Simms’ boxing program funding request finds support

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Norwalk Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) and Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) talk about Simms’ plan for a boxing program Monday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – There’s money for a boxing program in Norwalk, Common Council members said Monday, while not committing to whether it will come from local tax dollars or be part of the allotment from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

This was spearheaded by Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large), who said, “The city in less than five minutes would figure out how to fund” the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program and the Neighborhood Improvement Coordinator if the Planning Committee voted to allocate $43,000 to the Travis Simms Foundation instead of those two well-established programs. The ultimate result was that the Planning Committee voted to approve a draft Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) action plan that is $43,000 over the cap set by the federal government, which has never been done before according to Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan.

The draft is now in the 30-day public comment period. There will be a public hearing May 1.

“Not a lot of communities have a former world champion in boxing in their community,” Kimmel said. Plus, there is a tradition in Norwalk of a strong boxing program that made a difference in many lives, he said, the program run by the late John Harris. Although the proposal put forward by Simms did not “dot every I and cross every T” it should be looked at differently, he said.

“We have a unique individual in the city,” he said. “It’s more complicated because he’s a member of the Common Council. … We should bend over backwards and not demand that every detail of the application is done the way professional non-profits do them. They’re very good at it. Travis hasn’t been doing this kind of business for a number of years.”

Simms said his proposal started at $100,000, then dropped to $83,000. He said making do with less would be “extremely hard” but expressed determination to make it work.

“We can still do a lot with 44. I think when you’re talking about a program like a boxing program you want to make sure you hire a director. Someone who has experience with the boxing, with working with children. That’s what the majority of the funding would have went to, for a director to oversee this program for at least a year. Also to set up some initiative where we can actually start having funding resources without depending on CDBG.”

Simms has been working with the Police Athletic League (PAL) and Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) transitional CEO and President the Rev. Tommie Jackson, he said. Arrangements have not been finalized but it looks like the program can go into the Ben Franklin Center, he said.

Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss asked him how much equipment he would be able to buy.

“We’ll make do with what we have. It will be extremely hard but I think it’s something we can achieve regardless of what amount we are able to obtain from the CDBG funding,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t want just have a hole in the wall boxing club and only afford a water bag. You want to make sure you are able to have all the supplies where all the kids can learn the art of boxing. Learn some good defensive skills and some good disciplining skills. So with that you’ve got to have a well-rounded gym that has all the equipment and all.”

Kimmel suggested not putting the mayor’s summer youth program and the neighborhood improvement coordinator in the draft. John Kydes (D-District C) voted with him on that, but Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D), Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) and committee Chairman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) voted against it.

“I didn’t vote against your program,” Giandurco said. “I think there is so much potential but I feel at this point there’s too many holes.”

Simms said he respected that, but, “There is currently not one program that targets these children in the city and has not been for many years. With the summer coming before us we have the opportunity here to save these kids’ lives.”

She suggested that maybe if he had said $20,000 for a director and $20,000 for equipment she would go for it. He said it would be impossible to fund a director for that.

“Right now you are putting the program in a tough position because to get all the equipment that the program like that would need would still be roughly around $50,000 and that’s on the short end. Then to add a director, that’s probably another $50,000. I’m trying to make it work either way we go about this,” he said.

Hempstead said there was nothing to prohibit the committee from advancing the draft at a higher amount than can be funded. The committee has $1,028,033 in CDBG funding to spread around, a 1.5 percent drop from last year. Of that, $146,813 can be spent on public services, the category Simms’ program is in.

Kimmel, who is chairman of the Finance Committee, said the budget numbers continue to look good and the economic shift is continuing in Norwalk’s favor. The operating budget is still well below the cap set by the council, and there will be money to fund the program, he said.

Kimmel said the council needed to give Simms a thumbs up to help him as he seeks other funding. He made the motion to exceed the cap as a “continuation of the process” and with the stipulation that it will be clear that the committee will stick with the cap eventually.

Strauss said Simms will need a confirmed location for the program, a Memorandum of Understanding with the facility, a budget of how the grant would be utilized and fundraising plan for the balance of the cost.

