Common Council At-Large: Erik Vitaglione

Erik Vitaglione. (Contributed)

At-Large, Independent

  • Describe how your occupation will assist you in serving Norwalk and give three brief but specific examples, including what committees on which you hope to serve.

Besides Bartending and Massage Therapy, I’ve also worked in the Event Industry, Film Industry, and for a brief and eye-opening time as a Private Investigator for New York States Insurance Fund, investigating worker’s comp cases.  But even across a diaspora of industries, with specific intricacies of focus, one tends to glean a general skill-set applicable to unrelated tasks and jobs.  So how is my “multi-tool” useful for this position?  Bartending is usually three things at once: interacting, finances, and making the thing you just interacted about and sold.  Also keeping track of who’s next when there are three rows of people in front of you with a sliding scale of manners.  Keeping track of what you are running out of because now there are four rows of people in front of you and the register is stuck.  And on.  In short, dealing gracefully and efficiently under pressure, limited resources, with large groups of wanting people, and delivering what you agreed upon in a timely manner.  Talking to thousands of people a year does hone communication skills; working in a high volume environments teaches the efficacy of brevity.  Massage Therapy, on the other hand, cultivates the need for individual care and attention, presence, with a mindset of remediation of the pain and the causative factor.  Massage assess blockages, trigger points, areas of dysfunction; so I seek to take that body map and apply it to the streets and sewers.  In regards to Commissions of interest (and vacant seats available as of today), I have interest in Ethics, Fair Housing, Fair Rent, and/or Water Quality.

  • The Norwalk Charter is on the ballot for its first major revision in about 100 years. Assuming it passes, would you support forming a new Charter Revision Commission in the coming term to address unfinished business? What would be your top three priorities for change? Can you explain why?

Yes.  It’s 100 years old.  Even if it was the Magna Carta of local charters, times and needs change.  Everything eventually needs maintenance, as the population and the demographics shift, so should the ordinances of its Charter.  A Commission seems essential but transparency and citizen involvement is a must. I studied Literature at Boston College (1999) so I’m versed in revision, when done well, you cut more than you add; editorial dissection.  Let’s say if we were going to actually dissect a hard-copy version of century old manuscript, like a surgeon, we would need to do so carefully, patiently, and with an eye focused on preventing “infection” from setting in, such as a four year term for a 14 year incumbent (which seems to be at least tabled care of the tenacity of Independent Leader, Lisa Brinton).  I can only really speak generally on this issue, but the upshot of governance by officials is that we have others in alliance who are more versed in the intricacies of the material.  In this matter of Charter Revision I would defer to fellow Independent, Bryan Meek, as he has firsthand knowledge of what they are looking to revise.

  • Do you believe Norwalk should have a Civilian Police Review Board and why or why not?

I believe there are already laws and internal review processes in place.  I do not recall seeing or hearing much about police malfeasance in Norwalk, what would this review board consist of and look for?  How much would it cost and what extra purpose would it serve?

  • There is a constant public battle between city government, the school board, and concerned citizens. It seems that all are “dug in” with their positions, eager to “defeat” the other to win their own agenda. What would you specifically propose to bring all groups to the table to solve issues rather than fight about them? Policy changes and revisions can certainly be part of your answer.

I have no children and have not been inside a public learning institution since 1989, so this is not a subject I have much to say on.  After my attempt at petitioning for a Mayor spot on the ballot, I learned that the predominance of the 14,000 residents who voted in the last election are parents and property owners.  Schools, property values, taxes will be the main focus of every other candidate you here from and be well represented in the eventual elected body.  But there are around 49,000 eligible voters in Norwalk, almost half of whom are renters.  I do not own a home.  I’ve rented in many spots, leased from a sliding scale of scrupulous and unscrupulous landlords.  I’ve encountered a bias within the collective political mindscape (or at least with whom I was speaking) about renters being transient and unengaged.  But they are a sleeping giant whose voice is lost to slumber (same with the 18-24 demographic).  I rent for the privilege not to own, to be free to leave, or call Phil if the ceiling is leaking.  That said, I’ve been here for 12 years and am seeking a position that will require me to be here for another two.  So my roots may not be from here (from the Bronx originally) but they have grown like a Dandelion along the crumbling sidewalks of Van Zant Street.  Considering the major push to attract more renters here as the buildings go up, a strong focus on renter’s rights and fair-price protection is required, existing services bolstered.

