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Common Council, District B: Darlene Young

Common Council Majority Leader Darlene Young (D-District B). (Courtesy photo)

District B, Democrat, incumbent

  • 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.

I have lived in Norwalk most of my adult life and have both worked and served in several areas for the City of Norwalk as an employee and as an elected official.

From 1998 to 2005, I coordinated a Department of Justice initiative called Weed & Seed Initiative in partnership with the Norwalk Police Department intended to weed out crime and while planting seeds of opportunity and change.   

 From 2005 – 2010, I served as Assistant City Clerk, which afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the functions/responsibilities of our local government.

From 2010 – 2013, I coordinated youth programs out of the Mayor’s Office.   

From 2015 – 2019, I worked in the Fair Rent & Human Relations Department where I was responsible for the implementation of the City’s ADA Compliance and Transition Plan.

In my current role as the Youth Services Program Manager, which began in 2019, I continue working hands-on with youth and continue to grow the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program that I have worked on for the past 25 years.

Above and beyond my work experience, I have served Norwalk’s youth and adults in other meaningful ways. There is a long list, but one of the most meaningful is serving as Board member of the Norwalk Community Health Center, where under my leadership as Chair, we opened a second location in collaboration with Open Doors Shelter’s Smilow Center. 

As an elected official, I currently serve on the following committees of the Common Council:

  • Department of Public Works, member
  • Economics & Community Development, member
  • Recreation, Parks & Cultural Affairs, Chair.
  • 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? 

I applaud the Charter Revision Commission for its time and commitment to this undertaking. 100 years is a long time to have this document unedited and here we are thanks to them. Yes, I wholeheartedly support an ongoing strategy to completing unfinished business whether it come from the Common Council’s review plan or forming another Commission. The work must be done.

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

Yes, I do; however, it is not because I am anti-police or that I don’t feel the police are doing their jobs. I have worked with many Officers in my Weed & Seed capacity. Officers, like public school teachers and like elected officials come from all walks of life. We need checks and balances so that one way of life is not punished or criticized because someone from a different background does not understand or value it. I also acknowledge a slight shift towards addressing diversity, equity and inclusion with the proposed increase in the current number of appointed Police Commissioners from three to five members. 

  • 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.

It is not an easy thing, but should be a doable thing. Most often I find that we all want the same thing if we really hear each other. It is then that we can begin to create policy changes that are representative of what Norwalk residents need and want.

  •  “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?

Let’s face it, elected officials have human rights obligations. We are elected to represent all of our constituents. It is not an easy task in a city as racially and socioeconomically as Norwalk, but we must fulfill this obligation if our city is to thrive holistically. We have to balance the needs of our residents and the developers, so that expectations are clear from the beginning for all parties and thus, adhered to.  We also have to look at City/State zoning regulations, statues, bylaws and codes for all socioeconomic groups. Some of the more affluent neighborhoods have the NIMBY blues, but they can vocalize and organized to be heard. Lower income neighborhoods want the same things in their back yard, but are they heard? Why or why not? This is where we pull officials representing affluent communities and low-income communities together to find common ground and to compromise for the greater good. We also want to find out how businesses can support their neighborhoods and how neighbors can support the businesses. 

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

Norwalk has been responsive to the zero-carbon footprint movement and will continue to be. The use of plastic bags and straws have been eliminated or significantly decreased. Innovative composting programs and a new city electric vehicle plan are evidence of our work towards reducing carbon footprint. In addition, we should consider broader opportunities to harness solar energy for residents and businesses. As we continue efforts towards a zero-carbon footprint for Norwalk, we should consider forming a committee to address these issues in meaningful and strategic ways and include issues and solutions in the city’s 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development.

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