Riddle takes aim at Rilling as Republicans rally at Romano’s

Republican Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle delivers a campaign speech, Tuesday off East Rocks Road.
The 2021 Election is Nov. 2.

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.”

A Republican fundraiser in District D.

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.

At large Common Council candidate Rich Bonenfant. “We’ve got to get our people out,” he said. “3500 republicans voted in the last municipal election, 6500 of them didn’t. We got to drag them by the neck and get them out there.”

“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.”

District C Common Council candidate Read Auerbach.

“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.”

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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.”


27 responses to “Riddle takes aim at Rilling as Republicans rally at Romano’s”

  1. Ct. V

    Dog whistles of CRT in Norwalk… No thanks. Can we please get a real challenger for mediocre Harry? This guy is a joke.

  2. Barbara Meyer-Mitchell

    Mr. Riddle should educate himself about the State Accountability Index, and understand that Norwalk has the highest score of any city and the state. I agree we can do better, so it would behoove him to state *how* he would support NPS to improve on these metrics.

  3. James Cahn

    Some direct, respectful questions to Jonathan, which I encourage him to address by commenting here.

    You seem to focus a lot on the issue of education in Norwalk. I agree that education is a very important investment, least of all because it’s where the majority of our tax dollars are allocated:

    * Since the office of the Mayor of Norwalk has mostly nothing to do with setting or managing curriculum in the Norwalk schools; how do you intend on affecting change with no team members running for BoE seats? Do you have currently running BoE candidates or existing members “on board” with your agenda for the Norwalk public schools? Which ones?

    * You mentioned the idea of “protecting our schools from radical curriculum that diminishes our education system.” It is my assumption that you’re referring, as you have in the past, to your pledge to “(ban) and (monitor) that no Critical Race Theory” will be taught in the Norwalk school system. (Here at 4:02: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v786o5QJl8&t=244s ) In the interest of defining terms: what, as you understand it, is “Critical Race Theory” and how will you “ban” it? Are there other topics, philosophies or ideas that you will seek to have banned from the school system? Which are they?

    * Assuming that your intent to “ban Critical Race Theory (curriculum)” is based on a type of opposition to critical theory, generally, what is the premise of your opposition? By extension, what is your view of the purpose of education and the role of pedagogy?

    * Shifting to a more andragogical curiosity, what 5 books have you read most recently?

    On taxes:

    * At the RTC convention you pledged to focus on “lowering taxes.” (Here at 2:37: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v786o5QJl8 ) In this video at about 5:48, you state, “Don’t let any candidate tell you, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep property taxes low.” Why the change of stance, here?

    It’s tough for me to figure out who I will decide to vote for. So, your responses are appreciated. They will help me to gain some clarity.

  4. James R

    This is disappointing. I had hoped to have options for the upcoming election. This mayoral candidate is a joke. I honestly do not even know what else to say. Why did anyone support this? The republicans should cancel this guy or at least not let him talk.

  5. piberman

    Have other CT cities followed Norwalk’s example of encouraging renters, avoiding office buildings and ignoring a long shabby Downtown ? To say nothing of a $300k+ Supt salary ? As along as City gov’t maintains our largest employer why worry ? City campaigns over recent decades have focused on many issues. Bringing good jobs to Norwalk hasn’t been one of them.
    Relatively few City residents ever retire in our transient City. So we know our future.

  6. John O’Neill

    Regarding the State Accountability Index — We need to keep in mind the #1 ranking in our class is like saying the Toledo Mudcats are the best in their league in baseball. Yes, we can and should do better. It starts with the basics.

  7. Piberman

    The Education Accountability Commission referred to in a previous comment does not report CT as having the highest standard for its public schools as suggested by a commentator. The important issue is not CT’s ranking relative to other States. But whether our City public school grads meet CT Edu Dept standards on math and science and how many go on to secure 4 yr college degrees. On both measures there’s reason for concern. Less than half of our grads meet CT math and science standards or secure 4 yr college degrees. Reportedly our teachers are paid comparable to surrounding towns with their high performing schools. And our Supt is paid $300k+ reportedly among the highest in the State. So performance issues in our City public school system do not appear to be a function of funding. Best I can gather none of the BOE candidates have raised these long duration City student performance issues.