  • “Housing affordability” means different things to many people. The current standard is based on the median income of Fairfield County, which is $84,233 per household. A job that pays $30 per hour misses that standard by approximately $22,000. What is your definition of Housing affordability, and do you think the standard should be made more equitable?

This question raises questions for me in regards to what do we classify as a household (at least 2 people?) and the average income appears to be listed as net and the $30/hr seems to be gross (or $21/hr adjusted to net after taxes).  I believe the rule of thumb for how much rent I can afford is 30% net.  Going with the $84,233, we are looking at $2,100/month.  I don’t know if you looked recently but you will be hard pressed to find a rental for that price that isn’t a studio or in Bridgeport.  Using the $20,000 less than median ($64,233), we are looking at $1600/month.  Using the hourly adjusted to net ($21/hr), we are looking at a median income of $43,680, and by the 30% rule I can afford about $1100/month.  This doesn’t include security deposits and other fees.  A quick Googling of average rent in Norwalk, we’re looking at almost $1,700 for a Studio, $2,100 for a 1 Bed, and almost $3,000 for a 2 Bed.  The median rent for all units, $2,600.  So if I existed in a household with another working human and we net about $85k, we would still be paying over 40% of our yearly income.  Can I afford to pay this rent with these wages, barely (especially if I’m splitting the bill with this imaginary human), but there will be scarcity in other areas of life and definitely very little opportunity to save, grow, thrive, etc.  And that’s utilizing an arbitrary figure of $30 that is twice the minimum wage in CT (about $16 gross, $11 net, with net yearly of $22,880) leaving me almost $600/month for rent by way of the 30% metric.  I couldn’t even rent a room in an over-occupancy absentee landlord apartment at that rate.  I have no idea how kids graduating today or entering the work force at similar wages will ever afford to move out of their parent’s house before their early 30s.  By State and statute “affordable housing” is defined in a detached manner from real life.  I know most people are hemorrhaging out over rent and that some corporately managed entities have an algorithmic valuation that fluctuates on vacancy, and that multiple tenants had their rent increase 25-30% in a single year cycle.  Seems unsustainable for the working class even with higher rated jobs.  Can’t flourish, expand, and grow if you are spending it all just surviving.  

  • What would you propose to move Norwalk’s government agencies, businesses, organizations, and private citizens toward a zero-carbon footprint?

What is the carbon foot print of constant construction?  Endless roadwork?  Idling in traffic 2-3x longer to get to the same place than in 2019?  Offsetting seems like an abstraction, a mendication not remediation.  I care about the actual and direct pollution that effects the Sound and waterways.  I care to address the underlying issue of the inadequate infrastructure in our antiquated sewer and water treatment facilities that repeatedly dump raw sewage back into our seascape.  I love the ocean, it is in part why I am here and why I stay.  Norwalk has the draw of beach life merged with city life and the affability of very small town life hidden within, like a pearl tucked in an oyster off Bloom’s boat.  The growth of Norwalk from Township to City grew from the sea.  The rebranding of Norwalk’s catch phrase “I Heart Norwalk” (besides being a servile and uninspired pandering to New Yorkers in exodus) shifts focus away from the Sound because it seems they can give a shit about it.  Our beach is repeatedly rocking low grades on the LSBR, especially incidents of water overflow after heavy rainfall.  The toxic cesspools I used to swim in off of Co-Op City in the Bronx back in the 80s-90s are rating higher than us, because they took care of the Sound and sewage overflow.  Of the many “cash crops” of Norwalk, beach and raw bar are prime, wouldn’t be prudent for us to defecate where we dip and dine.  This infrastructure issue needs to be redressed before we have 3,000 more assholes (literally) moving in.  And large scale developers need to foot some of that bill


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