NORWALK, Conn. – Would you like to see Harry Rilling’s speech, announcing his run to be Norwalk’s next mayor? NancyOnNorwalk has the entire speech on YouTube, albeit in four segments. Part One is above. Scroll down (to the bottom) if you want more.
Or you can read the transcript below. Rilling ad libbed liberally, though, in his 35-plus minutes in front of a packed room at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The “enemy” was in attendance – Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba, Common Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) and failed Republican council candidate Victor Cavullo, standing together in a pack – as well as some people well familiar with Rilling’s work as a boss: Lt. Ashley Gonzales, Sgt. Thomas Roncinske, Sgt. Carleton Giles and Sgt. Marc Suda.
“We look forward to a new chapter in Harry’s life,” said Giles, a Milford resident. “We wish him well in his pursuits. We think he has surely the capability to run a city this size, a city that, as he expressed himself, that he loves so well and has done so much for him. As he said, he wants to give back. So we’re happy for him. We worked with him for so many years – I worked for him, and I wish him much success.”
Here is Rilling’s prepared speech, as provided by his campaign:
I am truly humbled and honored to be here with you and I thank you for taking your time on this Sunday afternoon to be here with me. This is what Norwalk is all about; people from varied backgrounds and walks of life coming together for a common purpose.
You know what? I am proud to tell people I am from Norwalk. I have a very long and storied relationship with this amazing city.
My grandfather and grandmother, a German and an Irish immigrant, came to this area to raise their family. I never met my grandfather but I heard stories about him and how every morning he would be coming down Riverside Avenue in a horse-drawn wagon to deliver milk. My grandmother was a short, very slight woman but that didn’t stop her from bringing the family cows every morning from the family homestead to pasture and back again in the evening.
I grew up in a lower middle-class family on Berkeley Street. My dad who only had a sixth grade education was a proud but humble man who worked at the Norwalk Tire Company before becoming a nighttime dock worker at Vallerie’s Trucking on Connecticut Avenue. He was very proud to be a member of the Teamsters Union. My mom worked as a butcher at the Budget Market on West Avenue during the day yet each night, we were fortunate enough to have dinner on the table and we ate as a family. My parents were the “salt of the earth.” They struggled but they raised four children and instilled in us, their values of hard work, honesty, and integrity and perhaps most importantly a love for all people. Even though they did not have much of an education, they were bound and determined their children would.
I am also proud of being a product of Norwalk Public Schools. I attended Jefferson, then Tracey, West Rocks, and graduated from Norwalk High. My three children all attended Norwalk Public Schools and graduated from Norwalk High as well. Now, I have grandchildren attending Norwalk Public Schools and doing quite well by the way.
In 1967 I joined the United States Navy. Even though I was far away, I still felt very close to home. You see, Norwalk was then, and still is today, such a close-knit community. We were the only community with a Hometown Committee for its military men and women. Each month, we would get newsletters, on what was happening in Norwalk and if we were fortunate enough to get home during the holiday season, the Hometown Committee had a party and gifts for us. Shoes, ties, sweaters, all locally manufactured.
After leaving the military, I was fortunate enough to become a member of the Norwalk Police Department and serve as Chief for 17 years.
So you can surely understand why I have such a tremendous love and passion for this community. I owe Norwalk a tremendous debt of gratitude. Now it is time to pay up. So I am here today to announce to you, my family and my friends, that I am a candidate to become Norwalk’s mayor in 2013.
Let me assure you, I do not take this challenge lightly. I know what an awesome responsibility it is. I only decided to run after much reflection. But I know I have a strong desire to serve and a history of proven leadership that will serve this city well.
Right now, there are several issues facing us today, each critical to our future, each having an impact on the others: our educational system, growth and development, crime, and of course, our government.
You know folks, it wasn’t so long ago people used to come to Norwalk to educate their children in our school system. I want to bring them back. Contrary to what some may say, we really do have a very good school system with dedicated and highly competent teachers. Could our system be better? Of course!!
We are currently on a search for a superintendent of schools. We must ensure we select a highly-qualified man or woman with a proven history of accomplishment, an innovative person with vision. We must fully vet our candidates and once selected, the new superintendent must receive the full support and backing of the Board of Education.
The Board of Education must be funded, to an appropriate level. I don’t mean just dolling out money because it is asked for. But instead, putting forth a reasonable budget designed to bring the latest technology to our schools and to improve our overall infrastructure. To provide a safe environment in which our children can learn.
