The Charter Commission recommendations have generated more local commentary than any other issue in recent years save the clumsy effort of three Democratic BOE members to secure control of the BOE’s leadership by claiming the entire BOE was discriminating against the African American and female Board members.
So, independent of how the vote goes what’s been learned from the Charter Commission recommendations on extending the Mayor’s term to four years? A recommendation not surprisingly advocated by the current Mayor.
Here’s one take. By and large, Norwalk residents do understand that Norwalk is not a well governed community and one with an uncertain future. That’s what nearly a decade of stagnant residential property values and Grand List are telling us. New homeowner prospects look elsewhere. And most homeowners understand that the community has lost well over $1 billion in potential property appreciation. Even the BOE’s “Arbitration Panel” report documented that Norwalk property owners were subjected to higher property taxes and greater loss in value than in surrounding towns.
But it’s still doubtful that most Norwalk homeowners fully understand why our five surrounding towns plus Fairfield and Greenwich have such better outcomes. Nor do they fully appreciate that in those towns there’s actually a surplus of highly qualified well experienced citizens ready and willing to serve as “public servants.” Here in Norwalk, college degrees are not required to serve on either the Council nor the BOE. Indeed, few of the current BOE and Council members in Norwalk would be acceptable in the surrounding towns. Not because they’re from Norwalk. Just because they lack the requisite skill and experiences.
Additionally, most Norwalk residents do not see any reason to suppose why a political mayor without any business experience can’t be a successful mayor managing a City with a $300 million plus budget. That’s odd because we have several thousand successful residents with moderate to high six-figure incomes who do understand basic business practices. But this group has basically boycotted public service in Norwalk. By and large, the community has no difficulty with a former Police Chief administrator serving as Mayor or former public school reading teacher heading the Common Council.
So as long as those most well qualified refuse to serve Norwalk will continue to elect political mayors without any business skills. Suggesting a City Manager is simply talking above most heads. City politicians wouldn’t allow that change. Ever. At days’ end the Charter Commission recommendations do represent current Norwalk Democratic Party thinking. They enjoy the current arrangements and as a Party would be better served with 4 year terms for everyone. Less wear and tear.
To those who worry about Norwalk’s future the Charter recommendations remove most doubts. Any City, especially one in a troubled State, that elects consistently only political mayors without any business experience does not have a promising future. It’s not surprising that neither the dominant Party nor most citizens have no problems with our current mayor dumbing down City Hall with unqualified small town hires. It’s OK.
Nor were most citizens upset when our current mayor moved heaven and earth to unseat the current BOE Chair – our most impressive public servant in decades. It’s OK – just Party politics. Nothing to do with educating our youngsters.
For those of us who have lived here many decades and known the “Old Norwalk” – one of Connecticut’s best governed towns – the Charter Commission recommendations really do point the way to our future. We are a one Party town run by elected officials without senior level business experience and unmindful of the reasons for success in our surrounding towns.
It’s how Norwalk “moves forward”. Mayor Rilling may really represent Norwalk more than any of fully realize. So, we know our future. And our Exodus of longtime residents will continue. Especially those who know some basics about governance.
Whether the Commission recommendations were passed isn’t really the issue. It’s that they were fully endorsed by the City’s dominant Political Party and current mayor that’s important. The Commission appointed by our Democrat leaders speaks for our City.
Peter I Berman