Rilling, Moccia: I will be a better mayor for Norwalk Latinos

NORWALK, Conn. – Harry Rilling is “wrong, wrong, wrong” when he says he would be a better mayor to the Latino community, according to Mayor Richard Moccia, who cites his support of many cultural events as one of the reasons he should get Latino votes.

Moccia, a Republican and eight-year incumbent, and Rilling, his Democratic challenger, tossed charges back and forth during one animated segment of last week’s South Norwalk Community Center mayoral debate: Rilling criticized the Moccia administration’s cancellation of a multicultural festival and Moccia asked Rilling why day laborers are still hesitant to come to the police station when people do not pay them for the work they have done.

The final three questions faced by the pair in the hour-long debate began with what might seem like a softball: What makes you a better choice for mayor than your opponent when it comes to addressing the needs of the Latino community?

Rilling referred to his 17 years as police chief.

“When I took over there was a great disconnect between various segments of the community and the police department,” he said. “… People were afraid to report crimes. People were afraid to come into the police department. People were afraid to walk by the police department.

Police reached out to the Latino community, he said.

“I will continue to reach out to the Latino communities, to all the communities in Norwalk, so that they can feel welcome, so that they don’t have to feel intimidated,” he said. “It’s a very simple solution folks. People need to feel like you care. I care.”

Moccia said he is already reaching out.

“I understand the Latino community,” he said. “I understand the struggles that you are going through right now. I don’t have to hit the ground running because I haven’t stopped running. I’ve been to every event that I possibly could to recognize the cultural achievements of all the Latino community … I understand your desires, your dreams and I will work with you. I will continue to work with you. I’m going to disagree with my opponent. He’s wrong, he’s wrong, he’s wrong, clear and simple. We are here. We do the best we can.”

Rilling rebutted that. There was a recent attempt to organize a multicultural Latino event he said.

“There were some hiccups, There were a little obstacles. No one from the city reached out and helped the individual who was sponsoring this event get it done,” he said. “Instead, they canceled the event two days before. She ended up having to pay lots of money out of her whole pocket and then was told that as long as certain individuals are concerned there would never be a multicultural event or Latino event in Norwalk again. That’s unfortunate.”

Rilling said he would have stepped in as mayor to work with the organizer. Moccia fired back.

“The former chief should know the police canceled it because the money to pay the overtime did not come in on time and they could not get any officers in to secure security there,” he said. “It was not the mayor’s office. It was a recommendation from his former department, that the cops were not being paid on time.”

“The contract was handed to her from the mayor’s office,” Rilling replied. “It said event canceled, lack of payment. It had nothing to do with the police department.”

“That’s not true,” Moccia said, as Rilling continued to speak.

Beatrice Ruiz, organizer of the canceled event, declined to comment as there is litigation involved. Her lawyer did not return a request for comment.

The duo also differed when asked what could be done to help day laborers.

“You have to make them comfortable coming to the police department,” Rilling said. “It’s a very difficult issue.”

He detailed efforts that had been made to make the Latino laborers get over their fear of police.

Moccia said police were not the answer, the attorney general is.

“If they’re not paid, come into the mayor’s office,” he said. “I can refer them to the attorney general.”

“If you go to the attorney general’s office for something of this nature you’re going to wait forever and ever and ever,” Rilling said.

Moccia shook his head, and mouthed ‘you call me’ to the activist who had asked about the issue.

Republican Town Committee member Olga Arteaga responded to the moderator’s request for someone to ask one last question, and brought up the day laborers again.

Rilling said the day laborers have the same Constitutional rights as anyone else, as they are here. Everything possible to make them comfortable with police has been done, he said, and will continue.

“Interesting,” Moccia said. “How much he did to reach out them to bring them in but they still don’t come in. And I disagree with him about the attorney general. I have had minor issues in the city. … I have called him on issues like this.”

If it’s a group of laborers, state agencies can get involved, he said.

“The local police can help to a degree but you want to put these people out of business,” he said. “You want to slap them with a fine. You don’t want to slap them with a summons. This is the way to get it done and this is the way to do it.”