That passed unanimously.

“It is the first time we have put a draft action plan out there that isn’t consistent with the cap, but we are saying that ultimately the recommendation is going to be consistent with the cap,” Sheehan said.

The boxing program will be free for the youths, Simms said.

“This program is going to serve children all across the city,” he said. “However, it’s really going to be targeted to inner city children who are at risk, inner city children who are more prone to joining gangs and which is a huge problem, a huge epidemic in Norwalk over the last few years, where you have every summer kids killing each other in the urban community. However, that is really starting to really spread throughout our community and come into a lot of the suburban areas. That is starting to be a huge issue. So we can kind of put a program in place that really stops these kids in their tracks and gives them some guidance and direction. I think this program will pay for itself year after year.”

Harris ran a similar program on a shoestring for 40 years, he said.

“It made me a two-time world champion. I went to two Olympics,” he said. “Not too many kids will have the opportunity if a program like that didn’t exist.”


18 responses to “Simms’ boxing program funding request finds support”

  1. EveT

    I’d like to see a news story assessing the accuracy of the statement that gangs are “a huge epidemic in Norwalk over the last few years” and “you have every summer kids killing each other in the urban community.” I’m not saying this isn’t a true observation, but I don’t think we’ve had news coverage that gathers this kind of information in one place to make it accessible to readers.

    1. Mark Chapman


      We have not done any comprehensive reporting on crime and gangs in the city, but we do know, anecdotally, there is a gang problem of sorts. We also know that there were no murders in Norwalk in 2013, and three in 2012. There was, according to Steve Kobak in The Hour, a five-month lull in shooting from July to Christmas Eve 2013.

      That is not to say there isn’t a need for the boxing program. It’s just that the “epidemic” and “kids killing each other” comments are a bit over the top, at least according to current stats. Perhaps the boxing program will keep it that way.

  2. Silence Dogood

    Wasn’t Simms awarded some money for a lawsuit against the city years ago? Didn’t he say he was going to spend this money on youth programs? Didn’t that ever happen?
    Sorry, right idea. Wrong administrator.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Silence Dogood

      Yes. Here is a link to a story about that in The Hour before NoN’s time.

  3. anonymous

    He asks for more than he needs, for a plan he doesn’t have, and is working with the Stamford NEON director who can’t even say how many employees he has. This is insulting. Don’t waste my tax dollars!

  4. R.M.L

    This is laughable. Here’s a guy with an active criminal case for fighting the local police department (debatable who’s at fault but our politicians should be held to a higher standard regardless), for years he carried a delinquent tax bill, and who has sued the City of Norwalk for injuries he received playing ball and he wants 100K to start up a camp?

    Is this an April Fool’s day story?

    @Mr. Kimmel – think long and hard about this one.

  5. Silence Dogood

    @Mark. Link? Thanks.

    Let’s try that again: http://www.thehour.com/news/norwalk/norwalk-files-lawsuit-against-former-boxing-champion-travis-simms-says/article_1765389e-fa60-5b54-8c2d-68de07904d0f.html
    @RML. Too true. Except taxpayers are the April Fools here if this passes in the current construct.

  6. justMe

    He is not registered thought the state or federal goverment. Look up Travis Simms Foundation & you will see that it is not registered

  7. justMe

    Please disregard prior as it is registered in CT

  8. spanner

    I agree in part kids are not killing each other the epidemic is far from acurate.

    Take the facts the stats are misleading.

    Facts on gang activity comes from many sources in Norwalk.There is no clear picture on what goes on in Norwalk unless you seek outside the city itself and touch base with ATF,ICE,FBI,State police,Metro North Police and US Marshals all combined they all hold the stats so far I havn’t seen.Norwalk police has street teams,Ct State police and Metro North arrest all the time in Norwalk that does not reflect Norwalks FBI stats.

    Outside of Norwalk arrests can be made of gang members as they can also be shot or stabbed outside the city and no one knows any better.Channel 12 tried working with its sisters stations but even with their staff lack of resouces to track gang crime failed.

