NORWALK, Conn. — Down ticket Norwalk Republicans talked up their candidacies Tuesday with references to apartments and development.
Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle went further, charging that “our sewage overflows constantly into Long Island Sound” and that the police and fire departments are understaffed in light of a growing population. His number one priority is improving the school system, “improving our curriculum, protecting our schools from radical curriculum that diminishes our education system, and make sure that our kids can read and write.”
Video by Harold F. Cobin at end of story
Riddle is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, who is running for a fifth 2-year term. While it’s seemed quiet, Acting Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Fred Wilms recently told NancyOnNorwalk that Riddle has “a campaign plan in place and he’s going to be doing a lot of door knocking and campaigning, and we should expect to see the results of that.”
Republicans met in District D Chairman John Romano’s backyard for probably the 27th year, Romano said. The fundraiser featured pizza cooked by Romano in his outdoor pizza oven and musical accompaniment by Shell Shokt.
“As we all know, the last few years hasn’t been the most kind of us,” Wilms said, addressing the crowd. “But what’s great is that we’re here, we haven’t given up, we have hope, we know that tomorrow can be better than yesterday and better than today. And tomorrow will be better after that.”
He said he “firmly firmly” believed that the evening’s activities were laying the groundwork for “taking back” a majority in Norwalk government.
The 15-member Common Council currently has one Republican, Tom Keegan, and there are no Republican Board of Education members. Republicans have no BoE candidates.
Andrew Anello, a District E Council candidate, was among those making brief speeches. He’s enjoying campaigning but “the funny thing is, there hasn’t been a single person that I met, who said, ‘Andrew, you know, what we really needed is more apartments,’” he said. “…There’s external forces treating Norwalk like a science experiment.”
“I’m for development, but I think it’s smart development,” District C Council candidate Read Auerbach said. “We don’t need another 1,000 apartments up on Glover. I think it’s getting to the point the traffic is out of control.”
“I’m not against development, but maybe the developers could do a little bit more for the city, maybe widen your road or to fix little plumbing here and there,” District A Council candidate Luis Estrella said.
They’re talking about it at Calf Pasture Beach and the dog park, At large Council candidate Matthew Merluzzi said. “People are fed up with the what’s going on in town, the apartment buildings. I’m not against construction. But it’s got to be smart.”
Riddle stepped up in July to run for Mayor, Wilms said. The former U.S. Representative candidate grew up in Westchester County, N.Y., and has lived in South Norwalk for six years.
“I agree, there’s been way too much development in the city. And it seems the current administration is trying to reshape Norwalk into a certain Stamford city center,” Riddle said. “…These massive, large apartment buildings (are) stealing away from that small town feel here in Norwalk.”
The infrastructure can’t handle it and with the wastewater treatment plant in close proximity to the beach, “we need to do better for our environment.”
As for schools, “Right now we have a 45% efficiency rating for our math and reading skills,” Riddle said. “I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a number one city in Connecticut. We’re more like 152nd as far as all the school districts in Connecticut, but our mayor currently likes to tout that we’re the number one big city for other comparable areas. Well, comparable areas are right around us. We have Wilton, New Canaan, Darien and Westport. Those are the top four out of the five in the state as far as education, and they spend far less than we do on educating our kids.”
Riddle said, “With the explosion of population growth, the explosion of the availability of apartments, we haven’t addressed the police department and the fire department in the last 10 years. They stay the same while the population has increased, while the amount of buildings increased.”
The City held a press conference last week to tout 18 new trees on Wilton Avenue. Riddle called that “a road that’s less traveled and out of the way,” and said, “I’d be surprised if 15 cars drove that road a day.”
The city needs to have coordinated traffic lights, he said, charging, “I don’t know about you guys, but when I drive around Norwalk, from West Norwalk down to South Norwalk, it seems the lights are way out of sequence, and it takes far longer than it should. Not only that, but our sidewalks are in disrepair all over the city.”
While, “we’re going to properly spend the money that we get from property taxes,” he said, “unfortunately, property taxes are going to increase in one way in one way only either the mill rate or the revaluation that’s coming in two years.”
He said, “We’ll fight it as much as we can, and make sure that we’re doing a proper reassessment of the values if I’m in office, you can count on that.”