Mayor Richard Moccia is running for his second term as Mayor of Norwalk on the Republican ticket. He was born in Stamford and attended Norwalk Community College and Sacred Heart University, receiving his B.S. in business administration from Marymount College. Mayor Moccia worked at Nash Engineering from 1967 – 1985. He then worked as Constable and City Sheriff. He has been active in Republican affairs, serving on the Norwalk Republican Town Committee and the Connecticut State Central Republican Committee. He has also been elected to the Norwalk Common Council and served on the Fire and Fair Rent Commissions. He is currently a member of the Sons of Italy, the Norwalk Exchange Club and the Maritime Aquarium Authority and Board of trustees.
The 64-year-old mayor served in the U.S. Air Force as a medic and is not married.
NP: What do you like about being mayor?
Moccia: Meeting the people, especially the young kids in the school system. I visit classrooms. I’ve literally met thousands of kids and their parents.
NP: What is your motivation for running again?
Moccia: I love the job.
NP: Education in Norwalk: what of the following areas need improvement and/or expansion?
- Job training?
Moccia: Job training is a difficult area. The unions offer some training and internships. They city doesn’t economically or logistically. We have a vocational high school, and the other high schools offer some training.
- College prep?
Moccia: I can’t tell you how many of our grads go on to college. I can’t tell you how numerous are the award ceremonies I’ve gone to, or how many scholarships our grads get. Often not just $4,000-$5,000, but up to $40,000 to $60,000. This is a city. Our schools are safe. We have school resource officers to curtail gang involvement and curtail problems. These are great un-uniformed officers the kids can talk to without being afraid of being arrested.
- Stay in school and after-school programs?
Moccia: The Board of Education runs a continuing education program. Tutoring and mentoring programs for young kids are in place. And, we have many special education programs. Brien McMahon High School has special programs for kids with disabilities. I visited a photography class and the kids showed me their pictures.
- After-school programs?
Moccia: The After School Alliance, the Norwalk Foundation and others provide programs. We have a summer camp. The anti-poverty agency has programs, as does the Board of Recreation.
Moccia: We are concentrating on early intervention for young children at a younger age. We’ve put programs together to apply for state aid to get more kids into early childhood programs. We wish we could do more. The challenge is to fully develop the early childhood program. We have an emerging Hispanic population; one problem is getting information to the parents about programs that are available.
Moccia: We have all standard sports, intramural sports. Football is big. Our top band from Norwalk High has played all over the country—Rose Bowl—all over. Brien McMahon’s band is coming right along. Part of the expansion of Norwalk High will increase music facilities.
NP: The healthcare issue, how does this huge national problem impact on Norwalk and what would you do to improve healthcare in Norwalk?
Moccia: Funding and offering universal healthcare comes from the federal and state governments. We do have a community health center. It’s a free clinic, which includes child health. It’s affiliated with the (Norwalk) hospital. We’ve recently opened a free dental clinic in Norwalk. It’s bilingual to serve the Hispanic population. Other health centers are in the schools where the kids can go to see a nurse, get counseling, and other medical care.
NP: With so many buildings going up, the antiquated infrastructure is definitely an issue. What are your plans for improving roads, storm sewers and sewer lines?
Moccia: First of all the roads: We’ve repaved over 30 roads. Sanitary sewers are run by the Water Pollution Control Agency. Fees are assessed to tie them into the sewer lines. When a building goes up, they are assessed for sewer connection and sewer maintenance. Storm drains are more difficult. We’ve committed three million in this year’s budget for storm drains. Down the road we are looking at projects coming in, builders will have to pay for added storm drains and sewers. We don’t want to hit up individual homeowners, but if you’re (a developer) who is putting in 300 units, you must pay for connection to the storm sewers and added drains. If you are building units for $700,000-$800,000, you can afford to pay into the storm drains.
NP: Will there be enough sewage treatment to handle the city’s planned growth?
Moccia: Money is in reserve for sanitary sewers. We are always monitoring the system.
NP: Is enough money budgeted to do more than stick a “Band-Aid” on these problems?
Moccia: For storm drains alone, 20 million will be spent over the next five years. Reserves are put aside to pay for current expansion. Developers will pay to be tied into the sewer system. We have reserves; the fund builds every time a new development goes up.
NP: If reelected what would you do differently in your next term?
Moccia: I don’t know that I’d do anything differently; you always learn. I’m approachable; I answer almost every phone call. Most people appreciate that I call them back. If you have a 65% approval rating, there are still 35% who aren’t happy. You’re never going to make everybody happy. You learn as you move forward. I’ll continue to move forward.
NP: Do you have plans for reducing the crime rate in Norwalk?
Moccia: We have reduced the crime rate. There were eight murders the year before I took office. One murder is two much. We are catching the people who are doing it. We’ve installed civilians in the police dispatch department. That put five more officers on the street. Gang crime has been reduced. Is it perfect? No, it is a city. We recently had a sweep and took 50 drug dealers off the street and recently we arrested a major drug lord. We are making arrests.
NP: What is your take on the changing face of Norwalk as it becomes home to many small and mid-size corporations?
Moccia: Norwalk is a destination place. Stamford is different; they can handle RBS and the Swiss Bank, which required hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space. Building and Land Technologies is bringing in new companies behind Merritt Seven. Companies like (being in) Norwalk because of access to Rte. 15, 95 and 7. Stamford and Norwalk, over all are leading the state. We can’t handle businesses as large as Stamford has.
NP: The vision thing—how would you like to see Norwalk in 10 years?
Moccia: I’d like to see the redevelopment plans on the books right now with $1.2 billion coming in. I’d like to see the 95/7 project with primarily mixed-use development. Hubert Humphrey said, “Neighborhoods without neighbors aren’t any good.” We envision neighborhoods where a couple can come home from work, go out and get a paper, have a cup of coffee, go to a movie without getting back into their car.
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