Why should I vote to re-elect Alex Knopp?

Right now I can see a bunch of flashing blue and red lights from the police cars and the amber lights of a wrecker, all dealing with the aftermath of an accident just three doors down from our house, at the corner of Strawberry Hill Avenue and Tierney Street. We watched the ambulance take away the latest victim of Norwalk traffic.

The intersection badly needs a traffic light, or at least stop signs. I've mentioned many times in this blog the insane traffic on Strawberry Hill Avenue, a one-lane, residential street with three schools located within one short stretch. Not even the cops or the city buses go 25 miles per hour, the posted speed limit. Most of the traffic goes at a minimum of 40 miles per hour. Including the cops.

The money for a traffic light at this intersection was actually appropriated in 1997, but, according to the Public Works Committee minutes of Sept. 3, 2003, there was opposition to the light and it was dropped. It was studied and approved by the state. (I know of only one neighbor who would not have approved the light--out of the at least 20 households directly affected). Even though this was just six years ago, another study has to be done and the state has to approve it again--though why isn't clear. And the cost of putting in a traffic signal is between $120,000 and $150,000? That sounds pretty damned steep to me. (Though I'm sure the cost is a lot less that the inevitable lawsuit that will get filed when someone is severely injured or killed because of lax traffic enforcement on Strawberry Hill Avenue.)

Norwalk's city hall is on Tierney Street (the corner of Tierney and East Avenue). Which is where our current mayor allegedly works. Our mayor, Alex Knopp, ran on a platform of easing the traffic "problem" and lowering homeowners' taxes. That's it, those two things and some lip service to working with the school board. I don't care about the school board much since we don't have kids.

But I do care a great deal about taxes, and about the traffic. And the election for mayor is next month. What has our current mayor done to earn my vote again this time? As far as I know, he's managed to make things worse as far as taxes go and to do absolutely nothing about the traffic. If he has done anything about anything, I have no way of knowing since he hasn't bothered to send as much as a newsletter or a letter tucked in with the bills we receive from the town. Or even just mailed to each household.

We did get a letter from one of the candidates running against Knopp, from the Republican/Independents. They pointed out that Knopp actually raised property taxes by 14% over two years (the property tax on our house is in the vicinity of $4500 per year now), raised the auto tax by a whopping 25%, slapped on a sewer "tax" of $175 per household the first year and raised it the next year, and raised all the fees you have to pay the city for any kind of permit or license.

I can understand having to raise some of the city fees--Connecticut is in trouble just like almost all of the rest of the states. I can even understand imposing a sewer fee (though making it not deductible from our state taxes was nasty)--but not more in sewer taxes than we pay for our water!

What really pisses me off about property taxes here are all the big boxes that pay nothing or next to nothing in taxes. Huge stores that bring in even more traffic--Walmarts, Home Depot, mega grocery stores--and more wear and tear on our infrastructure and pay next to nothing in property taxes. The huge office buildings--IBM, Priceline, etc. etc.--that draw in thousands of commuters every day, but pay nothing or next to nothing in property taxes. Meanwhile, there are seniors and others on fixed incomes who have to sell out and leave Norwalk because they cannot afford to pay the increases in property taxes. Our property tax is 25% of our annual housing cost!

My father was a councilman in a city about the size of Norwalk. He always stressed that bringing in businesses to a town or city brings revenue to pay for things like the roads and schools and libraries and firemen and cops and garbage collection, so business development is a Good Thing. It helps keep homeowner property taxes lower, helps keep the quality of life decent ...

Here in Norwalk, though, our municipal government somehow never managed to grasp the basics of City Development 101. Our Civic Leaders' idea of a good development deal is to insist that Walmart repave the parking lot. But pay property taxes? Forget it--they said Walmart wouldn't have come to Norwalk if it had to pay taxes commensurate with the size and traffic and wear and tear generated by not one, but TWO Walmarts. So in order for the city to support the mammoth increases in infrastructure burdens, the city taxes homeowners. Are homeowners benefiting from Walmart and Home Depot and Super Duper Stop and Shop? Not a chance. We go to the supermarket in Westport and the Home Depot in Fairfield because it's so much easier to get there.

If Alex Knopp wants my vote again, he's going to have to explain how he's working on getting the big boxes pay for their fair share of the infrastructure costs. He needs to tell me how he's going to alleviate traffic congestion. He's going to have to demonstrate that it's not going to take a kid being killed for him to put in a traffic light at Strawberry Hill Avenue and Tierney Street. He needs to show how he's insisted that the cops enforce existing traffic laws. He needs to tell me how my tax burden is going to be eased, or at the very least, how it absolutely won't go up again during his next term. And he needs to at least respond to letters written to him by citizens--I have yet to receive a response from him to a letter I sent to him in January.

I have a hunch I'll be voting for anybody BUT Alex Knopp. Maybe even a [gasp!] Republican ... a pity, since I had such high hopes for him. But ya gotta wonder: how can a guy with the entire Common Council ready to rubber stamp whatever he wants manage to not only accomplish nothing, but to actually go backward? (It's time to get some people who use at least a couple of brain cells on the Common Council--but I'll save that for another rant.)
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