Common Council, District C: Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray. (Hector Pachas Photography)

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.

I am a former marketing communications professional. I believe regular outreach to our constituents is an essential component of the Council Member’s role. I have years of expertise in Training & Development, website creation, e-newsletters, and digital promotion. I will regularly report on Council updates through an e-newsletter with my running mate, Jenn McMurrer. Norwalk also has some incredible city services our busy constituents may not know about yet. I will help spotlight those important initiatives and services when needed. My communication training also makes me an adept negotiator, and I have years of experience managing budgets and rolling-out projects on time.

I am also currently a graduate student in Family & Health Communication (69 graduate credits complete), my research focusses on how people interact with health structures, and thus I’ve been entrenched in learning U.S. Health policy and how to expand the quality of life for all. This is best suited to Community Services, Parks & Recreation & Culture Affairs, and Public Safety committees.

  • 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? 

My understanding is the current Charter Revision focused on cleaning up outdated language and removing unnecessary roles. I believe another Charter review should occur in two years and then every five years, as currently planned. It is important that constituents are able to craft the kind of local government they want through regular Charter review. It’s also important to review our City’s organizational structure including Boards & Commissions, so that we remain current with the City’s operational priorities and needs. I would also like to look at certain appointed positions and consider whether these roles should report to The Council. When more decisions are made directly by elected officials, the voters are empowered to effect change in their community.

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

No. I am against a Citizen Review board because it’s redundant to our current Commission, which already comprises appointed citizens, and will have less oversight power than the Commission we already have in place.

That said, given the importance the Police and Fire Departments have on our health and quality of life, I think it is wise to increase the number of Commissioners these departments have (even beyond the recent increase included in the Charter). I believe the size of Police and Fire Departments will grow significantly in the next ten years because large health providers nationwide are consolidating and cutting essential services such as mental health and labor & delivery departments. This may also affect our area, and we should be prepared for added stress to First Responders if we aren’t appropriately staffed or have enough Commissioners who can guide topics that include mental health, maternal health, and serving disabled populations.

  • 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 think the current city process is inefficient. The Common Council must provide a budget recommendation to the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET), which can override the recommendation. It would make more sense for the BET to report to the Council, who could then vote on their recommendation. Therefore, I hope this organizational structure is reviewed in the next Charter review to work out these inefficiencies that create an exhausting and hard-to-follow process for voters. In the near term, it’s important to work respectfully with those we disagree with, meet early and often for debate on important topics, and accept tough decisions when we do not agree with an eye toward future collaboration.

  • “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?

The standard is not equitable. When housing costs are 30% of income, a household just gets by without any savings. That isn’t comfortable and is a set-up for disaster when emergency expenses inevitably happen. It also makes it impossible for median-income households to work towards home ownership. In a perfect world, people’s salaries would be 40-50 times their monthly rent. When I lived in New York City, many landlords used this calculation as the standard for rental approval. In this scenario, a household making $84,233 should not pay more than $2105 ($2105 x 40 = $84,200). There are few, if any, two-bedroom apartments that rent for $2105 in our area. Housing affordability means that people can live in moderate comfort and save for emergencies or a down payment on a home. We need a diverse housing stock and programs for workforce homes with increased income eligibility standards to reflect the area we live in and recent inflation. We need more small homes for first-time buyers and homes for downsizers geared towards this more realistic standard. We need housing in High-Opportunity census tract areas that can benefit these populations and allow them to take advantage of recent state grant programs if these programs continue to be extended over time. I would like to see the mixed-used developments include affordable homeownership opportunities along with rentals so families have an accessible starting point to get into the market to make Norwalk their forever home.

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

Communicating how we can be more green in our work and daily lives is one solution. Many people care about the environment so communications that share tips and tricks for greener work and living is helpful. I agree with moving our transportation hub to the SoNo Train Station so there is connected public transportation for train commuters. Also, continuing to build Wheels 2U and other innovative transportation services helps reduce our carbon footprint while ensuring Seniors and those with disabilities can thrive with more options for getting around the City. It is also important to encourage Norwalkers to leave their cars at home when entering dense neighborhoods. Many will find Wheels 2 U less expensive for a night out in SoNo than parking. Additionally, I think it’s important to build small business in neighborhoods and create neighborhood centers to foster walkable communities and to continue creating bike lanes and updating sidewalks, as well as increasing our tree canopy. Finally, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels through the use of solar power and alternative energies throughout the city is essential.


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