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To the Editor:
I have been in a state of disbelief since January. Only six weeks after taking office, the City of Norwalk’s corporation counsel, apparently under the direct orders of Mayor Harry Rilling, filed a motion with the U.S. District Court to ask for settlement mediation with the Al-Madany Mosque group. Upon taking office, Mayor Rilling said he expected that, “The court case will run its course, and then based on the outcome, we have to decide how to proceed.” But yet, he hadn't even had a chance to decorate his office when this motion was filed!
So, without a doubt, the mayor of this city, Harry Rilling, lied to the media, lied during debates, and worst of all stood on many doorsteps in West Norwalk in October and lied to the faces of many of my friends and told them he would continue the fight.
As I pointed out in April, Attorney Coppola, who neither lives in, nor has much familiarity with Norwalk, is arguing the exact opposite position as a hired gun for a group fighting an inappropriate synagogue in Greenwich. At best, we must conclude that Attorney Coppola will argue in whatever manner he is directed. That’s what a good lawyer should do, I suppose, but a city’s attorney should represent the citizens of that city, and not the narrow political interests of his boss.
At one point I actually thought this was about the political donations Mayor Rilling accepted from the Mosque Group. I was ridiculed for believing this, but what I have concluded, after seeing the controversy related to the promises to fire staff made to union and NAACP members, is that Mayor Rilling is struggling to come through on at least one promise he made in the election, lest every group turn on him at once. Not at the expense of West Norwalk and the Kendall Neighborhood, Mr. Mayor!
We must remember, that after the Norwalk Zoning Commission rejected the Mosque application based on concerns of traffic, parking, bulk of development and other issues, the applicants chose not to revise their plan, and not to appeal to the courts based on zoning issues, but to file suit claiming religious bias. The reputation of Norwalk, and its staff and Zoning Commission is at stake here. The city did nothing wrong, and to settle the case, (unless the settlement includes a hefty payment and apology FROM the mosque group, with an agreement to build a small mosque only, with suitable screening and parking) is simply not in the interests of any resident of Norwalk.
I am not privy to the ongoing progress of that case, since it has been under a cloak of secrecy, but the input of the expanded West Norwalk has been absolutely ignored. My understanding from friends is that the opinion of the Stonegate Condominium Complex, granted a position as a party to the case, has also been ignored. So, apparently bending over backwards to appease a special interest group is more important than even trying to defend the city.
The Zoning Commission and Common Council must not allow themselves to be gamed into going along with this irresponsible effort to hand over the intersection of Fillow and North Taylor to special interests at the expense of the neighborhood. Regardless of whatever pressure they are put under, they should remain focused only on their duties to the city, and not fold under inappropriate pressures and scare tactics. The citizens of this city are counting on you.
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