11 responses to “Rilling, Moccia: I will be a better mayor for Norwalk Latinos”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    Mr. Rilling is right, in South Norwalk alone, the police did reach out to the communities, I think that what has been a small program could grow under Harry’s tutelage.

    Mayor Moccia once again wrapped himself in a flag, in his pursuit to garner a voting bloc. Mayor Moccia is a ribbon cutter, not a constant presence in these communities.

    Harry Rilling having seen the best and worst of Norwalk first hand would be a better choice for all of us.

    And to speak to the event that was cancelled, Mr. Rilling has it right; the cancellation of this event is sad for those in Norwalk of Latino heritage. There are many celebrations in Norwalk, some at churches, like the Greek festival. If the Latino members of this community wish to celebrate their heritage, like the Saint Anne’s festival does, there should be no block to their right to do this.

    It starts with an introduction to culture, and a festival like this, goes a long way to amalgamate a community to those members who have so much to offer.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Oldtimer

    If Moccia’s best argument is telling audiences that Rilling is wrong, wrong, wrong, he is turning voters off. He needs to understand people are not stupid. They know who really works for them and who just talks about it during campaigns.
    Failure to pay wages is a crime and local police can deal with it without passing the buck to the attorney general. One or two people arrested for cheating day laborers will send a strong message to everybody using day laborers.

  3. M Allen

    A lot of talk about day laborers here. How much of this outreach to the Latino community is related to legal versus illegal “residents”? Or is it all just one big group and we’re expected to overlook the fact that we’re asking city leaders to treat illegals as any other citizen?

  4. SoNoCC

    South Norwalk Community Center (SoNoCC) has coordinated its efforts with local activists and an outreach program from a local church, to assist Day Laborers who are owed money by area contractors. Day Laborers regularly come to SoNoCC to file their complaints. The Day Laborers have been instructed to get as much information as possible, i.e. name, telephone number, license plate number, from their “employer” when taking on a job. SoNoCC gathers this information and attempts to make contact with the contractor. More often than not, once the contractors are aware that these Day Laborers have an entity inquiring on their behalf, the case in resolved. We have encountered a few unscrupulous individuals who have exploited the Day Laborers and have become abrasive with us. We are now preparing to report these individuals to the local police. Since the Day Laborers are in immediate need of funds for sustenance, contacting the Attorney General is not practical.
    SoNoCC has been providing social services case management to serve the needs our community without any assistance from the City of Norwalk or from the CT Department of Social Services. Our full-time Executive Director and full-time Deputy Director have been working on a volunteer basis. We hope that, in the near future, city and state officials will realize/respect the importance of our work and reinstate our funding. FYI, we are not affiliated with NEON, although NEON did remove us as a sub-contractor on their most recent CT Department of Social Services contract. The City of Norwalk, on the other hand, has cut their $12,000 annual funding to us during the time of the current administration.

  5. Tim T

    I could care less who would be a better mayor for the Latinos. What I do care about is who would be a better Mayor for Norwalk. The unfortunate thing is both of the 2 running are worthless.

    Rilling states
    “People were afraid to report crimes. People were afraid to come into the police department. People were afraid to walk by the police department.”

    I guess good old Harry forgot that they still are. Did he forget the excuse that he used over and over again as police consultant, where he blamed the lack of solving crimes on the community not coming forward with information???

    Rilling states
    “The the day laborers have the same Constitutional rights as anyone else”

    No Harry they don’t when they are illegally in this country. I would have hoped that you would have understood this given your many years as police consultant . The act of illegals being here is a crime in itself. Your confusing may help to explain your poor performance as police consultant.

