Updated, 11:41 p.m: Anderson’s meeting now scheduled for March 15; PDF of email added. 4:30 p.m.: Number of people present.
NORWALK, Conn. — It’s time for Erik Anderson to go, District B Democrats said Thursday, after Anderson, their in-district Board of Education member, skipped a meeting he said he’d attend.
District B members unanimously voted to send Anderson a registered letter demanding his resignation, after saying they’d had a no confidence vote on Anderson last month.
This was a voice vote made at a meeting attended by about 25 people, some of whom did not have voting privileges. Some did not live in District B.
Anderson called NancyOnNorwalk half an hour before the District B meeting to say he’d just attended a fundraiser at Jefferson Elementary School.
“I got to be around the school community, which is why I got involved,” Anderson said, explaining that he had decided to go to the fundraiser at Brookside Elementary School and then the one at Columbus Magnet School rather than keep his promise to meet with the B Democrats.
“I am reminding myself who I serve,” Anderson said. “I don’t serve a District Committee. I serve the residents of South Norwalk, District B, all of them, Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated, and all their children. The amount of time and effort I have spent battling, at times, against political powers that be, my time is better spent putting my efforts toward the community and the children I am hoping my policies will benefit.”
District B Chairman Bruce Morris, at the meeting, laid out the history of the Committee’s relationship with Anderson, who unseated BoE member Migdalia Rivas a year and a half ago, against the will of some Committee members. Anderson hasn’t been to a Committee meeting in months, Morris said, and last month it was decided that the group would hold him accountable, hence the request that he speak this month.
The meeting had been arranged on a date that Anderson chose, Morris said, recounting the District’s objection to the process by which the BoE was deciding what to do to alleviate overcrowding, mulling a new school in South Norwalk.
“It’s more than just a building,” Morris said. “What is the program, what are you going to give us? No one ever said, ‘We don’t want a school in South Norwalk.’ We said we just want it done right and we were called obstructionists.”
Committee members objected when Republican BoE member Mike Lyons was made chairman again, with Anderson nominating him, Morris said.
“People within the party were saying Dr. Yvel Crevecoeur, who has a Ph. D, would have been an ideal candidate,” Morris said.
Lyons won 6-3 but Morris called Anderson a swing vote.
Regarding the new school effort, Morris said, “We did have objection from the very beginning that if you were going to make it a neighborhood school that would be problem because we’re predominantly black, brown and free and reduced lunch. We said you wouldn’t be able to do it. We kept saying it does matter. We kept saying even if you are going to build it what resources are you going to give our kids?”
Finally, in November, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski admitted that a neighborhood school wouldn’t work, he said. So in December, when Mayor Harry Rilling backed up District B’s desire to spend more time talking about the education options, Anderson voted to go ahead, Morris said, using the term “swing vote” with more accuracy, as that was a 5-4 vote.
Anderson had been invited to give District B an update because he is District B’s representative and hasn’t delivered a report in quite a while, Morris said, going on to express mystification that somehow the word got out that there was going to be a presentation on a night when parents could not attend due to the numerous fundraisers happening at the same time.
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho called because he had heard from parents who were unhappy that they were being excluded, Morris said.
“Excluded from what? All we are asking is for just an update from our person. … We are a political body,” Morris said. “… We have been asking for over a year for our representative to come and talk to us. … Everybody else in the city, they have come, our representative has not come.”
Morris said he understood that Anderson had been sick for a while, but now he’s better and he was expected, and had said he’d be there.
Anderson had tried to rearrange the District B meeting, after finding out that there were fundraisers that night. His email to the District suggested that they come see him speak March 14 at Columbus, a meeting he said he was setting up.
He was going to fundraisers because parents had requested his presence, he said.
“I have been elected to represent the entire population of District B regarding educational matters, and I feel bound to uphold the request from the school communities to attend their events tonight,” Anderson said.
Morris read that part of the email to the Committee.
“I admire that he wants to attend these events, that’s great but if you look historically at his commitment to District B, it’s non-existent,” Sandra Stokes said. “… I would love to hear him have that commitment toward District B, and this is a regular meeting.”
“It seems like this man doesn’t care and doesn’t want to represent us,” Brad Schmidt said, making a motion to ask Anderson to resign.
Daisy Franklin seconded the motion. There was no discussion.
“We’ve done this before,” District B Secretary Darlene Young volunteered. “I don’t know how much power we have to make that happen so I think at some point we need to be strategic about saying we’re holding someone accountable.”
Anderson has 2.5 years left in his term and District B is stuck with him, she said, again advising strategy.
“I feel that strategically we still have an advantage because we can show his voting pattern,” Schmidt said.
Franklin spoke up to explain why she seconded the motion.
“Now he is saying he doesn’t have no obligation to us. So my second for his resignation is because he has no respect to write this letter, and by his attendance,” Franklin said.
“We are his constituents,” Morris said, ending the meeting. “We fully agree and approve that he needs to reach out to Republicans and everyone, fully agree with that…But we should be no less valued or attended to than anyone else. In that point he has missed it. We specifically asked him for a year to be here. I am done.”
“I am not going to resign,” Anderson said in an email after the meeting.
“I didn’t run for this seat to be bogged down by politics at every turn and that is truly what it has felt like, it has felt like almost being bullied at times. I am not going to stand for that. I have tried to work with the district so many times,” Anderson said before the meeting.
He had reconnected with constituents at Jefferson and discussed school issues that would not come up at the Committee meeting, he said, adding that he has offered his email address and phone number to Committee members many times.
“I do feel like it is important to connect with my constituency outside of a once a month meeting,” Anderson said. “There have been almost no responses the entire time I’ve been elected. The people outside that Committee, yes. I have built so many wonderful relationships with parents and community leaders who don’t involve themselves in that District B Committee.”