Jim Clark named BET chairman

Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) Chairman Jim Clark.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s tax board is now being led by a Democratic musician.

Mayor Harry Rilling appointed longtime Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) member Jim Clark, whose re-appointment to the BET was the source of some controversy two years ago, to be BET chairman at Monday night’s meeting. Clark said he would emulate the style of former BET Chairman Fred Wilms, a Republican who served as chairman for eight years under former Mayor Richard Moccia.

Rilling said experience counts.

“He’s been on the BET for quite some time, has an understanding of the process,” Rilling said. “I’ve known him for a long time. I know him to be a very concerned person and very wise when it comes to our budget, and very concerned about taxes. I know he works in the best interest of the city and I know he’ll work well as the chairman.”

Clark said he has been on the BET since 2004. By the city’s charter he can only serve on the board for two more years, he said.

Then-Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) objected to Moccia’s BET appointments – Clark, James Feiganbaum and Leo Mellow – in the first meeting of the 2011-2013 council. He suggested that there might be more qualified candidates.

Democrat Bruce Kimmel questioned Clark’s credentials, saying he had a background in the arts, not finance.

“I have to tell you quite honestly that I thought the comments about Jim Clark’s background were totally inappropriate and not necessary,” Moccia said at the time. “No one is better than anybody else, and anybody can serve on any board.”

Clark needed 10 votes to be confirmed because he has served for three terms, and did not get them. He continued to serve at Moccia’s pleasure.

Clark said the chairman is there to basically facilitate the meetings of the volunteer board, especially if the mayor is not present. He appreciated the way Wilms did it, he said.

“Fred made a point in the past to really kind of give, a lot of times, an overview of what was happening,” he said. “I think that’s helpful for the public to get a sense of what’s going on, because these things get put in the meeting minutes. I think that’s very helpful. In fact, even when I wasn’t chairman a lot of times my comments were made knowing they are going to be in the minutes, so when a person comes in later they’ll get a sense of why something has happened.”

Clark said he is a small business owner, not a finance guy. He said he thought Mayor Alex Knopp appointed him in 2004 because he is very active in his neighborhood and very interested in how things work.

“It’s very important to bring all voices to the table,” Clark said. “We can work toward that.”

The BET is still short two members, although the city charter calls for the mayor to make appointments by Nov. 30. Rilling and council leaders say they are working together on all appointments, coming to a consensus before new candidates are announced.

This avoids things like the Nov. 10, 2011 council meeting where Clark’s qualifications were questioned.

Rilling said it’s being worked on.

“We’ve got some things that we discussed today, some names that we are vetting,” he said, “and expect to have some appointments at the next council meeting.”


6 responses to “Jim Clark named BET chairman”

  1. Diane C2

    I think Jim Clark is a fine choice for Chair. He is level-headed and always considers all sides of an issue. His questions during the few BET meetings I’ve attended prove that he does his homework, and frankly he was the only board member with the political and fiscal courage to vote against an operating expense loan to Oak Hills, citing the OHPA’s “overly optimistic projections” and the need for them to be “stewards of the taxpayers’ money”.
    The chair acts largely as the facilitator of the meetings and Mr. Clark’s demeanor and long-term experience with the dynamics of the BET should serve him well in this role.

  2. Piberman

    Norwalk traditionally has not appointed financial heavyweights with major league financial management experience to the BET. As do our neighboring towns. So we have the high taxes and stagnant property values to show for our unique approach. Our BET really benefits city unions.

  3. Jim Clark might have had fiscal courage for voting against the loan to Oak Hills, but his assessment of Oak Hills projections were wrong.

  4. longtime resident

    Please Piberman, stop already. You manage to bring every single posting, no matter where, no matter what topic, to unions.

  5. Piberman

    Longtime resident:

    The issue is not unions but the repeated failure of our elected officials to restrain union salary demands levied against the modest incomes of City residents. Stagnant property values and declining Grand List amidst a national housing boom and burgeoning stock market evidence a highly over taxed City. The Arbitration Report has the particulars.

    A century ago Samuel Gompers said in response to the famous question: “What do unions want ?” He replied “More, always more”. Well said. But City residents have every right to live in a City with affordable property taxes. Norwalk continues to fail to meet that standard. Its a failure of leadership.

  6. Piberman

    The BET has a role in approving City employee union contracts. So if one is concerned about Norwalk with its 19th ranking in state income pays the 5th highest school teacher salaries with the taxes to match then the composition of the BET matters. Norwalk’s politicians are fond of saying that anyone can serve on any board or commission. High City property taxes and top rank employee salaries follow from that wisdom as do our stagnant property values.

    Without a background in finance/accounting how can BET members properly execute their responsibilities to the public ? Our neighboring communities routinely require financial backgrounds to serve on finance and tax boards. Properly so.

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