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Miklave: City needs NEON; more transparency needed in Norwalk

Norwalk mayoral candidate Matt Miklave 061113 052

Norwalk Common Councilman Matt Miklave, who is running for mayor, has faith in NEON.

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.

We published Mangiacopra’s and Miklave’s answers to the first four questions July 22 and July 23.

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.

Question

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.

Answer

“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.”

Question

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?

Answer

“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.

11 comments

Norwalk Lifer July 27, 2013 at 6:33 am

Dear Mr.Miklave:

Thank you for your urge to make city workings a transparent activity, this is exactly what the citizens of this town really need at this time. I do not think anyone is fully aware of the precarious state the City of Norwalk is right now. While many might crow about bond ratings and other attributes of a sound economic platform, the truth is this has come at a cost to many and they are not even aware of it. Thank you for your words and your cooperation to respond to these questions, transparency is exactly what this town needs right now

Best Regards
Norwalk Lifer

Don't Panic July 27, 2013 at 7:42 am

Mr. Miklave has consistently shown he intends to put the interests of Norwalk first. We need a Mayor who will shine a light on the decision-making process, encourage participation and cooperation, and transform Norwalk into the best version of itself.

Joe Espo July 27, 2013 at 8:15 am

Good going, Matt: kick off your primary campaign with a fib. You know this “administration” has always and consistently been supportive of NEON through grants for head start and summer camps. You’re on the damn council that’s been authorizing for these grants!!! You know that the only exception was for this most recent round when it was discovered by both the state and the feds that Joe Mann and the old AND new NEON regime were misappropriating local, state and federal money.
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So I gather from these remarks that as mayor you wouldn’t have any reservations about throwing taxpayer funds to a NEON administration that’s demonstrated an affinity for using the money as a private slush fund. Is this what “performance based budgeting” is all about, Matt?
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The only “war” that’s been waged against NEON is by your own democrat accomplice and cohort Warren Peña who’s been trying to evict NEON from the South Norwalk Community Center for the past several months. Follow the money if you want to know why.

Bill July 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

Amanda Brown is un-democratic and possibly corrupted by her own political ambitions to see that closed door meetings and executive sessions are un-democratic and should never be tolerated by the people’s party

Dennis DiManis July 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm

None of the candidates have proposed any solutions for Norwalk’s stagnant Grand List. Neither has Mayor Moccia.

piberman July 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Would be interesting to ask the candidates if they feel Norwalk has excessively high taxes, spending and employee salaries as suggested by the Arbitration Award Panel using City supplied data and if so what they might do to ease the pain. Are any of the candidates favoring unchanged taxes for example to downsize City spending to reflect the modest incomes of its residents, e.g. median Household income is about $72,000 (not a misprint folks). Do any of the candidates feel we should downsize City government to affordable levels ? Are they concerned with unchanged property values these past 3 years amidst a national housing price boom ? Would they change the BET or appoint an advisory committee of prominent financial executives to guide City budgets ?

So far the candidates have been pretty quiet about taxes and budgets and City salaries. Is that crafty strategy or ignorance or indifference or a sense that no one is paying attention ?

A really good question is to ask whether they felt that Norwalk should have reduced taxes and spending during the Great Recession as did most sizeable municipalities. Are the candidates happy with the current 4% tax hike and if not what would they do about it ? Mayor Moccia favored increasing taxes and budget during the Great Recession and subsequently. Would the candidates have followed a different policy ?

Still another question is asking the candidates why the plethora of “for sale” signs in Norwalk and the desire of many retired homeowners to leave for less taxing communities ?

Are the candidates happy with average municipal salaries/benefits costing about $100,000 and dozens of administrators twice that amount ?

Is there any candidate who stands up and says Norwalk City employees are paid too much considering the City’s modest income levels ? Or that the City spends too much ?

Would any of the candidates change department heads to bring in more capable outside talent ?

Or at day’s end its still “more of the same”and “sitting down”. Has any candidate demonstrated a really detailed knowledge of the budget and how the BET functions and sets the budget and tax levels.

Suzanne July 28, 2013 at 12:42 am

Mr. Espo, Apparently your penchant for criticism prevents you from actually reading what candidate Miklave said in the context of his support for Neon and I quote: “Any financial assistance will be conditioned on complete openness and transparency with respect to accounting and auditing.” You really know how to be cranky and that’s o.k. but I think it is important at the same time to get the source of your rancor’s facts straight.

Frank from Norwalk July 28, 2013 at 1:06 am

Truth be told Berman loses me as soon as I see the first reference to the great and glorious Arbitration Panel report. It seems that that Berman can make more out of that pile of papers than Johnny from Airplane could make out of a computer printout.
All five of the mayoral candidates know what the BET can and can’t do. The question for each of them should be how will they make appointments to the BET. I want to know if any of them would re-appoint the overtly political Fred Wilms to another term. I’m sure Dick Moccia, with his commitment to appointing “new blood” to boards and commissions, already has a replacement picked out.

Tim K July 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Call me. I’d love to work for the city as a better qualified person than current dept heads for less $$$!

Geez! Does your logic make sense???

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

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Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.