NORWALK, Conn. – When NancyOnNorwalk set out to get some specific issue and policy answers from the four announced Democratic mayoral candidates, we had high hopes and realistic expectations.
We hoped the candidates would embrace the chance to get specific and impress the voters with their ideas while differentiating themselves from their competition. We expected that it would be difficult to get them to respond with something more than campaign rhetoric.
We did not expect that one candidate would ignore the request.
Andy Garfunkel, who showed plenty of fire and resolve in a meet-and-greet in South Norwalk, in The Hour debate and in a candidates forum at City Hall, did not respond to a list of six questions that started as a list of four questions.
It went something like this: We made our first request at the beginning of the month. Matt Miklave responded first and said he would get his answers to us the following week. We did not hear from anyone else. And we did not hear from Miklave the following week.
We put out a second call for answers, and no one responded. We then made a third call, added two questions and had voice contact with someone from Vinny Mangiacopra’s campaign when he called on another matter. Mangiacopra’s answers followed within a few days, but only for the first four questions. Miklave came through will all six. Harry Rilling promised he would send us his answers, but his day job slowed things down a bit. We have received his responses, and will begin running them Sunday.
Today we have Miklave’s answers to the final two questions.
The final two questions deal with the city’s relationship with NEON, and the second with the use of executive sessions and transparency in general.
What needs to happen for NEON to regain the trust of the city when it comes to grants and such? We know that Moccia walked away from the agency over the scandals while Joe Mann was in office.
“I think NEON can regain the trust of the city once the current administration, which has been openly at war with this important anti-poverty agency, is voted out of office. It is ironic how quickly some officials condemned NEON and its staff, even though many of them were then serving as members of the NEON Board of Directors and thus complicit in the issues the agency faced.
“But I have a different view of this agency. I believe that the new Board of Directors, which has promised a fresh start, will be able to work through the difficult financial and structural issues this agency faces. As mayor, I will support the work of the new Board of Directors and staff to reform this agency, insure it is in compliance with all federal, state and local rules and regulations, and re-energize the support of the community. My administration will offer whatever technical and financial assistance and support it can to help in these efforts.
“Any financial assistance will be conditioned on complete openness and transparency with respect to accounting and auditing.”
Since we arrived in Norwalk, we have noticed a rather liberal use of executive sessions and secret searches, like the one recently used to find a superintendent. From our reporting, we find the majority of superintendent searches across the nation are not secret once it gets down to the final two or three candidates. How will you address: a.) the frequent and sometimes questionable use of executive sessions; and b.) searches for the inevitable replacements for certain high-level administrative posts?
“I am running for mayor to reform city government and my political party. During my eight years in office, I have watched as government officials and party insiders have worked behind closed doors to achieve their particular goals or objectives and I am running to change that “insider game.”
It is surprising to me that leaders and candidates in my party will claim to be reformers or fighting for openness, while meeting behind closed doors and attempting to trade votes. (During the recent DTC convention, I stopped counting the number of times an insider from one camp or the other tried to offer me “something” in exchange for my support or my abstention. I responded by telling them that if they thought they could get my vote by promising me something, then they had not been paying attention!)
“My record in office shows what I will do as mayor. I opposed attempts to conduct the public’s business behind closed doors. I have consistently voted against going into executive session to discuss the terms of tentative labor contracts once those contracts were ratified by the membership because I believed the public had a right to know the terms of the “deal” before we took a vote.
“In 2005, I refused to serve on the Head of the Harbor Ad Hoc Development Committee because membership was conditioned on the signing of a secrecy agreement preventing the disclosure of any information to the public or any other appointed or elected official. (Basically, I would have been prevented from discussing this substantial development with other elected officials who would be asked to vote on it.) In December 2011, when I learned that council members serving on the Public Works Committee had been voting in secret to approve advertising in violation of state law, I condemned the practice and supported the efforts of newly elected committee Chair John Igneri to end it once and for all.
“I have repeatedly expressed my concern about the efforts by some city and party officials (even the leadership of the Democratic Town Committee) to keep matters from public view. I drew the anger of my party chairman when I publicly released my response to the DTC candidate questionnaire and pledge, not believing that either should be kept secret. I note with pride the criticism of some bloggers and detractors — that I held too many public hearings while I served as chair of the Planning Committee! Seriously, these anonymous insiders (who do not have the courage or conviction to identify themselves) condemn me for being “too open” and taking too much time to let the public comment on the hundreds of millions of dollars we are spending on economic development.
“Finally, as a newly elected council member, I was selected by my colleagues in 2002 to serve as council president in order to help the council express its views against the wishes of a strong-willed Democratic mayor.
“I am proud of this record. I have and will continue to work for openness and transparency in all matters of government, policy and civil discourse.”
We are compiling more questions and plan to seek answers prior to the Sept. 10 primary election. We also will attempt to get some input from other candidates who will be in the primary on the underticket. We also plan to submit questions to Mayor Richard Moccia.