Rilling looking to new Charter Revision Commission

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling.

NORWALK, Conn. — There’s a move afoot to appoint a new Charter Revision Commission, although some Norwalk Common Council members were unaware of it Tuesday.

“There’s no discussion on it, really, not that I’ve been apprised on, right now,” Minority Leader Michelle Maggio (R-District C) said. “I think that probably everybody wants to get the revision crew a breather and then go back at it hard, but it didn’t have the support. Unfortunately, with all the level-headed, easy going people on there, they were able to agree on (revisions), it wasn’t something that everybody was ready for.”

The Common Council appointed a Commission last year, laying out guidelines that included a look at extending the mayoral term from two years to four, and looking at extending Council terms. The Commission came up with four questions, which were approved for the ballot in the fall election. Only one passed.

The mayoral term failed; making the Charter language gender neutral, where it refers to Council members, passed.

Also failing were the proposed elimination of city offices that no longer have any function, and a pay raise for Council members.

“My position has not changed,” Mayor Harry Rilling said after Tuesday’s Council meeting. “I indicated that I think we should consider another Charter Revision Commission. I have spoken to an individual who I thought would be good to serve on it. I got a tentative agreement, now I just have to approach the Council and see if there’s a desire for it. It’s up to the Council to appoint the Charter Revision Commission and it takes, I believe, a two-thirds vote in order to do that. So, I said, earlier that I would support a Charter Revision Commission and we’ll talk more about it.”

This hoped-for leader isn’t someone who was on last year’s Commission, he said.

“We have begun some discussions,” Majority Leader John Kydes (D-District C) said. “We’ve got so much going on with the budget that we are focused on other things right now. We started the conversation last night and we’re going to pick it up shortly.”

The Commission, should it be appointed, would make up its own mind about what to do, Rilling said.

“Sometimes it’s better not to give any parameters,” Rilling said. “Because if you give parameters sometimes it suggests that the deck is stacked. So I think you look at the Charter revision, you appoint people who you think are going to do a good job and a thorough job, and you let them go through with the motions and let them do what they think is appropriate.”


Ernie DesRochers January 25, 2017 at 8:02 am

Give the man credit- he suffers a stunning rebuke from the voters last fall and he is back at it. What the charter commission should seriously consider is hiring a city manager. A longer term is about continuity in government and not worrying about the next election. While mostly everyone prior to Mayor Rilling did fine with two years having been reflected multiple times it’s obvious that this person cannot do the job given his recent need of hiring an assistant (despite his big raise). If it has become to difficult for one person to run the city then I say make the position ceremonial cut the Mayor’s salary to part time , use the savings and his assistants salary and hire someone who actually can manage a budget the size of Norwalk.

Professional management in government is key if we are going to make proper decisions on how our hard earned tax dollars are spent. The department managers are all professionals. Why pay a large sum of money to politicians who have admitted through their actions they are not up to the job?

Lisa Thomson January 25, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Setting personal attacks against the mayor aside, Ernie raises valid points about our current structure and partisan government (my point, not his) given our city’s size and demographics. There is no Republican or Democrat way to plan a city, educate kids, provide police and fire, pave roads or pick up garbage. There is just a professional and economic way to do it, that doesn’t break the backs of taxpayers. Has Norwalk reached a point where mayoral popularity contests no longer serve the people, at least when it comes to professional city management? Will the pending BOE budget and Grand List of residential and new development revenues be reconciled or expose the flaws in our current system and status quo way of doing business? It’s going to be an interesting year, for sure 🙂

Diane C2 January 25, 2017 at 3:48 pm

When asked if he intended to move forward on Charter Revision this term, Council President Igneri replied to me just last week (1/18): “Discussing that now. But it appears that we will not move forward at this point in time.”

And this week suggested to a constituent that Council is busy with meetings (3-4 nights a week) and BOE budget, and once that is behind them, they will revisit Charter.

Again, council folks themselves continue to make the case for charter revision, starting with City Manager position, and a larger Council to spread out committee work.

Yes, indeed, it’s time for Norwalk to embrace a form of government that best serves the taxpayers…..ceremonial mayor, professional city manager (appointed and removable by council)

James Cahn January 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm

Until I hear ANYONE in Norwalk’s political class, (from either party, btw) suggest that the already neutered mayor’s office be turned into something like a $20,000 a year, essentially part-time cheer-leading and photo-op participation position and that we seek and employ a certified, credentialed city manager, I will assume that any discussions surrounding charter review are informed by a concern for who is or may have designs on being Mayor.

As a tax payer, I’m tired of footing the bill for Norwalk’s “Experimental School of Municipal Politics and Vanity Projects.”

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