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Charter Revision fails on three of four questions; 4-year mayoral term turned down

Election 2016NORWALK, Conn. —  Three of four ballot questions went down in flames Tuesday as voters voted against charter revision.

The only question that got a yes vote was the one about gender neutral language, eliminating the term “Councilman” and substituting “Council member.”

The Democrat-sponsored Charter revision was opposed by some Democrats, with Democratic Town Committee District B Chairman Bruce Morris telling voters at Columbus Magnet School to vote no.

The tabulator tally, according to Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells:

  • Question One: “Shall the term of the Mayor and Town Clerk be changed from 2 to 4 years?” No, 19,165; Yes, 16,558; Blanks 2,969
  • Question Two: “Shall the offices of City Treasurer, City Sheriff, and Selectman be eliminated?” No, 19,289; Yes, 14,079; Blanks 5,324
  • Question Three: “Shall the annual salary of each Common Council member be set at two percent (2%) of the base salary of the Mayor?” No, 16,366; Yes, 15,925; 6,401 blanks
  • Question Four: “Shall all Charter references to members of the Common Council be gender-neutral?” Yes, 24,651; No, 8,595; Blanks, 5,446

 

Questions one and three were opposed by Norwalk First, a Political Action Committee formed by Deb Goldstein, Lisa Thomson and Diane Cece.

The PAC put out a statement late Tuesday:

“We are gratified and humbled that you have put Norwalk First and voted NO on Questions 1, 2 & 3.

“We trust that the leadership has heard you clearly and will undertake the serious charter revision work required to improve our City.”

Goldstein, a Democrat, speculated late Tuesday that the question two vote was a “byproduct of simplifying the message.”

Opponents told people to vote no on one and three, but it was a challenge to cherrypick questions.

“Gender neutral is such an obviously good thing that it won the day despite the fact that ‘no’ carried the day on the other three questions,” she said.

Morris said District B Democrats felt the Charter Revision process should have been more inclusive and should have gone on longer. He said, “We recognize value to a four-year (mayoral) term however there’s just so much going on in South Norwalk that we’re concerned, we feel there’s more accountability right now with the two-year terms.”

12 comments

John Levin November 9, 2016 at 7:51 am

I agree with Bruce Morris: “Morris said District B Democrats felt the Charter Revision process should have been more inclusive and should have gone on longer.”

Hopefully, there will be another effort on charter revision, but with a broader set of goals. One desirable addition: expand the Police Commission from 3 to 5 members, and allow at least 2 of the 5 to be selected by the common council rather than the entire commission appointed by the mayor.

Thank you Nancy for reporting on this. Something to talk about that is not the presidential election.

Piberman November 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

Maybe Norwalk taxpayers see a competence issue at City Hall with its dumbing down of hires from small towns and punitive taxes and stagnant property values.

EveT November 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

To those saying the charter revision process “should have gone on longer”: We were told state laws limited the schedule. Was that not true? Are the people wanting a slower process misinformed?

Joe November 9, 2016 at 11:09 am

All the illegal border jumpers and illegal visa jumpers in Norwalk are having a real bad day today as well they should.

Americans have risen up and elected Donald J. Trump as President of the United States!

Paul Lanning November 9, 2016 at 11:54 am

Wasn’t really “charter revision” at all. It was only Council Salary and Mayoral Term revision. Didn’t address any of Norwalk’s problems.

James Cahn November 9, 2016 at 2:22 pm

@joe

Two items:

First, you forgot to include your last name in your post. Please identify yourself so that we can have accurate attribution.

Second, I’m curious…which polling place did you stand out in front of all day with people either for or against charter change pleading your case? Surely someone as clearly politically concerned as yourself doesn’t just post anonymously on the internet.

piberman November 9, 2016 at 4:00 pm

We now have a better understanding of the Chamber’s “commitment” to improving City governance. We’re still waiting for an explanation of how extending the Mayor’s term would have improved “planing” when the Mayor like all City Mayors has no business experience. Or is “planning” somehow learned on the job with the assistance of the new P&Z hire from tiny New Canaan ? Maybe the real question is why the Chamber didn’t ask that a City Manager be discussed ? The Chamber embarrassed itself. But perhaps understanable given our small sized business communhity.

Casey Smith November 9, 2016 at 5:02 pm

The State does have limits on the length of time that a Committee can meet to revise a charter. They are listed in Chapter 99 of the State Municipal Charters and Special Acts. I think they only have three or six months to complete the work.

Also when the Commission is formed, they are charged with a duty, and in this case, they had those areas in the spotlight.

Debora November 9, 2016 at 5:09 pm

@piberman,

I understand the tendency to focus on what was wrong with the previous charter revision attempt. What would be really great right now, would be a constructive dialog with the residents and businesses of this City to focus on fixing what appears to be broken.

No business likes to put together a plan for a development only to have the neighborhood come out in force against it. Neighborhoods really, really want to have new development that is in keeping with their vision and with positives that outweigh any potential negatives. They are tired of coming late to the party.

If the Chamber’s real motive behind eight years of lobbying for a four-year term is about planning, then there should be an opportunity for everyone to agree that that is the goal and to explore solutions that get to the heart of the problem.

Hopefully, now that the election is over, and well before the next one, the folks that were planning on teeing up a second CRC will come at this with fresh eyes and greater community involvement.

Let’s make it a win-win for everyone!

piberman November 9, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Debora:
The Chamber was conspicuously silent when a P&Z Director was hired from tiny New Canaan without any City experience.If the Chamber had a strong desire to professionalize City planning – long a sore spot for Norwalk Why the silence. And why would a serious Chamber offer funding to support a highly politicized Charter Commission.

Connecticut has some great Chambers that actively interact with their cities, e.g. Stamford, Hartford, New Haven Each of those cities have substantial business communities together with well regarded Business Journals.

Norwalk’s Chamber walks to a different drummer. And ought to stick to its knitting – funding its elections.

Debora November 10, 2016 at 6:32 am

“Stick to its knitting”…what a quaint phrase.

So what would be your top three goals if you were heading up the new CRC. Not asking what you would not do. Asking which sections/issues would be your priority if you held the reins.

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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.

About Nancy

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.