NORWALK, Conn. – About 100 days into his term as mayor, Harry Rilling feels he has Norwalk moving in the right direction already.
“With three months into my administration, I believe there has been significant movement in accomplishing many of the issues I brought forth during the campaign,” Rilling said.
Rilling’s 100th day in office was Feb. 28. On Monday, he offered a State of the City address reflecting on his first few months in office and where he sees his administration heading.
Much of Rilling’s speech focused on economic issues, specifically bringing new developments into the city and improving the experience for business owners already in Norwalk’s commercial districts.
Rilling announced that two long-delayed projects, Head of the Harbor South and POKO Partners’ development on Wall Street, are “making significant progress” expected to move forward in “six months to a year.” He also says he plans to speak with the new owners of the District 95/7 space to make sure the proposed development is the “highest and best use for future generations."
The Mayor’s Business Development Council also has finalized a job posting for the city’s new economic development director, who they plan to hire within a month. The director will be responsible for “working to develop a business-friendly climate,” according to the listing, specifically by reaching out to potential developers and streamlining the permitting process.
Rilling touted his plans to form a business improvement district in South Norwalk, a taxing district that would help cover the cost of cleaner streets, new parking and other business-friendly improvements to the area. He also announced plans to form a Wall Street Task Force to encourage development in that area and find a way to connect it with SoNo for pedestrians.
He also stressed his work to improve openness at City Hall, such as his appointing of more minorities to boards and commissions. He also touted his monthly Mayor’s Night Out sessions with the public and regular meetings with all department heads to gather ideas.
“Whereas in the past people who had offices 50 feet from each other may not see each other for a week of two weeks, now we’re talking on a regular basis, we’re coming up with ideas, we’re coming up with support,” Rilling said.
On education, he highlighted his plans to fully fund the Board of Education’s requested budget in his city budget. He also stressed his plans to work with other cities such as Stamford and Bridgeport to improve education funding from the state, which he said is currently “fundamentally inadequate.”
Although the change in funding could not happen until the state legislature works on a new budget next year, “We will continue our fight,” Rilling said.
Other initiatives he mentioned included expanding senior tax relief, stepping up enforcement of the city’s new blight ordinance and working with Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now Inc. to restore the social service programs lost when the organization faced economic problems last fall.
“While we have made much progress, there is much more to do to keep our momentum,” Rilling said.