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What’s to become of Harry’s Norwalk?

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Nancy on Norwalk has been dutifully reporting Mayor Rilling’s fundraising results based on filings with the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC).  How about we look a little deeper?

Three campaign finance filings by “Friends of Rilling” are available. The SEEC filings cover the period from November 2020 through June 2021. Here are some notable observations:

Lots of money. The Rilling campaign raised a total of $135,800 from 377 contributors. An impressive haul for a Norwalk mayoralty race. Political candidates are either skilled at raising funds or they are not. Harry Rilling clearly is. At this pace, the Rilling campaign may be on track to raising the largest war-chest ever for Norwalk Mayor.

Out-of-towners predominate. Of the 377 contributors, 198 (53%) came from out-of-towners. Only 179 (47%) listed Norwalk addresses. The gap is even wider in dollar terms: $91,000 (67%) came from out-of-towners. Only $44,800 (33%) listed a Norwalk address. Normally you’d think candidates raise funds mostly from the voters they hope to represent.

Lobbyists. Twenty two individuals checked the lobbyist, spouse, or dependent child of a lobbyist box on their contribution forms, for a total of $4,725.

Political Action Committees (PACS). Eleven separate entities made contributions for a total of $7,750.

Corporate entities. Forty three companies purchased advertising in program booklets for a total of $10,650.

Shop Rite. Sixteen individuals, all associated with Grade A Shop Rite, all living in Stamford (!) all donated the same amount — $1,000 each. There’s speculation about what Shop Rite might be expecting. Could it be the former Elinco site on Main Avenue? Who knows? But Candidate Rilling in 2013 spoke against a big-box BJ’s on that site. Where does Mayor Rilling stand in 2021?

The 161 local Norwalk contributors (as opposed to the 198 out of towners) may seem like a lot, but it’s not. Even state representative campaigns must attract at least 150 in-town contributors to qualify for state financing, and such candidates typically do a lot better than that. Makes one wonder how hard the Rilling campaign has worked in seeking Norwalk contributions.

Conclusion. Friends of Rilling fundraising has been focused mostly on big-ticket out-of-town contributors — contributors who appear to favor continuing high-rise condo or rental projects in Norwalk. It appears that the Friends of Rilling activity is adhering to SEEC laws/regulations, so legality is not the issue. But for those who would like to retain Norwalk’s character as a town mostly of single-family neighborhoods rather than a high-rise metropolis, the pattern of contributions would seem to signal two more years of overdevelopment.

Harry will never be bothered by this. With his two fat government pensions as former police chief and now mayor, he’ll head off to a cushy retirement in Florida.

Bill Dunne

9 comments

Niz September 16, 2021 at 9:17 am

Correction
The breakdown of donors in dollars & percentage as well as category / demographic is eye opening. I actual feel shook at this moment for the all the residents of Norwalk, including my son & I.

piberman September 16, 2021 at 11:25 am

Big corporate and wealthy donor monies funds national politics. Who complains ? Why not expect similar behaviors locally. Monies fuel politics – our national sport. In years past local and CT Unions plus local attorneys/business folks fueled our local campaigns. If our past is any guide in our transient City where renters are coming to dominate most will stay home for our local elections.

We ought focus on the really serious stuff. Would a new BOE make sure that most City kids graduate meeting CT Educational Dept standards on math and science ? Or help encourage most of our kids to secure a 4 yr college degree ? If past is prologue not likely. And our low expectations for our school kids speaks volumes about our City.

If we’re going to complain about City politics lets focus on the really serious stuff about preparing our kids to secure the American Dream with a first rate education. The problem is who is listening ?

Patrick Cooper September 16, 2021 at 12:27 pm

How many comments have been posted to this site over the past 8 years that complain about “all the fortress apartments” – the traffic – the erosion of our tree canopy, or our quality of life. Then you see this “letter” from longtime resident Bill Dunne.

There’s nothing illegal about accepting the support.

It’s just the way things are…..

Everybody does it……

There is no quid-pro-quo…..in writing.

Just because Ironworks, the SoNo Pearl, Rich Co., the Spinnaker to GGP (now Brookfield) Mall, BJ’s on main, BLT, etc., etc. developers gave to the campaign, and then in the next two years – got spot zoning changes, changes to the LDA’s, given slivers of land that added to the size, and a gilded path to permits – doesn’t mean anything…..it’s just all coincidence. Like when the Shoprite goes in – in 2023 – that will be another.

Traffic studies…..Chick Fil-a?

Tim Sheehan – remember him? Redevelopment? Made the fatal flaw of – putting it in writing – that got discovered by a local provocateur during an FOI request – that shows the clear link in the decision making process (POKO) of campaign contributions in return for chosen developer status. Did the ethics committee even look at that? No – and shortly thereafter, Tim was the new Homer Simpson in Springfield MA. Everyone learned fast – nothing in writing. I’m pretty sure Mario conducted a class, “how not to leave fingerprints”. Got some pointers from his boss.

I ask those Norwalk residents who are not blinded by hyper-partisanship – what is your personal version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? What is your priority? What comes first?

Is it family? Is it City? Is it political party? Of these three – which comes first?

So why do you keep voting the same way?

Tysen Canevari September 16, 2021 at 3:08 pm

Do you think Shop Rite gave all that money because Harry is a frequent shopper there? FAVORS FAVORS FAVORS I bet a lot of Italians will be happy when Shop Rite opens on route 7. Its sad that this is the way things work here in Norwalk. Used to be a great town. Now we look like a monopoly board full of red apartment buildings. Harry makes a lot of money from Norwwalk taxpayers and doesnt do us justice. He even appointed his assistant at a cost of $130,000 a year. Where does the extra money go after the election?

piberman September 16, 2021 at 10:11 pm

Long residents know its the not the Mayors that rule our City. Our Common Council and BOE are the real seats of power. Until we attract well qualified candidates with strong business and management skills why expect change. Our surrounding towns routinely elect highly qualified candidates. We have difficulty.

Some day we might ask why our Supt earns over $300k – about as much as the Vice President of our United States – while our Mayor with afar more demanding job earns only about $150k or about as much as our Governor. Our Mayor is a “native son” who knows this City inside out and many of our residents. In contrast our Supt reportedly comes from NYCity. As different from Norwalk as could possibly be.

Stuart Garrelick September 19, 2021 at 11:36 am

AN EYE OPENER.
But what to do after your eyes are opened?
Why is our Council and Zoning complicit? Are they left with no power or the option to say “no”?
And once we combine planning and zoning the BIG BUSINESS folks can have one stop “shopping”. Seems to make it easier and less folks to “convince”.

Thomas Belmont September 21, 2021 at 9:21 am

This is Democrat MO. They stick together. Out of town, county, even out of state, donor support is a form of globalism. A tell-tale sign of take-over Party first people 2nd.

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