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Norwalk roundup: Redevelopment on the move; concern over Briggs students; assessment appeals due

The First Taxing District building on Belden Avenue. (Google)

Updated, 11:03 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk news items for you:

  • Potential Redevelopment move to Belden Avenue said to be part of library’s ‘perfect storm’
  • Penn-Williams repeats: Briggs kids are falling through the cracks
  • Deadline approaching on appeals to property assessments

 

Continue reading Norwalk roundup: Redevelopment on the move; concern over Briggs students; assessment appeals due

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Celebrating Darwin Day

Send signed letters to [email protected]

How fortunate we are in Connecticut to have leaders like Rep. Jim Himes and Sen. Dick Blumenthal who show a passionate and unbridled commitment to using science as a tool for developing effective government policy, and who again have introduced Darwin Day Resolutions into the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.  Our friends at the Freedom From Religion Foundation asks that we contact our legislators to urge their support. I propose that you use their form to send a message of acknowledgement and appreciation for their roles introducing these symbolic, yet important, resolutions.

And don’t forget, our 11th Annual Darwin Day Dinner celebration is this Saturday, Feb 16, in Stamford.  (see www.DarwinDayCT.org).  Science fun!

 

John Levin

 

Levin is a member of the Chapman Hyperlocal Media, Inc. Board of Directors, and a mensch.

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Norwalk notes: Lawsuit concern, Brinton slams Rilling, RIP Jackie Steiner

Wall Street Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Nancy McGuire listens to Norwalk Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss (not shown) explain a revision to the Wall Street/West Avenue Redevelopment Plan, last week in City Hall.

Updated, 11:02 a.m.: Copy edits, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – Some noteworthy Norwalk items:

  • WSNA warns of possible litigation over Wall-West plan
  • Brinton slams Rilling over proposed budget
  • Jacqueline Steiner, 1924-2019

Continue reading Norwalk notes: Lawsuit concern, Brinton slams Rilling, RIP Jackie Steiner

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Norwalk Council notes: Library cafe, parking lot sale, and IMAX update on tap

A rendering of the cafe proposed for the Norwalk Public Library.

Updated, 10:42 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what’s on the Common Council agenda for Wednesday:

  • A café for the library
  • Sale of the YMCA parking lot
  • ‘Restructuring’ will facilitate construction of new Maritime theater

 

(The Council was originally set to meet on Tuesday, as is standard, but the meeting was postponed to Wednesday. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. with a presentation of the recommended 2019-20 operating budget and at 8 p.m. continue with the regular agenda.)
Continue reading Norwalk Council notes: Library cafe, parking lot sale, and IMAX update on tap

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Opinion: The educational status quo was not acceptable

Norwalk is experiencing a demographic transformation. Its population is increasing and becoming more diversified. These changes have transformed our schools. The current student population is roughly fifty percent Hispanic. And sixty-three percent of our students are considered high needs.

Rapid change often produces conflict. Typically, long-entrenched officials and well-connected community leaders are slow to adjust to the new reality. This conflict between the past and future generally leads to acrimonious debate, screaming headlines, and unsubstantiated allegations. Continue reading Opinion: The educational status quo was not acceptable

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Norwalk looks to use $6M from ‘Rainy Day Fund’ to reduce budget’s impact on taxpayers

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Thomas Hamilton, right, helps Norwalk Director of Management and Budgets Angela Fogel, left, present the recommended 2019-20 operating budget, Monday in City Hall.

Updated, 9:30 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk is planning a $6 million reduction in its fund balance, or “Rainy Day Fund,” as part of its 2019-20 operating budget.

If approved, the result would be a decline in most homeowner tax bills, in spite of expenditures increasing 3.3 percent overall, and a 4.2 percent increase on the Board of Education side of the budget. Homeowners in two districts would see a tax increase: East Norwalk would rise 6 percent and South Norwalk would rise 1 percent, due to the property revaluation.

Mayor Harry Rilling lauded everyone who worked on the budget and noted that the grand list fell by $1 billion in 2013, but it’s “starting to come back.”

“I believe that our grand list has increased by about 16 percent,” Rilling said at Monday’s Board of Estimate and Taxation meeting.  Continue reading Norwalk looks to use $6M from ‘Rainy Day Fund’ to reduce budget’s impact on taxpayers

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Opinion: Realistic CT budget must address fixed costs, sales tax reform

Ned Lamont. (CT Mirror)

My fellow residents, friends and neighbors,

First, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to govern this great state. It doesn’t matter to me for whom you voted in November. From the day I was elected, I began focusing on governing the best way I know how – transparently, openly, and in a way that encourages debate, dialogue and discussion on all sides of an issue. That’s why it’s important that you hear from me directly about my vision for Connecticut’s future and how it shapes the budget that I will be submitting to the legislature in just over a week.