  8. Tysen Canevari

    No one said how the pizza was that John Romano made!

  9. Mike Mushak

    How bizarre to hear Republicans complain about strong economic growth and fiscal responsibility, both of which the city is currently doing very well! It’s now the Democrats who are the party of smart fiscal management and lower taxes around here.

    The Republicans are clearly now the party of racist dog whistles to appeal to the Trump crowd, and this article only proves how out of touch they are with smart Norwalkers on both sides of the aisle.

    And Norwalk isn’t growing into Stamford. Baloney! We aren’t building 20- and 30-story apartment buildings and never will. What we are building are properly-scaled energy-efficient denser buildings near commercial areas and transit stops, in vibrant walkable neighborhoods instead of sprawled along miles of suburban roads that cost taxpayers a fortune to pave and plow. Not to mention the huge water consumption all those single-family home lawn sprinkler systems use, about a third of our water supply every year. Reality check: apartments don’t have lawns to mow and water, or miles of streets to pave or plow just to get to their individual driveways!

    Here’s the truth: Based on the latest census data that just came out, Norwalk is actually growing at one of its slowest rates in its long history over the last decade (6.5%) instead of the 20% and 30% average growth rates per decade of the last century.

    And Norwalk is building apartments to retain and attract millennials, retirees, and empty nesters, people who studies show don’t want expensive single-family homes to maintain. That is why the buildings fill up as fast as they are built, in a region which has high demand and limited supply of housing which is why costs are so high. We are also building many deed-restricted affordable housing units to keep families and workers from moving away.

    Mayor Rilling and the Democrats have proven they can lead us in the right direction, which is why they are getting our votes and the votes of everyone we know. All we ever seem to hear from Republicans nowadays is more Trumpian racist nonsense. No thanks, we’re not buying it here in Norwalk. Vote for Mayor Rilling and the Democrats!

  10. Bryan Meek

    The detractors should step up or shut up. Unless you think the mayor’s spot should be reserved for double dippers who don’t show up to work for 18 months, please explain your preference. Riddle is clearly more than an empty chair like and better yet, does not plan to profit from the office like the current ilk.

  11. Bryan Meek

    James Cahn, so we get it you support the swamp regardless and will take full value out of an out of selective, out of context media coverage. Thanks to the likes of you, we are where we are. Good day.

  12. James

    They are not wrong about the apartments, Harry wants growth and a quickly changing skyline. He ignores many problems in his government, such a lazy joke of a mayor.

  13. DrewT

    OH Angry Mike still trying to spew the anger and hatred and your BS. Funny how the Democrats are absolutely DESTROYING the Country snd your leader is the biggest joke of a President along with his even funnier and useless VP! We have seen the Dems true colors since Joe was elected and for the first time in 4 years and 8 months the future is scary and not looking promising. So get off your high horse go ride on your seldom used bike lane and disappear with your posts that say nothing. We have all awaken to the truth. And as you asked during the time President Trump was in office I’ll ask ylu the same thing. Do you denounce the Democrats and Joe Biden?! How you could support the Divider in chief and his disgusting agenda and weaponizing of the Federal Government against its own people is sickening. Time for a MAJOR change!

  14. John C Miller Jr

    Ah yes, it must be election time again. Mushak is back on NON spewing his customary condescending, mind numbing elitist rhetoric and stating the obvious that the city is growing less rapidly than it did when it was founded 370 years ago and was mostly farmland. Absolute genius.

  15. Seve

    Mike Mushak writes a bunch of Mush.

    Insinuating that being against CRT is a racist dog whistle is a pile of leftist mush.
    CRT itself is inherently racist because if calls attention to racial differences and attempts to create division by making white children feel bad about their “whiteness” and makes others feel oppressed. . Teachers would do better spending their time teaching children math, history, science and literature–witness the growing ground-swell of parents voicing their anger at school board meetings around the country. They are of all races and now the Biden regime is calling them domestic terrorists for disagreeing. This is right out of Chairman Mao’s playbook

    Calling Trump a racist is also another pile of mush.
    The proof is that Trump became way more popular with African American and Latino voters both of whom were doing a lot better under Trump than under the Biden regime. This worn-outThis and unsubstantiated accusation straight out of the CNN/MSNBC playbook. Most people know it to be untrue and are tired of hearing it.