I know there is a current plan to phase in the K-12 Core Curriculum Program in our school system. I promise to support and fully implement Core Curriculum and to do everything within the power of the mayor to ensure the planned phase in stays on track. Our children are entitled to an education that will prepare them for life’s challenges. It is our responsibility to make sure they get it.
Now we know that not all children can go to college but we can and will ensure that all children have an opportunity to graduate high school and have the opportunity to succeed in life. Therefore, I propose we consider implementing the Life/Social Skills Curriculum which instills in our students team building; self discovery; personal appearance; conflict resolution; community building; personal relationships; healthy habits; substance abuse prevention; STD/Aids awareness; budgeting and banking; educational planning; respect for others; tolerance.
It may sound like a cliché but folks, our children REALLY ARE our future. Ignore them, ignore their needs, and we will suffer the consequences.
In 2011 there were several groundbreakings in September and October. Since then, the only movement has been that of demolishing buildings resulting in gaping holes along the West Avenue corridor.
We are a large coastal community with a wonderful harbor and other natural resources that make us the envy of most cities. At one point, Norwalk was a destination and we can be again. We need to focus on Wall Street that for decades has been struggling for an identity. We need to encourage smart growth and development by seeking out and attracting anchor stores. We do that by effectively marketing our community.
The developers need the full cooperation and support of the mayor’s office. To sit with the developers, roll up our sleeves and figure out what we can do TOGETHER to jump start some of these stalled projects during a challenging economy. We can do that by building public and private sector partnerships involving all the stakeholders. What tax incentives can we provide that will encourage new development, increase the Grand List while at the same time lift some of the tax burdens from the shoulders of homeowners. But the time is NOW. Seeing what is not happening is most definitely a disincentive for people considering Norwalk as a home or to start a business.
We want the people who work in Norwalk, to be able to afford to live here; police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and others. Those who work and live here will shop here, send their children to our schools, visit our recreational facilities and attractions, and hopefully, allow them to save enough to buy a home here. At the same time, we minimize urban sprawl reduce congestion on our highways and conserve energy. We have a Workforce Housing regulation but it needs to be re-written to be more effective.
We are an urban community with crimes problems similar to that of any community our size. We are blessed with a wonderful police department of professional, dedicated women and men. I was proud to be a part of their team for 41 years. I am proud of them and you should be too. I was pleased to see the addition of three officers in this election year budget. As Chief, I presented a plan to increase the department by four officers a year for five consecutive years bringing us to a staffing level appropriate for a growing city. Adding additional officers is certainly a step in the right direction but it is only a part of the solution.
But folks, we all know, you cannot arrest your way out of a crime problem. All research has shown the most effective method of dealing with a crime problem is providing opportunities for young people. A strong law enforcement approach, while necessary in some instances, is the least effective. Yet communities all across the nation have it backwards.
The vast majority of crime is committed by young people between the ages of 13 and 23. Rick Fuller my very good friend and certainly a friend to all of Norwalk, was a teacher and the director of the Carver Foundation for many years. He touched the lives of many of our young people because he showed them he cared. That’s all it took and he was wise enough to know it. His research showed behavioral problems in a child are recognizable as early as four and five years old, during the child’s formative years. We must provide our teachers and parents with the skills necessary to recognize these indicators and provide help to those children who display them. Early intervention programs are the key. We must ensure the continuation of Head Start. We must continue and expand mentoring programs. I also propose implementation of a Universal Pre-K program and the expansion of after school programs to which all children have access. These programs are crucial to the positive development of all children.
I promise you a government that is transparent, inclusive, accessible and civil. I promise you a mayor that not only listens to the public but actually hears what is being said.
My first outreach priority will be a monthly mayor’s night out. I will bring my department heads to hear, along with me, the concerns of our citizens and business owners. Meet the public and let them tell us what they want. Not the other way around. Like the late, great Mayor Ed Koch, when I ask, “How am I doing?” I hope to hear, “You and your team are doing a great job, Harry”!
I am not going to engage in finger-pointing or playing the blame game. It is time to look forward, not back. It is time to get Norwalk moving once again. It is time for new ideas, new energy and new vision. We are at an important crossroads folks. The decisions made during the upcoming municipal elections will be critical in determining which direction we will go. Norwalk is poised to become a thriving flourishing community once again. I ask you to join me in going down the road to that Norwalk, where everyone can again say, “I am proud to be from Norwalk.” I need your support, and I need your vote.
Thank you for joining me today. May God Bless you all, May God Bless Norwalk, and May God Bless this great land we call the United States of America!!
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