I believe our state is poised for success, with new jobs on the rise, unemployment rates at historic lows, and the growth of established and emerging sectors from wind energy to biotechnology on the horizon. I also believe that delivering on those opportunities requires a sustained commitment to fiscal stability that will allow Connecticut to turn the page on what’s been holding it back and give you, your employers, and your local governments the confidence you need to thrive. Continue reading Opinion: Realistic CT budget must address fixed costs, sales tax reform

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Norwalk poised to restructure Oak Hills’ debt

Oak Hills Park, in June.

Updated, Feb, 14: copy edit; 9:54 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park Authority has worked out a deal to restructure its loan agreement with the City.

“We have crafted something that would allow Oak Hills to move forward and not have to come back to the City while recognizing the fact that a lot of the issues creating the current situation were issues that happened 15-18 years ago, and it really was a difficult situation for them to continue to operate under those conditions,” Mayor Harry Rilling said at Monday’s Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) meeting.

The BET went on to unanimously approve the restructuring – which replaces yearly loan payments by the Authority with a percentage of its intake, and lowers the interest rate to zero.  The arrangement also authorizes a $83,000 “reimbursement” to the Authority for its expenses in upgrading restaurant equipment. Continue reading Norwalk poised to restructure Oak Hills’ debt

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NPS looks to ‘restore’ relationships in new approach to student discipline

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Mary Yordon closes out Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting with comments on restorative practices, illustrated on the screen behind her.

Updated, 9:59 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Public Schools is poised to take a new approach to student discipline, beginning in the middle and high school levels.

The Board of Education on Feb. 19 is expected to approve a revised code of student conduct along with restorative practices, a system of relationship building between teachers and students, and student to student, to help students learn to take responsibility for their actions, understand what they’ve done, and repair the damage.

“The old mentality was, ‘a kid acts up, just get them out of the building,’ and that just simply doesn’t work in our current approach. We need students in the building if we are going to close achievement gaps and build the learning that we hope for and expect,” Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo said at Tuesday’s BoE meeting. Continue reading NPS looks to ‘restore’ relationships in new approach to student discipline

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Wall-West plan revision rejected by area business owners

Norwalk Wall Street businessman Michael McGuire speaks to the Common Council Planning Committee, Thursday in City Hall.

Updated, 2:54 p.m.: more information; 9:42 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – The description of the Wall Street area as “blighted” has been changed to “deteriorated or deteriorating,” in a revision to the proposed Wall Street-West Avenue Redevelopment Plan.

Multiple commenters responded to the change with protests at Thursday’s Common Council Planning Committee meeting.  Speakers were at a bit of a disadvantage in addressing the revision as it had only been posted to the City’s website the day before. The plan has grown from 171 pages to 189.  Another change: rather than claiming that 385 properties fall under the definition of “blight,” it now states that 73 percent of the 372 parcels in the area have 30 percent deterioration, and 36 percent have at least 40 percent deterioration, which makes the area legally eligible for a redevelopment plan.

The term “Innovation District” was publicly dropped more than a month ago, and the Ordinance Committee is considering a “Real Estate Tax Agreement Ordinance for Wall Street – West Avenue Neighborhood Plan Area,” which will be part of the redevelopment plan.

Members of the Wall Street Neighborhood Association have objected to the “blight” designation and the “extraordinary regulatory control” such a plan would bring. The Association, in a letter to the editor last week, attacked the blight designation which is the Redevelopment Agency’s legal justification for having a redevelopment plan.  Continue reading Wall-West plan revision rejected by area business owners

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How to say ‘I’m sorry’

Demonstrators call for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“I’m sorry.”

These two words may seem simple, but the ability to express them when you’re in the wrong is anything but – particularly for those in the public eye.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, to name a recent example, was forced to apologize after his 1984 medical school yearbook page resurfaced showing two unnamed men, one with blackface and another wearing the Ku Klux Klan’s white hood and robe. That he seriously botched his effort to apologize is arguably one of the reasons many people are still calling on him to resign. Continue reading How to say ‘I’m sorry’

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Lawmakers seek to curb youth access to e-cigarettes, tobacco

Sen. Mary Abrams, D-Meriden, with Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, introduced legislation Thursday that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. (CTMirror.org)

Connecticut lawmakers are sounding the alarm on teen vaping and tobacco use with a wave of legislation that would impose further restrictions on the products and attempt to curb youth access as states across the country are taking up similar measures.

Bills introduced from both sides of the aisle or with bipartisan support include raising the minimum age for buying electronic cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 to 21, banning flavored vapor products, and taxing vapor delivery systems and related goods. Continue reading Lawmakers seek to curb youth access to e-cigarettes, tobacco

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Opinion: Duff’s bill is wrong-headed intrusion on municipalities

Sen. Bob Duff’s bill allowing mayors to appoint the chair of the board of education in municipalities where the education budget comprises more than 50 percent of the overall municipality’s budget is wrong-headed.

Sen. Duff (D-25) has provided a weak explanation to justify this proposal: “elected officials of a community are the one that put budgets to their residents and ultimately are held accountable.” Duff is suggesting the mayor is held accountable for the board of education budget, so the mayor should have more power over it. Continue reading Opinion: Duff’s bill is wrong-headed intrusion on municipalities

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