superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, school board members, union representatives, elected officials, and members of the general public were invited to share their concerns and ideas about education mandates. More than 150 educators, parents, and students from across the state attended the meeting. They came from a range of towns, including Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, New Haven, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton.

Possible opportunities for mandate relief raised by speakers at the meeting included administrative processes and procedures related to teacher evaluations and student success plans, aspects of the implementation of Common Core State Standards, in-school suspensions, regional school calendars, and administrative procedures related to special education programs .

The Education Mandate Relief Task Force will continue to meet throughout December and January. Its next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19.

Tax re-val workshops planned

The city has mailed notices of the Preliminary 2013 Revaluation value estimates for real property to property owners. These market-value estimates reflect market and physical conditions of real estate in Norwalk as of the Oct. 1 assessment date, according to a city press release. The assessed values will be used to calculate real property taxes subject to Informal Review and Board of Assessment Appeal revisions.

To help citizens understand the process, the city will hold a series of workshops prior to concluding Informal Appeal Hearings on Dec. 31. The sessions are scheduled Dec. 16-19.

Informal Appeals are the best opportunity for property owners to achieve resolutions of data and valuation issues before the grand list is finalized, the release said.

The attached neighborhood presentation schedule contains dates, times and locations that have been reserved to provide area specific revaluation information and to answer questions concerning the specified neighborhoods.

For workshop schedule, click here: Presentation Schedules

DPW snow removal policy

There are 255 miles of roadway in Norwalk, according to a city press release. Snow removal can cost more than $5,000 , per hour. Snow cleanup usually takes between 16 and 24 hours from the end of a snowstorm. Therefore it is important for DPW to use its resources wisely and with cooperation from residents.

The DPW reminds Norwalk residents about its snow removal policy:

Plow Routes: There are 26 snow plow routes within the city; within each route, streets are plowed and salted in order of an established priority. Main (major and minor arterials, collectors) roads are addressed first, with special attention to steep hills and difficult intersections. Side streets are done next, then dead-end streets. Side streets may remain unplowed if the main roads require repeated plowing. Although this may, at times, seem unfair to the residents of side streets, dead-end streets or cul-de-sacs, main roads must remain open for emergency service personnel.

Vehicles Parked on Streets: The greatest hindrance to efficient snow removal is privately owned vehicles that are parked on the street. You should make every attempt to move your vehicles off the street during every snow event.

Blocked Driveways: All snow plows angle the same way (to the driver’s right) and will automatically push the snow in front of a driveway. Homeowners are responsible for access to their driveways. The best way to avoid extra shoveling is to wait until DPW crews have done their final pass on the street and pile your shoveled snow to the right side of your drive as you face the street.

Sidewalks: Per city ordinance, Norwalk property owners are responsible for keeping all sidewalks along their property clear of snow and ice. The city clears only sidewalks that are not abutted by private property. Keeping in mind that snow plows will push street snow onto sidewalks, it is advisable to clear sidewalks after the plows have finished your street. Do not throw snow from sidewalks back into the street.

Private Plowing: The city prohibits private plowing contractors from pushing snow from driveways or parking lots onto city streets. This practice is dangerous and impedes the city’s snow removal efforts. If there is no other alternative to pushing snow across a street, the private plow driver must plow off the windrow left across the street by re-plowing until the road is safe. Such plowing should leave the roadway in no worse condition than when the driver began work. Private plowers who violate this prohibition will be cited and fined.

Mailbox and Fence Damage: The city repairs or replaces only mailboxes, posts and/or fences that are actually struck by a plow blade. Usually a paint mark or truck tire tracks supply evidence of an actual strike. The city does not repair or replace mailboxes, posts and/or fences that fall from the force of plowed snow. Mailboxes, supporting posts and fences must be installed to withstand the rigors of snow removal, including the force of snow pushed from the street onto the roadside.

Emergency Snow Routes: The city has designated a number of streets as Emergency Snow Routes. These streets are marked with signs. When the mayor declares a snow emergency, it is illegal to park on either side of these streets. Vehicles illegally parked on these streets during a snow emergency will be ticketed and/or towed. The owners of such vehicles will be responsible for paying the towing costs, the fines and any other costs associated with releasing the vehicle from impound.


5 responses to “Opinion: Once around the city”

  1. Debora

    The City does not remove snow. It relocates it onto private property. It is impossible to”wait until the plowing is done”before shoveling one’s sidewalk and driveway because the city will repeatedly cover the same walk over an 8 hour period and the snow is packed much more tightly. It becomes to dense to separate with a shovel and too heavy to lift for an average person.
    It’s time the city acknowledged that there is a conflict in their policy because our sidewalks are to narrow to accommodate snow piling and invest in some snow melters. It would help if the city put appropriately sized snow blades on the plows.

  2. Oldtimer

    In Canada, in the cities, they use snow plows, and then they come back and pickup the snow with very large snow blowers and blow it up past sidewalk onto yards where there is room and into dump truck where there is no good place to put it with the snow blowers. The streets around Montreal are kept pretty clear, but they must spend a lot on snow plowing and removal. The secondary streets, if they are level, do not get plowed at all and people drive over the snow and ice, carefully.

  3. EveT

    It would be so great to have a functional, “what’s-best-for-the-city” government!

  4. Debora

    And in NYC, the streets are wide enough to push the snow into piles in the on-street parking lanes, not onto the sidewalks that the residents are required to keep clear of snow and ice. No waiting is required because the is no danger of having a shoveled sidewalk re-covered by a passing snow plow.
    We mostly don’t have parking lanes for on-street parking, but even when we do, the snow is thrown at a height of four feet onto the sidewalks and onto the properties where the homeowner would naturally be piling the snow, meaning shoveled snow from t the side walk and the owners’ own walkways and driveways has to be lifted higher, carried further, or thrown.
    In NYC, snow melters are used for the locations where it is dangerous to have snow piles, like crosswalks that require wheelchair accessibility and corners where visibility is critical. Of course, NYC residents pay a city tax on top of their property and state tax. And they collect dedicated sales taxes for city services as well.
    The cost of snow removal is significant and no one wants to pay more, but is there a way to make the current process better without it actually costing more?
    At this point, it would be less work for me to clear the street in front of my home and the sidewalk myself, because I would only be moving each volume once to the most efficient and final resting place,.

  5. Debora

    It should also be noted that the city does not advise owners at the time they might be considering construction of a fence that it must stand up to the rigors of snow approval. If one is checking to see if they need a permit for a fence, this is the guidance they get


    I doubt that anyone looking at that document would think to look at the snow removal policy to understand that there are further obligations, especially when considering something that does not require a permit.

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