    This is why the radical, leftist Democrat party is tanking. Prominent Dems are starting to flee like Vernon Jones and Even Andrew Yang just exited. Even they can’t put up the the leftist mush anymore.

  16. john Flynn

    Riddle is absolutely right about the Police staffing issue. The Police log shows 20 cars broken into in one day. http://my.norwalkct.org/police/PDFReports/PressLogIncidents.PDF 5 breakins on Richards Ave < 5 breakins on ledgbrook, multiple stolen cars during the day. While Senate Majority Leader Duff took credit for reduction of crime rate during a Republican presidentcy. All the gains in 4 years were reversed in 90 days. The Police log tells the story. Homicdes are up 30% nationwide;all on the heals of a stabbing in Norwalk on Merrit street last night. A touniquet Saved a another life despite the progressive movement to defund. Vote accordingly.


    Sad what has happened to my beloved hometown. I thought machine politics only happened in big cities, but here we see an example of an entrenched Democratic Party ruining a small city the way they have large cities all over the nation. It’s like a cancer that has metastacized.

    And, no Mr. Mushak, Norwalk has NEVER as long as I’ve been alive (60 years) ever cared about smart development, and the only reason why Norwalk has seen absorption in the recently developed institutional-look apartments is as the beneficiary of those formerly New York City-dweller fleeing the crime and squalor that Democrat Mayor DeBlasio inflicted on its citizens.

  18. Al

    I’m a wealthy, middle of the road independent who voted for Lisa last time and consistently voted for Barbis. I should be exactly the voter that Riddle and the RTC are trying to sway. Lisa proved there’s an appetite to replace Harry and again this local party falls over itself. This just isn’t a serious candidate.

    We’re 3 weeks from election. He can’t be bothered to put up a webpage. Even his Facebook page has barely been updated past his mask liberty letter. The RTC page has more substance about his athletic career than anything else. Even Crosland was campaigning in the summer. If he wants this position, he’s not bothering to show it. If NON wasn’t at this pizza party, I’d have zero idea of what any of his positions really are.

    This was just rambling about things that the mayor doesn’t manage (curriculum), aren’t near the top of anyone’s issue list (traffic light timing) and starts turning into the pizza Parler party calling it the communist state of New York.

    He looks like the youngest person there by 20 years. A tanned person would probably stick out as diverse. You’re never going to win over the Harry apologists above me in the comments but continuing to nominate empty candidates who just play to the same base doesn’t win generals. My 2 cents.

    But I am extremely jealous of that pizza oven

  19. Mike Mushak

    All the inane and practically unreadable responses below my factual and legible comment above clearly prove a point, so thank you to everyone!

    Does anyone really want this crowd leading our city? Sorry, been there done that! Decades of incompetent Republican control drove Norwalk into a mismanaged mess that we are still digging our way out of, including our roads, sidewalks, and schools. No thanks, we’ve seen what you can do and it wasn’t very pretty!

    Gee, when you don’t believe in good government, why even pretend that you think you can fix problems and represent the real needs of constituents? It’s all whining, all the time. Just look at the dangerous and deadly Republican response to Covid that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and ongoing economic misery for millions. Shameful.

    Meanwhile, the Democrats have real fact-based solutions and are implementing them as we speak, especially right here in Norwalk. Vote for Harry Rilling and Democrats as if your life depends on it, because it does!

  20. Steve Mann

    Mike spews rhetoric and lies that negatively effect the lives of Norwalkers. He is the one who led the assault on East Norwalk. You have him to thank for empowering the Commission to even consider the application for a 24 hour distribution center. We had to spend spend hard earned money on legal representation because of Mushak. I don’t disagree with everything he stands for but everything he stands for is tainted by his unyielding spewing or hatred for Republicans. It’s so sad that anyone can be so consumed with hatred that they effectively cancel themselves. Nothing he has to offer is worth hearing.

