Rilling, Moccia debate touches on many issues

NORWALK, Conn. – Mayor Richard Moccia was on the defensive Tuesday evening, trying to fend off the numerous slams from Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling in a debate that drew more than the usual suspects to the City Hall community room.

Rilling and Moccia sat in front of a packed crowd for the League of Women Voters debate, with ordinary citizens packed in with politicos, some sitting on the stairway, some lined up standing against the back wall, some sitting on chairs pulled out at the last moment. They watched as the two men covered familiar some territory and addressed issues in questions posed by the public, and as Moccia responded in new ways to some of Rilling’s repeated criticisms.

Moccia had a story in response to Rilling’s assertion that he could have done more to get more school funding from the state, funding that comes through the Educational Cost Sharing Formula (ECS).

“The interesting thing has come up, when Gov. Malloy was mayor of Stamford he instituted a lawsuit against Gov. Rell, claiming that the property taxes and the way schools were funded were illegal,” Moccia said. “Mayor Knopp joined that lawsuit, cost us $15,000. When I took office, they came to me. Originally I had some concerns but as the case moved through I thought there was some legitimacy so the council, the board of estimate, approved another $15,000. But now Mayor Malloy, who is now Gov. Malloy, has sent more assistant attorney generals into our … court arguing for dismissal of the lawsuit. He said we’re giving more money now so we don’t need the lawsuit. He was for it before he was against it.”

But his first statement was a softball for a zinger from Rilling.

“I tried everything I can,” Moccia said, mentioning a meeting he had with leaders both parties in Hartford. “… I will continue to argue.”

“I think the mayor summarized it by saying, ‘I think I’ve done everything I can,’” Rilling replied. “To me, that’s not what a leader says. A leader says, ‘I tried, I’m going to continue to try.’”

Rilling listed the reasons why Norwalk should get more money from the state – the number of students on free or reduced lunch, for instance – and said he would be more proactive, and “go up to Hartford constantly” until the formula is changed. This was after he had promised to be present during negotiations with the Norwalk Federation of Teachers.

Mayor Richard Moccia, left
Republican Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia, left, and Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling wait for the League of Women Voters debate to begin Tuesday.

“I’ll tell you, occasionally you have to sit behind his desk and be a mayor,” Moccia said in response. “I have done everything I can. But the squeaky wheel resides up in Hartford. As much as I have tried to apply grease to that squeaky wheel I get constant resistance. Please remember it’s a Democratic legislature, the delegation from Norwalk is controlled by the Democrats, it’s a Democratic governor. I believe they have some responsibility.”

“I think I found the problem,” Rilling replied. “The mayor said sometimes he’s going to have to sit behind the desk and be mayor. The mayor should not always be sitting behind the desk. The mayor should be out there being proactive.”

Moccia had a prop in response to another question about education.

“I refer to Connecticut Magazine,” he said. “Number two city in the state but number one among the cities in education. Higher graduation rate than even Stamford and Danbury. So we must be doing something right. … I’ll stand by what we’ve done with the Board of Ed.”

“Well, apparently a lot of people don’t read Connecticut Magazine because we have too many people that are talking that our Board of Education is not properly funded,” Rilling said. “They’re saying our school system is dysfunctional and they’re moving out of the city of Norwalk, or they’re sending their children to private schools.”

Other topics posed by Norwalk citizens included the federal lawsuit filed by supporters of the mosque proposed for 127 Fillow St., the rumored mall proposal for 95/7, teachers’ salaries, blight and big box stores.

Stay tuned on all of that. NancyOnNorwalk will explore those issues over the next few days, depending on the breaking news situation in town.

In closing the hour and a half of conversations, Rilling made note of the perhaps 200 people in the room.

“Thank everybody for coming,” Rilling said. “It truly shows that you care about what is happening in Norwalk. It truly shows that you want to make an informed decision on Nov. 5.”

Moccia said it had been an honor to be there and an honor to be mayor for eight years.

