NORWALK, Conn. – Phaedrel Bowman, a South Norwalk native running for a Common Council seat in District B, is no stranger to Norwalk politics and community volunteerism. She also has masters degree in quantitative research, something she says gives her added value to a council that has authority to shape Noralk’s future.
NancyOnNorwalk sent a set of questions to all of those running for council to help voters get to know the candidates. Here are Bowman’s responses:
NoN: What are your priorities, and what do you bring to the council that should make voters give you the job?
PB: I grew up in South Norwalk, and from my own experiences I know how difficult it is for a lot of people in South Norwalk and therefore I will be able to understand and relate to the needs of my constituents. I have a bachelor’s in political science from Boston University, which provided me with an understanding of how local government should operate. I also have a master’s in quantitative research from the U of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, which gives me the ability to understand what the numbers are truly saying; something that is needed on the Common Council.
I have worked in the education/non-profit industry as a data analyst for the past five years with organizations that are working to close the achievement gap and promote economic and social mobility. I currently provide my organization’s chief program officer and our program directors with the data they need to evaluate program performance.
In addition, I have been deeply involved in Norwalk politics since 2007. My relevant experience includes serving as an alternate on the Water Pollution Control Authority for former Councilwoman Phyllis Bolden. I am also the corresponding secretary for the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee. I am a member of the NAACP. I am also on the board of the South Norwalk Community Center. I also helped bring the annual South Norwalk Community Day to South Norwalk, which involves collaboration between many different stakeholders and individuals from the community.
My major priorities:
- Ensuring our educators have the resources they need to restore our education system and also ensuring that quality community support programs are available for our youth and their families.
- Improving public safety by working with the community and police in a collaborative manner.
- Ensuring that single parents, the elderly, college graduates, young professionals, etc. can afford to live in Norwalk.
- Ensuring that small businesses have the resources they need to succeed.
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 votes on the final budget figures, how do you propose to have an impact on Norwalk’s schools?
PB: Education should always be our top priority and they should always receive the funds they need to maintain high academic standards. As a council member I can make sure this happens. I would also encourage the BOE and council to examine the budget, expenses and outcomes to determine where money is being well spent and where money is either being used incorrectly, did not produce the desired results, or did not require as much funding as was allotted in a particular fiscal year. That way we would be using the money as efficiently as possible, which would either bring down the cost of education in Norwalk or would ensure that the system was of such high quality that it would bring in new homeowners and an increased tax base to ease the tax burden.
I would also help fight for state funding and urge state reps and our state senator to do the same. I would urge school administrators to apply for federal grants and also to apply for corporation grants.
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 4.8 percent. So what can be done differently, if anything, to hold the line on spending — or even roll it back?
PB: I feel that taxes should not be burdensome. I feel that we should stretch current dollars by lowering overhead costs and not wasting money while also working to diversify our tax base. We can encourage visitors and tourists to visit by working to reduce crime to make Norwalk more attractive. This way we can bring in more new residents and businesses to spread out the tax burden.
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?
PB: I think all are necessary; you must read the packets and also take constituent, staff, or any other available information into account.
NoN: Would you support the formation of a charter commission?
PB: I would support the formation of a charter revision commission.
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?
PB: I will actively seek constituent input before making major decisions that will affect them. I will respect constituent opinions and their right to communicate those opinions to the Common Council.