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Common Council, District C: Jenn McMurrer

Jenn McMurrer. (Contributed)

District C, Democrat

  • 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.                                                                                                                                          

As a communications professional, I feel my occupation has well suited me for the Council. I believe in transparency and clear communication between city government and constituents. I have been responsive to all constituents within the past two years when they have reached out to me. I have also implemented a monthly newsletter that I use to update neighbors on happenings around Norwalk and the work we are focusing on within the Council and City, and I also use social media to promote key items regularly going on around our area. I currently serve as chair of Public Safety and General Government, I also sit on the Adhoc Affordable Housing Committee, Finance and Claims Committee, and Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs Committee. 

  • 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 was actually my recommendation that we look at further updates within two years instead of five so I am a strong proponent of forming a new Charter Revision Commission. I would like the new Commission to review the following: the budget process, specifically the role of everyone involved including the Common Council and the BET. I don’t think our current budget process works. I would also like us to take a look at our Boards and Commissions and how they are made up, whether by appointment or by election as some other towns do. What works now and what may need some adjusting? Finally, I would like to further look at the role of the Council and compensation for elected positions. I do not feel $46.17 a month is equitable in opening up these roles to everyone. 

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

 As chair of Public Safety and General Government, I see firsthand the amazing work our Police officers do on a daily basis. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of individuals who keep us safe. However, like with any profession, there can be misconduct. What I am assured of is that our Police Chief will take swift action if this is the case. I have personally not received complaints of misconduct that have been found to be true, but if there were I would be open to listening to the pros and cons of having a Civilian Police Review Board.

  • 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 always said better communication is needed and I still stand by that. I think we need to have more joint meetings throughout the year, not just during budget time to better understand what the priorities are of the BOE and the schools and what the City is able to provide. I also think looking at the budget process in the Charter and clearly defining everyone’s roles would go a long way. 

  • “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?                                                                                                                                   

As we have seen over the past three years since the pandemic, housing prices have gone up, and the cost of living has gone up, but most people’s incomes have not increased at the same rate. We have obviously had a lot of development in Norwalk and I think many of us were hoping that would bring the cost of housing down. We approved ADUs to increase the types of homes available and time will tell whether this will be a popular choice for homeowners. I think we need to continue to promote the opportunity around ADUs. We are also undergoing an affordable housing plan. Ideally, we would have more than 10% affordable housing in new units and they would last a lot longer as we want to have people stay here who have put down roots here and those who want to put down roots here have the opportunity to do so. Fairfield County is an expensive place to live, so yes, I do think we need to look at making the standard more equitable. Ultimately I want our teachers, police, fire, etc. to be able to work here and live here and so I think we need to look long and hard at how to increase workforce housing as well as affordable housing for seniors. I would also ask our neighboring towns to join us in this endeavor as it literally takes a village. 

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

I think we need to move in this direction, but I think like with any big change, it takes time and of course money. Another thing it takes is technology. Whenever possible we are adding electric and hybrid vehicles to our city fleet as well as adding solar panels to new developments and buildings. We have also invested money into increasing our tree canopy and are promoting more walkability and bikability to decrease the use of cars day-to-day. With that said, there are certain areas where it does not make sense, at least right now, to move to electric for everything. One such example is police cars. Our fleet runs 24/7 and as with most police vehicles, they run computers, lights, and sirens. They do not currently make an electric police car that can hold up like our other police vehicles. Another example is leaf blowers. I do not personally feel the technology is where it needs to be for DPW, Recreation and Parks, and landscaping companies to make a full switch. I would also like to see more research about the mining of batteries and disposal of batteries. I believe we will get there, but as I said before, it takes time and resources. I think two things need to be done: doing what we can now, but also putting a plan in place for the future when the technology is there so we are ready to go. 

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