“Obviously I don’t share the vision of Norwalk that Mr. Rilling does,” he said. “I believe that the city has moved forward. … I have had the honor to lead this city and represent the residents as their mayor for eight years. I’m asking for them to give me two more years because they have given far more to me than I could have ever given to them. I have learned so much from them.”


14 responses to “Rilling, Moccia debate touches on many issues”

  1. Tim T

    ” Rilling replied. “To me, that’s not what a leader says. A leader says, ‘I tried, I’m going to continue to try.’”
    Odd as that is far from what Rilling did as police consultant. It amazes me how Rilling continues to attempt to re-write history.

  2. Norwalk Lifer

    Rilling is right, this is not a performance review, it’s a review of results. And Norwalk can do better.

  3. Oldtimer

    Moccia want us to believe he has done a good job. Rilling believes he can do a lot better and brings a lot more energy to the job. We’ll soon see what the voters think.

  4. Piberman

    If Democrats wit heir super majority in Hartford along with a Democratic Governor and energetic Norwalk legislators can’t improve the ECS formula it’s disingenuous for a Democratic challenger with so prior experience in politics to claim he would do better in Hartford. Improving the ECS formula for Norwalk is up to the Democrat legislators. They have the votes to pass it anytime. And even have union support. So why haven’t they done so ? A good question. Maybe the unions in the big welfare cities like things as they are.

  5. EDR

    That last statement by the Oldtimer says it best. The voters will decide.

  6. Daisy

    Less than a week to go. Moccia’s done a great job, balancing everything and providing great service for everyone, including salaries that make union members want to work in Norwalk but not have to pay the taxes required to sustain their jobs.

  7. Break the Unions

    With Mr Rilling we can expect more hand outs, more for the unions and higher taxes.

  8. Don’t Panic

    I think CT Magazine publishes these things just to get free advertising from politicians in debates. Seems Mr. Moccia was waving one two years ago in his debate with Mr. Garfunkel.

  9. You may want to check your facts

    Break the unions, can you cite a source for your statement? What are you basing your comments on? Do you have historical data to back that up?

  10. D(ysfunctinoal)TC

    UnionBreaker. It doesn’t necessarily mean raising taxes right away. Like Miklave wanted to, one could always raid the rainy day and pension funds. This makes it look good on paper in the short term. Credit rating downgrades and higher taxes almost always follow. See Stockton, CA or Detroit, MI for examples of this.

  11. Tim T

    @You may want to check your facts
    You may want to check your facts as the ones that are supporting Rilling are the Unions. When the union supports anyone its always to get something in return and that something equals higher taxes.
    Do you have any historical data to prove otherwise???

  12. Piberman

    How do we explain the Hour’s poll on the debate results showing the Mayor defeating the Chief by a 2 to 1 margin ? Is there any reason to expect the Hour’s readers are biased in favor of either Party ? Or is the poll a reflection of what actually took place ? Just maybe it takes more than “I can do better”. But no active or former police chief has ever, to the best of my knowledge, been elected mayor of a CT city. That would be a big jump in responsibility.

  13. Mike Mushak

    Piberman, both parties are guilty of trying to manipulate these polls. We cheer the results that favor us and ridicule the polls when they don’t, just like the whole country did during the presidential race last year (remember the Fox Noise abrupt flip on this when the polls shifted away from Romney towards Obama? Priceless!) We are all guilty of this shift in opinions btw. It was just funnier when it became the Murdoch/Fox mantra overnight! I would check the index fingers of McCarthy and Scialabba this week, which are probably swollen from hitting the keys repeatedly as they voted over and over after deleting their search histories!

  14. Suzanne

    The Hour’s polls are one of the more unscientific, no-account measures of any metric I have ever seen. Remember, piberman, this is the same paper that uses “polls” to ask about the weather and the World Series. The Hour is also clearly skewed toward the conservative with biased coverage on behalf of this administration figuring prominently while other issues of worth and valuable to all of Norwalk is largely ignored. Why do you think NON is so successful? Clearly they are answering a need to know the entire truth about Norwalk issues. The polls are no better than walking down the street and asking someone, anyone what they think about anything. Not scientific, not indicative and clearly skewed toward Mr. Moccia.

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