Lisa Brinton Thomson is an unaffiliated mayoral candidate.
Never has the need for professional, non-political leadership in the City of Norwalk been demonstrated more clearly than in the last couple of days. Members of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers (NFT) along with state reps and Mayor Rilling staged a protest because of a provision in the bipartisan budget, approved by the legislature, but facing a veto from Governor Malloy. The provision increases the pension contribution for teachers from 6% to 7% in 2018 and then to 8% in 2019.
Teachers deserve a fair salary and contractual promises made do need to be kept. However, facing a budget crisis that has resulted in no approved budget through the entire first quarter of the fiscal year, we no longer have the luxury of protecting ‘sacred cows.’ The increase to 8% is one that perhaps displeases everyone, and therefore means it is a true compromise.
Unfortunately, due to political pandering and an overly close relationship between the mayor and the president of the NFT, Mary Yordon, he has chosen to act more like a union rep than a mayor. Rather than try to represent the citizens of Norwalk, who are overtaxed by a state on the verge of bankruptcy, the mayor is cheerleading union members in an attempt to woo votes.
While I feel for the teachers, who are not paid the six figure salaries that many state workers who have been shielded from changes such as this are, the move is fiscally sound and proper. As union workers, the teachers certainly have a right to voice their discontent. However, I question the appropriateness of our mayor participating in the protest activity. I believe it represents a conflict of interest.
The proposed state budget increases teacher pension contributions a nominal amount, commensurate to a level most non-public workers and taxpayers already contribute for their own retirement.
However, this instance and the constant political bickering demonstrated the other day at the Norwalk Community College rally is another example of what is destroying our state. Government leaders need to be responsible stewards of the public trust, not political cheerleaders. Now, more than ever, city leadership needs to be contemplating the modernization and revision of our city charter and moving away from the political grandstanding. Norwalk needs a professional system of management that does not pander or seek favor, but instead dispassionately serves ALL the constituents of Norwalk.