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Public Puts Questions to Norwalk's Top Candidates

NORWALK, Conn. – The questions ran the gamut at the second mayoral debate of the day Thursday, from street crime to organized crime to development – from it being stalled to it creating problems with increased traffic.

Republican Mayor Richard Moccia and Democratic challenger Andy Garfunkel answered nearly two hours worth of questions in the freewheeling debate in City Hall's community room, facing a full house of political candidates and concerned citizens. The debate began with questions posed by the League of Women Voters of Norwalk, organizer of the debate. After 30 minutes, it progressed to questions asked by audience members.

Moderator Catherine Sturgess of Wilton read one of the most colorful questions: "What kind of background checks should be required for bidders on city contracts? For example, checking for connections with organized crime."

A bit of laughter came up from the audience as Garfunkel paused before answering. "We definitely need to know who we're working with. We definitely need to know where the contracts are coming from, the companies that exist and who these companies are merging with. We need to look at the bids for face value, and, at that time, there should be research done by the committees that have been set up to look into these. Should we find there are ties to organized crime, we should definitely shy away from them."

Moccia took a different tack. "I cannot remember that I have heard a more outrageous question," Moccia said. "As an Italian American, I know the code word for Mafia and organized crime and I am not going to go there."

Some members of the audience applauded.

The audience laughed when both candidates were asked, "What do you think of Occupy Wall Street?" Both candidates smiled at a question written by a high school student: "I have noticed that the housing market is not doing well. What will be done for future generations to prevent further issues in the market?"

After both candidates spoke about development in town – a Garfunkel campaign point – Sturgess asked, "At what point does redevelopment negatively impact the quality of our life? For instance, traffic."

Moccia talked about Transit Oriented Development and getting cars off the road, as residents of such developments park their cars when they get home and walk to the shops in their neighborhood. Garfunkel replied that another issue of redevelopment is that small businesses have been driven out of Norwalk by cookie-cutter policies. "We have to watch during our development stage that we do studies, and we do find that each neighborhood does literally have its distinct version of zoning issues."

In the video, both candidates answer this question: "Every day, in our local papers, we read articles concerning crime ranging from gang shootings, robberies, spousal assaults, drugs. Most crimes are committed by young men. What can we do to make our city safer?"

The Daily Norwalk will post further videos from the debate, answering questions about anti-bullying programs in schools, taking financial contributions from companies doing business with the city, negative effects of development, preschool education, summer youth employment programs and more.

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