  21. jlg

    “Domestic water use includes indoor and outdoor uses at residences. Common indoor water uses are drinking, food preparation, washing clothes and dishes, and flushing toilets. Common outdoor uses are watering lawns and gardens or maintaining pools, ponds, or other landscape features in a domestic environment.” – US Department of the Interior, Circular 1405

    CT domestic water use as a percentage of total use in the state is 12.9% with a total expected per capita use at roughly 75 gallons per day. Waypointe use is roughly 80 gallons per apartment (not per capita).

    On face that sounds like apartments are the only way to go, and when you look at MM’s stat comparing houses with large lawns to apartments it seems like a reasonable assertion that apartments use less water than the sprawl he seems to dislike so much.

    However, use per dwelling is not the correct metric to use when comparing the two. the correct metric is use per acre, which accounts for the increased density associated with large apartments. the per acre use for Waypointe is a staggering 800,000 gallons per year.

    We have roughly 14,600 acres in norwalk and a population of 88k. there are on average 6 people per acre. the expected domestic water use per acre is 164,000 gallons per year. that includes lawns and pools and everything else.

    So for every acre of traditional houses we replace with apartment buildings we need to come up with 636,000 gallons of water. Go look at our reservoirs if you want to see what over expansion leads to.

    Does this curb gentrification? no.

  22. Tysen Canevari

    Mike Mushak you entertain me. The reason the census hasn’t gone up is that our town is full of illegals. Remember your choice for mayor calls us a sanctuary city. You are a very one sided individual.

  23. CT-Patriot

    So, the very same Democrats that a certain someone waxes their wisdom just remember this the next time you attend a meeting for the Board of Education.

    You, and others like yourself who do not support CRT or their latest new name for it have now labeled you “domestic terrorists” and can be subjected to FBI, DOJ, Homeland Security, invoking the Patriot Act on anyone who “protests” their agenda.

    How does that make you feel? In this country, this state and this town to be targeted as a “domestic terrorist” by the AG and the Democratic party just because of power.

    Just the same applies to vaccine mandates. Thousands of people loosing their jobs. You could have enough immunity T-cells but you must take the jab or lose your source of income.

    Then there’s the spending spree that Democrats are pushing through that will kill the economy, the level of inflation will be insane.

    Democrats are now scared because of the pushback by fellow parents and students who do not want this poisonous way of indoctrination.

    Because they are scared, this is only just the start. It festering in DC and now states, cities and towns. It moves in, takes control from us, the people of this town and we will never get it back until we move to vote them out,

    It’s time to realize this country, this state, this town is headed in the wrong direction.

    Time to come to realization of the damage the Democrats are doing. Be they Federal, State or local.

    We need change and most importantly, give us, the people control of our future and the future of generations to come.

  24. Analise

    Lets not make more Apartments for our New Influx of Afghanistan Province of IRAN , let’s welcome them, Give them Food and Shelter and all Norwalk Citizen learn the Farsi/dialect Dari . That is what Harry and the Democrats doing Invite your Enemy keep them near your heart and Wallet Motash Karam tang mish’e

  25. Justin Matley

    I do agree with the apartment building and developers chipping in more. That’s a cohesive tenet to a platform and a big disagreement I have with the current Mayor.

    That said, I’m not sure telling people we need to “drag them by the neck” is a particularly inspirational, forward thinking message to get people to support you.

  26. Pete

    Romano has a helluva Pizza Oven. Deck looks great too. Something we can all aspire to

    As for Riddle, I dunno. Looks like Mayor Rilling will win again

  27. Scott Trowbridge

    I heard and listened to what Mr Riddle said here. He was among friends so certainly would seem to have had the forum for his ideas. All that I heard is what he things is wrong with Norwalk. I heard absolutely no ideas of what he actually planned to do if elected. That doesn’t get it done. Complain if you must but explain your vision / plan for fixing .
    Also I’ve heard comments that the BOE is completely filled with Democrats. However , I’m not aware of any Republicans running this year
    I am looking forward to supporting candidates who I feel good about and that will include people from multiple parties.

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