Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Color it orange

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

Orange paper works on snowy sidewalks

Mike Mushak has a new story to tell: how many of the sidewalks in the Golden Hill neighborhood became free of snow.

Mushak led an effort to scare his neighbors into submission.

Norwalk DPW snow 0112214 007
This snow covered sidewalk is on Flax Hill Road, not the Golden Hill section of Norwalk, unfortunately.

“In our neighborhood, Golden Hill, we have taken it upon ourselves to inform our neighbors that they have to get the sidewalks cleared or face a $250 a day fine,” Mushak said at the recent Mayor’s Night Out. “That really wakes people up. So we’ve got almost 99 percent compliance out of 300 property owners in the last few weeks.”

Mushak and others printed the city’s sidewalk ordinance on orange paper, then left it on doors. There was nothing on the paper to indicate that enforcement of the ordinance might not be all that strict.

’24 hours’ gets to Kimmel

Here’s one for you proceduralists: Can Norwalk Common Council members vote not to go into a recess after the mayor has tapped his gavel?

The answer, according to developments Tuesday night, is unclear.

Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) made a motion at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting to cut $1.5 million off Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s 2014-15 recommended operating budget cap. Councilman David Watts (D-District A) asked for a recess.

Mayor Harry Rilling announced that there would be a recess “for no specific time,” smiling at the Republican caucus in a reference to a recent “five minute recess” that lasted 20 minutes, and quickly tapping the gavel. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said, “Hey, wait a minute!”

Well, that isn’t exactly what he said. But the gist is there.

Kimmel put Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola on the spot, asking “Does a legislative body have the power to deny a recess?”

Coppola asked if Kimmel meant the body or a member of the body.

“If a motion to recess is called how do we decide whether or not we go into recess or we not go into recess?” Kimmel said.

“I’m not positive as to an answer to your question,” Coppola answered. “It’s my understanding that the mayor in his role could call for a recess to allow for the parties to caucus in a situation like this. I would have to research the issue further.”

Rilling again said there was a recess, and Kimmel asked if he could again ask a question. Rilling allowed it and Watts was asked if this was the first time he had heard of McCarthy’s suggestion.

“I heard some rumors floating around the rumor mill but he’s proposing this on the floor and it deserves a legitimate review,” Watts began. Soothing comments expressing respect for everyone involved followed. Kimmel kept questioning. Watts continued, “If you would just give us an opportunity to do our due diligence and let us at least deliberate on $300 million, what’s the rush?”

“I thought we had been discussing this for the last 24 hours,” Kimmel said, arms outstretched.

At this point Hempstead, who had been looking through books with Coppola, intervened.

“I’ve been at this for 20-plus years and if we want to go through the rules, we’ll go through the rules, but it’s always been my understanding that the mayor calling for a recess, we went to recess. I think we need to go to recess,” he said.

Here’s the part you won’t see on television.

Hempstead kept turning pages with Coppola, causing Kimmel to stop on his way to the caucus chambers and loudly say, “Doug, Doug, Mr. Hempstead, could you please come in here?”

Bruce Kimmel makes nice with Democrats on the other side of the aisle after Tuesday’s Common Council meeting.

All was good later when they returned. Kimmel went straight to Watts after Rilling tapped the gavel for the final time of the evening, and there was laughter and jocularity, as shown in the video below.

Kimmel then admitted to this reporter (who has never seen him that close to being angry) that he had been upset, although it was “really nothing.”

“It’s just a misunderstanding,” he said. “I wanted to go through the process of voting on the amendment before they recessed. It just caught me off guard. I didn’t know what was going on.”

The recess was not politics, he said.

“I think there was a little bit of confusion on both sides,” he said. “As we build trust we learn more and more about each other. I was a little distrustful. They were a little distrustful. We both needed some time to figure out where we were. … I came in thinking the vote was going to end a certain way. … The Democratic caucus thought the same thing. We ended up agreeing! But we wanted to make sure, double check.”

Plus, “I didn’t want it to drag out in a 20 minute recess, that’s all.”

There’s always time for fifth-grade humor

Norwalk Harbor Commission member Tony D’Andrea was talking about water quality Wednesday when he gave an update on the removal of sewage from boats.

“The chairman asked me to investigate the feasibility of a pump-out boat run by the Harbor Commission or the city of Norwalk to offset some gaps that we have seen over the last several years with the responsiveness of the pump-out boats that we currently utilize,” he said.

This would be funded with a grant with the blessing from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

“I am investigating and I will have some kind of report for the commission and the chairman by next week,” he said. “End of report.”

Well, no not really. Someone had a question: Could it be operation by next summer?

Well, D’Andrea said, maybe if he loaded the bladder in his own boat it could be, but with government agencies involved it will take longer. The realistic target date is spring of 2015, he said.

Coastal Area Planning Consultant Geoff Steadman said Stratford operates a pump-out boat.

“The devil is in the details,” D’Andrea said. “I don’t think we should necessarily put the responsibility on a city department or on a director that may be overburdened with other important decisions. I think … the Harbor Commission should be in charge of poo-poo. And I really do believe that.”

People snickered.

“You don’t realize what that means – protect our precious oceans,” D’Andrea said. “Doesn’t mean anything other than that.”

Yeah, right, members said. You worked on that, huh?

“I did,” D’Andrea replied.

And that’s the straight poop.


3 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Color it orange”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    Nice article. However, Mason’s Rules, which is what the Council uses for all parliamentary questions, clearly states that a majority vote is required in order to go into a recess. We have been ignoring this requirement for a very long time. The question is, what should we do moving forward.

  2. spanner

    congrats Mike your work paid off.Maybe we can find someone in South Norwalk where personal Injury has occured numerous times over the last few weeks on falls on the ice on sidwalks that can copy your effort.

    .Its not as humorous in South Norwalk where I imagine police reports detail many falls and many ambulance runs to the hospital over falls on sidewalks not cleared daily.I’m curious what is the law on a sidewalk cleared and then ice becomes the problem after the snow melts from city piles?Some of the injuries around the city have been knock outs yet very little is done if its just ice,wouldn’t it be possible for the DPW to service areas where residents have been injured from ice and also include interesections and crosswalks that seem to be city controlled?

    This is not to say the sidewalks not done by streets not houses in South Norwalk and Rowyaton are not problems as well.

    This winter is not like most maybe these things that are not as common with the ice should be an issue with the council.

    When Our Mayor and Bob Fluff walked the Famine route with St Philiphs last week they were challenged by bad sidewalks and crosswalks the city is supopose to do,they first hand saw 100s of kids in front of them accept the challenge of walking on public sidewalks not cleared or not cleared well days after a storm.Maybe this next storm that route that has schools on them get done better for those children going to school.

  3. Don’t Panic

    You want to see sidewalks cleared in a hurry. Hand out 30 actual tickets a day and publicize the fact.
    Bruce, you have not been ignoring that rule for a long time. It’s only this term that the council voted to use Mason’s instead of Robert’s. With Robert’s what happened is exactly what should have happened, so everybody was likely operating out of habit.
    18. Take a Recess.1 This motion is practically a combination of the two preceding, to which it yields, taking precedence of all other motions. If made when other business is before the assembly, it is a privileged motion and is undebatable and can have no subsidiary motion applied to it except amend. It can be amended as to the length of the recess. It takes effect immediately.

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