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Dem councilman says he’s ready to apply lessons learned to a second term

Norwalk Common Councilman Warren Pena is running for re-election to his At-Large seat.
Norwalk Common Councilman Warren Pena is running for re-election to his At-Large seat.

NORWALK, Conn. – Warren Peña says he’s learned from his first term on the Common Council, and he wants another term to continue giving back to the city.

We sent all Common Council candidates a set of questions designed to allow them to present themselves to NancyOnNorwalk’s readers. Here are Peña’s responses:

NoN: For incumbents: Why are you running for re-election? What are your priorities for the next two years?

WP: I am running for re-election because I have enjoyed serving the community and would like to continue to give back.

My priorities are to continue to have impact on NPS. In other words, help to make sure that Norwalk’s school system is competitive and that we turn the corner on the perception that we have a poor performing district. I plan on doing my part on the council and in the community.

A second priority is to work on cutting out the red tape so that contractors and small business can thrive. A partnership between the private and public sector is lacking in order to see true growth and help expand or grow our grand list.

I also want to make sure that I have a voice and say when it comes to public safety. I believe we as politicians can do more by engaging community leaders, civic leaders and clergy by working together with our fine men in blue.

NoN: Several council candidates listed the schools among their top priorities at the East Norwalk forum, but the council has little control over what goes on in the schools. Other than vote on the final budget figures, how do you propose to have an impact on Norwalk’s schools?

WP: This is a great question. The way you have impact is by creating a leadership committee. This committee should consist of the leadership of the council, the board of education, the BET, the superintendent, mayor and perhaps leaders of the PTO – all stakeholders at the table brainstorming and discussing ideas that can alleviate the battle between the city and the BOE. Although, the final decisions are made with the board, this will certainly educate and inform council members as to the needs of our district.

Finally, council members should go into our schools with BOE members to meet administrators and students to learn more, perhaps chatting directly with students to understand their needs from their perspective.

NoN: One of the biggest complaints we hear from our readers is about property taxes and how they just seem to go up. This year it’s around 4 percent. So what can be done differently, if anything, to hold the line on spending — or even roll it back?

WP: Actually it’s around 5 percent and may be higher next year. This is where true leadership comes into play. For starters, it requires a full audit of each department year in year out. We should be reviewing our finances every single year looking for efficiencies or where we might be able to streamline. A good, open dialogue with department heads. A weekly, then bi-weekly to monthly meeting where all heads begin to share ideas for what has worked and what is not working.

This is a huge opportunity to build better relationships among department heads and the mayor/ council. The city should always be proactive in grant writing, fundraising and building strategic partnerships with small businesses and corporations to help take some of the burden off the backs of the ordinary taxpayer. There should be a balance on how we raise revenue and multiple lines of revenue.

NoN: Do you believe it is essential to read and understand the Common Council info packets before voting, or will you depend on discussions, staff recommendations and constituent input to inform your vote?

WP: Yes, definitely. We have to ask questions and do our due diligence. You have to always depend on discussions, staff recommendations and constituent input. In my opinion, the best way to approach a decision or vote is to listen, learn, ask and, after you have all the information, follow your gut as to what you think is right that will help bring our city to a better place.

NoN: Would you support the formation of a charter commission?

WP: This is a much-needed commission and, at this point. should be a commission that is active.

As the youngest person on the council, there are many issues with our charter. There is a lot that is antiquated that will be simple to bring up to the 21st century. We live in a different era, a different time from 1913. It is time we catch up.

NoN: Civility has been a big topic. What can you say to the voters to assure them that, if you are elected, they will find a kinder and gentler council?

WP: I have learned a lot in my first term. I was a bit passionate when I got elected because I had so many ideas and values to bring, but it was not entertained. By being elected, you understand the process better and I learned that the public sector works differently from the private sector. I will continue to bring urgency to our city with a fresh, proactive perspective with mutual respect. Voters are craving for change and I believe civility will prevail in the next term.

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