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Duleep, Peña: Norwalk budget cap process left them out

NORWALK, Conn. – Two Norwalk Democrats were silent Tuesday night as they voted against the budget cap set by a majority of their peers on the Common Council, but they shared their opinions Thursday.

At-Large Council members Warren Peña and Anna Duleep, both Democrats, were among the five votes against the budget cap proposed by Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-District D). John Igneri (D-District E), David Watts (D-District A) and Nick Kydes (R-District C) also voted no.

Kydes said he couldn’t vote for the cap because it includes a tax hike, but the Democrats did not speak in the lengthy meeting.

Asked by email what their motivations were, Pena and Duleep responded. Here are their statements:

Peña:

I was not comfortable with the budgeting process. Also not comfortable with this current administration’s priorities.

We should be making the investment to fully fund our BOE.

In addition, (it’s) not an inclusive process where all stakeholders can sit down to chat how we can take a balanced approach on finding the money to fund education and be sensitive to taxpayers, fully knowing that our grand list is stagnant.  Essentially, (there’s) no proactive leadership. This administration does not take into consideration any ideas or suggestions from the minority caucus.  They have the votes, therefore we are irrelevant.

We can do things better and we can work with other partners.

When you have a $300 million corporation, there comes of a lot of other wealthy folks or entities that are willing to partner up with you.

Duleep:

I voted against the Republican caucus member proposed preliminary budget cap because the mayor’s operating budget is out of step with the values I want Norwalk to embody. Our city budget is a reflection of our values and priorities as a community.

Tuesday night, Mayor Moccia blamed our budget woes on Hartford and pointed his finger at Gov. (Dannel) Malloy’s proposed state budget. I wonder what Hartford lawmakers, who already view Norwalk as a wealthy Gold Coast city, would think of our apparent priorities? Two weeks ago,  I was the sole vote against raising the mayor’s remuneration over 20 percent. The Republican-controlled Common Council put Mayor Moccia in an awkward position; how could Gov. Malloy possibly take Mayor Moccia’s criticism seriously mere days after the Common Council approved such a hefty pay raise?

This Tuesday, I was the sole vote against lending $150,000 to Oak Hills. The issue was never golf; the issue is whether and why we hold our public golf course to a more lax standard than our own Board of Education and the Head Start program run through Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now. If Mayor Moccia wants to play hardball with NEON (despite the dissolution of the old board, which included our Council President Doug Hempstead and immediate past Council President Carvin Hilliard), that is his choice. But what does it say about our priorities? Even people who voted to authorize the loan to Oak Hills expressed profound discomfort.

…. Finally, Councilman Kimmel failed to convince me that the City will indeed close that gap between the BOE’s request and the city’s ability to fund our schools before the Board of Estimate and Taxation sets the mill rate in May. He failed to adequately explain the merits of the extremely small increase he proposed to the cap. BET Chair Fred Wilms has never come particularly close to exceeding a generous budget cap; what does less than $100,000 of “wiggle room” truly accomplish? 

8 comments

Bruce Kimmel March 1, 2013 at 9:32 am

Left out of the process? How? What meetings were closed to them? The “process” included several discussion in the Finance Committee, which Pena is a member of and which Duleep could have attended. (I am not a member of the Finance Committee, but I made sure to attend all the important meetings.) There was an important meeting between the Council and the BOE. Pena was there, Duleep was not there. We have had budget material for weeks, we’ve been discussing that material, we’ve been asking BOE members and officials questions, we’ve been asking our Finance Department officials questions. I don’t believe anyone was left out of the process. One final note: Comparing the $150,000 loan to Oak Hills and NEON is absurd: NEON will probably not have a Head Start program this coming year. How in heaven’s name could we possibly provide them funds for a program they don’t even have? Plus, not providing Oak Hills with the loan would have meant that Norwalk taxpayers would have to foot the entire debt service for the Authority. Apparently, Duleep didn’t care, or didn’t think, about that.

Joe Espo March 1, 2013 at 10:52 am

Thank you, Bruce, for pointing out the deception, fraud and artifice in Pena’s and Duleep’s claims. Seems all they want to do is create chaos for sport, see how much of that brown stuff sticks to the wall and hope that they can gain some political traction for their party among the low information voters. Those are their priorities, as opposed to working for the betterment of the City.

Tom March 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I’m a democrat, but I must agree with Bruce on this one. If Ms. Duleep can’t find time to attend meetings, why should anyone care what she thinks? If you are elected to attend meetings, attend the dang meeting.

Original BARIN March 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

You cant complain if you didnt attend the meetings, for sure.
I think Ms. Duleep may have meant by her comparison was to give money to Head Start to somehow keep them open.
How about Maritime paying back half the 35 Mill they owe us and we use that money for vouchers to parents of the closed Head Start program, specifically for enrollment in a similar program for their children.

LWitherspoon March 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm

What Pena fails to mention in his comment is that fully funding the Board of Education would require a tax increase of something like 7-8%. I’m not happy with the current increase of 3-4%, and I doubt anyone else is either, but 7-8% is simply unconscionable in this economy. More needs to happen that local and state level to allow school districts to get control of their costs. If Pena truly wants to have a long and successful political career, he would be best served to work on finding ways to deliver services to taxpayers in a way that doesn’t require a yearly tax increase of 8%.

LWitherspoon March 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm

That third sentence should read “More needs to happen AT THE local and state level…”

Tim T March 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm

As usual Bruce Kimmel forgetting that hes was elected as a democrat and LWitherspoon as always sticking up the for the Republicans at the cost of the dems…SAD

Lisa Thomson March 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

With all due respect Tim T, shouldn’t it be about Norwalk and not the political parties. Sorry, just being an outspoken un affiliated voter. You know that we represent 40% of the voters in this town.

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