    When you talk gangs ask what else the city does to combat the epidemic? Tagging a formable way of expressing territory ,Norwalk spends money elimnating it from buildings walls along with Metro North the hidden agenda of such organizations.Work release programs and gang members working of court agreements come to the city to remove tagging.

    There has been articles on tagging some cities have scrap books they share among departments just like tattoos so they can track movements of such organizations.

    So what gangs does Norwalk have,the city now admits they are in Norwalk but whom?Is it one or two homegrown adolecent bands of kids or is it gangs from the larger cities in Norwalk that may in itself lend credibility to lack of stats given to the media.

    We may find shooting or murders and stabbings are down,what about breakins and thefts rarely are they tied to gang activity but if those proceeds are buying drugs or supplying guns to the street its an epidemic.

    Now we are hearing record overdoses are making thier way into Fairfield county along with that number now include deaths.What does gangs do how do they make money why are they called gangs?Do they have any connection to drugs and overdoses?

    Some drug cases in Norwalk show actors from Bridgeport,Stanford and the Bronx all have ties to the inner city,Norwalk is trying to protect.

    When voilence does happen the train stations are the first checked for suspects wonder why?Woman shot last year Stop and Shop in Norwalk suspect used the rail for transportation.

    I would be surprised if Paul Vance and others like him in their persepective agencies would tell any reporter the break down of gang activity in Norwalk or the impact they have in drug trade or street voilence to support any current status Norwalk may provide.

    Stats are misleading when they are reported,whos crime is it,if the victim is shot or stabbed in Norwalk yet goes to Stamford Hospital what city gets credit?In the case the wall of silence is installed by gang rules.

    I thank Travis for all he does,while most of our tax dollars is going to crap and urban planning this cost the less and probably going to impact more of the residents than some of the things I’ve see so far.

  9. anonymous

    Mr. Kimmel– confounded here. Are you saying that Norwalk taxpayers should act as venture capitalists? “We should bend over backwards and not demand that every detail of the application is done the way professional non-profits do them. They’re very good at it. Travis hasn’t been doing this kind of business for a number of years.”

    Are you willing to put up a big chuck of your own money to fund Simms plan? Don’t use taxpayer money. You have a pension but, Earth to Kimmel, most of this middle class town is still hurting.

  10. Joe

    The photo says it all.

  11. newsfreak203

    Folks, the funding has nothing to do with Norwalk tax payers being on the hook, the funds are appropriated from the federal government to states that has over 250,000 residents and then distributed to urban cities to assist with rebuilding urban communities and to help assist small businesses and non profits within those communities, so I think you should check your facts before assassinating a person’s character because they want to do something positive in the community.
    So, I think your response

  12. newsfreak203

    fluxed, I think SIMMS is on the right track, with wanting to implement programs for the cities youth.

  13. newsfreak203

    It’s disappointing to know that people would be so negative, when someone is trying to do something that is positive.

  14. newsfreak203

    Silence dog Simms was awarded in the neighborhood of $2500 to $5000 and the hour had an article of him donating the majority of that to the Better South Norwalk group to put on the summer event in South Norwalk.

  15. newsfreak203

    Has anyone researched the South Norwalk Community Center as well as their request for $150,000… is this organization registered? The I.R.S. has no history of their non profit status.

    Editor’s note: In fact, we have. South Norwalk Community Center is a regiestered public charity according to the IRS website: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/pub78Search.do?ein1=&names=South+Norwalk+Community+Center&city=Norwalk&state=CT&country=US&deductibility=all&dispatchMethod=searchCharities&submitName=Search

    There is, however, no record of any current registration for the Travis Simms Foundation.

  16. Really, money for a man who has LIED from the get go about “his foundation” to [take] money away from two programs that helps the ENTIRE city of Norwalk’s youth to funnel money into an “organization” that helps ONLY […] south norwalk families? Really, our taxpayers money will go to MORE HANDOUTS to THESE PEOPLE?????

    This comment has been edited to conform to our policy against racist and potentially libelous statements.

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