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Common Council At-Large: Johan Lopez

At-Large, Democrat

Johan Lopez. (Contributed)
  • 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.

The combination of theoretical knowledge acquired in graduate school, coupled with my role as a researcher for the World Bank Group, provides me with a strong real-world understanding of development needs in the context of cultural differences, serious development challenges, and budgetary constraints. My work evaluating how relevant, effective, and coherent financing helps governments achieve their development objectives has given me a strong perspective on: (1) tax mobilization, (2) program evaluation, and (3) how politics work for development.

Authoring several case studies on domestic revenue mobilization provides me valuable insights into understanding city tax mobilization. This includes understanding the integration of tax policy, financial management, and revenue generation. Specifically, my work has included how to broaden tax bases, improve tax structures and equity, and strengthen tax administration at the country level.  .

My research experience allows me to introduce modern evaluative and analytical tools to help assess city programs and provide improvement plans. I’ve conducted successful quantitative program evaluations to assess the effectiveness of several World Bank Group interventions using a variety of econometric techniques. Out of the results, lessons were drawn in order to inform future World Bank operations.

Working collaboratively with experienced senior economists and data scientists from all over the world, coupled with leading meetings with client governments has cultivated an openness, professionalism, and poise needed to be an effective and strong common council member. Advancing the public good within our city requires ongoing leaders that reflect high standards of competence, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to the truth. The committees on which I hope to serve will be defined in consultation with colleagues, based on where my skills and experience is needed.

  • 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? 

The specific priorities for updating a city charter should be determined through a comprehensive process that involves input from experts, city officials, residents and community organizations. There is no strict rule that there must be only three top priorities when it comes to updating the city charter. The number of top priorities or the specific priorities for such updates can vary widely depending on the unique needs, challenges, and goals of the city. For the purpose of answering this question, the following examples are areas of importance; fiscal management, inclusive language, and administrative efficiency.

The charter can be updated to improve fiscal management, budgeting processes, and financial reporting to ensure the city’s financial stability and sustainability. Prioritizing inclusive language will help avoid any discriminatory or outdated terms that may perpetuate bias, stereotypes, or discriminatory practices. Administrative efficiency updates can help streamline city administrative procedures and remove redundant or
outdated provisions.

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

The decision to develop a Civilian Police Review Board could be based on an independent assessment to understand the multitude of variables that affect the effectiveness of a review board. Some of these variables include the legal framework, commitment of local officials, community engagement and competence of its board leaders, current literature on the topic, and the specific powers and resources granted to these boards. The result of an independent assessment will help inform my decision.

  • 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.

A strong, but flexible public framework could be initially formulated and agreed to by all parties that outlines a very strong code of ethical and civil behavior, and cements quarterly meetings. Commitment to the framework includes civil discourse based on evidence, mutual understanding of city budget fundamentals, limitations, and state law. The level of every member’s commitment could be placed in the public domain. Mechanism could be incorporated into the framework in order to hold counter-productive members accountable. Relevant officials could work in conjunction with the
officials of other towns and cities in an attempt to meet with state officials to make progress on pertinent matters affecting school funding.

  • “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?

According to the 2021 American Community Survey, the median household income is $100,810. It must be noted, the term “housing” has a negative connotation. A more appropriate and universal term is “home” or “rent” affordability.

There is no international consensus on how to define or measure homeownership or home renting affordability. No single measure can fully capture the range of concerns around the ability of a household to secure decent homeownership or home renting affordability. However, in the context of equity, home and rent affordability can be assessed using complementary metrics, which come with advantages and limitations. These metrics include measures relating to housing price-to-income and expenditure- to income; residual income; housing quality; and subjective measures of housing
affordability. For instance, the National Association of Realtors provides the Housing Affordability Index. The index measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.

The use of multiple measures of housing quality and affordability can help Norwalk policy makers assess how to identify the dimensions of affordability that are most relevant to our city. For instance, disaggregating household expenditure on housing by tenure type and across the income distribution can help to identify the people that struggle most, which can improve the targeting of public policies. This includes pathways to possible homeownership by incorporating pathways to homeownership into the city budget; via allocating resources and implementing policies and programs to make homeownership more accessible to residents.

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

Working towards a zero-carbon footprint requires first adopting a decision-making conceptual framework based on the United Nations principles of environmental sustainability. Leading with such an approach requires incorporating these principles directly into budget decisions. A few steps and strategies include, for example, allocating a portion of the city’s budget to prioritize the purchase of environmentally friendly products and services for city operations, investments in energy-efficient technologies for city buildings, street lighting, and vehicles, and enhancements in public transportation systems with support for pedestrian and cyclist-friendly infrastructure.

Investments in sustainability can be a challenging undertaking. However, even costly short-term investments have significant long-term benefits for our city. To be a state leader in sustainability requires continuing to lead from a decision-making framework of environmental sustainability. Such an approach includes helping educate colleagues, employees, community members, and businesses on zero-carbon. Incorporating principles of sustainability into the city budget will reflect commitment to long-term planning, community engagement, consultation with experts, and a holistic
view of development. Such an approach will lead to a more resilient, prosperous, and environmentally responsible city.

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