  6. SoNoCC

    MAllen’s brash use of the term “illegal Residents” is disrespect and reeks of nativism. The fact of the matter is that “undocumented” workers are here in Norwalk, have children (Students for a Dream) who attend our schools, are soon to be permitted to obtain Driver’s Licenses and will be, over time, part of the many success stories that have made this country great. Let us not forget that many of the families in Norwalk who are well-assimilated into the dominant culture entered into this country during the past two centuries as “undocumented”. The father of one of our directors here at SoNoCC is a wonderful example of a success story of an “undocumented” out of South Norwalk. One of his sons is the former Commissioner of Education here in Connecticut and his five grandchildren all attended or are currently attending top universities, including one who just graduated from Princeton University. Oh, by the way, she is currently with Teach For America teaching dual language third graders in a high-needs district in Dallas. The point of this is to explain to MAllen and to others of a like mindset that, “undocumented” residents have a long history of great contributions in this country. Let us not forget that the first “undocumented” residents here arrived in 1492. Other “undocumented” arrived on slave ships, through no wish of their own. We are a nation of immigrants (and of native Americans) and tolerance is what has made our nation great. Get with the plan, MALLEN!

  7. @SoNoCC

    @SoNoCC: I did not realize that there were immigration laws in effect in 1492 or 1620. There are now, and they are enforced. No? Certainly America is not the only place in which there are laws that people follow. Including immigration laws. I’d love to move to the Amalfi coast but there’s not a chance I could get a work visa.

    This isn’t to say that many many good people have come here and not contributed on many levels in very positive ways but your view of laws that govern our land and many others on this earth are skewed.

  8. Day Laborer

    If you really cared about Day laborers, you would see to it that they had opportunities to learn English and assimilate. Instead you pander to them and accommodate them only because you are interested in votes. You could really care less if they ever get ahead in life. Disgusting.

  9. M Allen

    I wasn’t attempting to “reek of nativism”, but I am aware that any question regarding the issue will be deemed as such. My question stands though: when the mayoral candidates are speaking on outreach to “the Latino community” I’m just trying to understand if that outreach is focused on traditional citizens, non-traditional residents, or are they simply considered one in the same for political purposes? I hope I worded that better for your delicate eyes.
    and I’m not sure you really want to get into the debate of who came here, when and whether they were undocumented at the time. Considering documentation wasn’t required until much later, it’s a moot point. But I see what you’re trying to do. As for those who came here on slave ships, the ENTIRE point of the 14th amendment to the constitution was to ensure that former slaves were citizens and were to be given “full and equal benefit of all laws.” It wasn’t until later that the language was used to cover anyone born here, no matter the status of the parents.

  10. M Allen

    And by the way, a crime committed against anyone in this country is a crime. It doesn’t matter the status of the victim. It’s a shame day laborers are taken advantage of by some people and it should be something that is investigated fully, for a number of reasons.

  11. SoNoCC

    To MAllen… thank you for rearticulating your comment. You are correct in your assumption that we do not want to get into a debate. We leave that to the two mayoral candidates! We’ll also leave the question of the 14th Amendment and how it pertains to children of undocumented immigrants to the lawmakers.
    South Norwalk Community Center’s soon to be launched initiative, labeled “The Renaissance Project”, will provide learning opportunities and needed social services for our Latino community and for the greater South Norwalk community at large.
    In response to @SoNoCC, perhaps you’ve missed the point, or rather tried to deflect the point, that undocumented day laborers, just as any other worker, must be protected from “employers” who refuse to compensate them for an honest day’s work. However, undocumented day laborers tend to be the most vulnerable to this practice. CT H.B. 6659, also known as the Trust Act, allows the local police to use their good judgment and precludes them from arresting someone solely on suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant. Rather, it is against the law for an employer to not pay a worker, whether the worker is undocumented or documented. In Stamford, Connecticut Legal Services’ Day Laborer Wage Clinic has been successful in recovering more than $2 million in unpaid wages over the past four years!
    As a sidebar: @SoNoCC’s mention of the Amalfi Coast is interesting. Yes, one of our directors here at SoNoCC knows that area of Italy quite well, having operated tours there for many years. Yes, with a work permit and with dual citizenship. Italy has also had its share of immigration issues and has served as a refuge for the more than one million migrants who have found their way to their shores from Northern Africa. A tragic sinking of a vessel carrying migrants just last week off the coast of Sicily accounted for more than 300 deaths. The Italians are doing what they can to accommodate these victims of war and despair.

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