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League of Women Voters of Norwalk Voter Guide: council at-large, Part 2

NORWALK, Conn. — The League of Women Voters of Norwalk, a non-partisan organization dedicated to voter education, put together an election guide that includes a Q&A section with each candidate. While NancyOnNorwalk sent questions to all the Common Council and Board of Education candidates, the Republican council candidates will, we are told, not participate. The Republican Town Committee apparently did choose to answer questions posed by the LWV, so, in the interest of providing some insight into the candidates, we are publishing all the LWV council Q&A’s, Republican and Democrat, in addition to the responses to the Q&A’s we sent out (in separate posts).

Parts 1 and 2 run today; Parts 3 and 4 will run Tuesday.

Here are the LWV responses from two of the 10 at-large candidates, in alphabetical order:

Candidate: Olivia Dardy (D)

LWV: On a personal and professional level, what life experiences and qualifications have equipped you to become an effective Common Council member?

OD: I have over 10 years of administrative, interpersonal communication, and collegiate coaching experience. Additionally, I currently hold a B.A. in communication and I am pursuing a master’s degree in business management.

Each of these experiences have developed my skills in leadership, negotiating, and team work initiatives, all of which are needed to have the bipartisanship and collaborative environment that births creative solutions to resolve our growing city issues.

I am a native of Norwalk and have a vested interest in working with others to constructively transform of our great city.

LWV: How familiar are you with Norwalk’s city charter? Are there ways in which you feel the Common Council could more effectively serve the people of Norwalk if changes were made? Please explain any of your recommended changes?

OD: I am currently in the process of familiarizing myself with Norwalk’s City Charter to better understand the ordinances that provide the framework for which elected officials are to govern by. The information is quite extensive. Therefore, I will refrain from making or proposing premature recommendations to alter the charter. Should the majority of the Council feel revisions are necessary, an immediate conversation with the public should occur to confirm such a change. It would be most effective if both parties operate in a bipartisanship manner to make any necessary modifications that best serves our community and improves our living standards. I’m committed to exerting my efforts to ensure that the voice of the people in Norwalk are heard and their wish is complied with, especially when it comes to making laws that affect their lives.

LWV: Norwalk is a diverse community, but members of the city’s boards and commissions do not represent our diversity. On some commissions and boards, many persons continue to be reappointed, resulting in many qualified individuals never getting a chance to serve. If you are elected, how will you address this issue?

OD: I believe this issue is a concern for many individuals who are looking to utilize their knowledge, skills, and abilities in a leadership capacity in order to serve the people of our city. If I were elected, I would review the history of that board/commission to whether or not its work is moving the agenda of our constituents forward. If not, I’d like to see a rotation in leadership positions. For instance, once an individual’s appointment has ended, new representatives from a diversified pool of qualified persons should be review and used to keep fresh ideas and points of view on the Board of Commission. I believe such rotation would be recognized, accepted, and appreciated by all concerned.

LWV: Members of the community want to voice their opinions. Currently, the only opportunity for residents to speak publicly is at Common Council meetings, but only if the item they wish to speak about is on the agenda. Do you believe the current public comment procedure needs change or is it satisfactory as is? For example, do you believe that public participation at Common Council committee meetings is desirable? If elected, what will you do to encourage members of the public to share their views before the Common Council?

OD: I believe the public has a voice, a vested interested in the future of Norwalk, and a desire to be heard by all decision makers. That said, I also believe residents of our communities have great ideas and solutions that should be considered. If elected, I would encourage an online forum to discuss city concerns and resolutions to be addressed by residents. Those who do not have access to internet but would like to participate could hand-write their issues and solutions. Among the most popular topics mentioned (say three, for instance) the public would have an opportunity to come to one council meeting a month that would be dedicated to openly discussing those subject matters. However, during those discussions the main focus will address solutions from the public and at the end of the meeting the council will document and record those solutions to determine if such compilation from the public could be used to create a permanent resolution to certain residents’ concerns. Though this may take some time, I feel it allows for candid dialogue between residents and the council, initiates transparency, and offers residents to the opportunity to propose suggestions which could potentially become a part of the Council’s overall decision making for Norwalk.

LWV: In looking at neighboring communities (e.g., Stamford) what improvements, if any, do you think should be made in the way Norwalk deals with property development including stalled projects), land use and open space? How would you propose the Common Council go about making those improvements (if any)?

OD: I think the first step here is to analyze the current zoning laws and locate areas where they could be updated to help council members make decisions that are best for Norwalk to be an attraction for new businesses and development.

Shortly thereafter, we can assess Norwalk’s strength, weaknesses, and opportunities to jumpstart stalled projects, support small businesses by making certain public parking assets available which will in turn help and not harm our tax base, all the while encouraging local job growth. We can learn from neighboring communities what really works and customize our developments accordingly. We would have to establish both short and long term plans that will be flexible to allow growth in any type of economy for all types of land use.

LWV: What would you do to ensure a reasonable balance between the Board of Education’s need to maintain high academic standards through quality programs and the need to establish spending levels that dovetail with the overall financial condition of Norwalk?

OD: Norwalk has earned an AAA bond rating from agencies that evaluate our fiscal health as a City. It’s important that council members think about the effects of our spending and allocation of funds thoroughly prior to finalizing the budget. Although council members are not allowed to dictate where the funds we approve for the BOE budget is allotted, I’d like to continue any open lines of communication in order to comprehend decisions made with the funds and how they will directly improve our academic standards and close the achievement gap. I believe this method would be advantageous when evaluating our educational barometer against the needs of the city.

Of course education is a priority and we want to make sure our students are provided with sufficient funding necessary to deliver 21st century learning skills while balancing the need of preserving our AAA bond rating.

LWV: Norwalk appears to be attracting more pawn shops and big box stores than other viable businesses. What do you see as the Common Council’s role in improving the business climate in Norwalk to 1) help offset the residential tax burden and 2) make Norwalk a more desirable place? Specifically, what will you do to encourage business growth if elected, and how will you do it?

OD: If elected, I would certainly like to encourage SMART growth business here in Norwalk. I believe it’s imperative for local residents to be able to find work in their hometown. Personally, I would like to develop a new committee with a handful of Common Council members along with a few local and established business owners to work exclusively with the mayor. Our focus would be to highlight Norwalk’s attractions to potential business partners; to seek out industries that offer good pay, benefits, and insurance while meeting their business needs with qualified workers. Additionally, I would recommend and support the mayor’s efforts in using all incentives available in collaboration with the ctate of Connecticut to fill our Wall Street corridor, increase commercial business use in SONO and other available real estate. For instance, I would like the council members to promote job fairs for local residents for each incoming business to increase any qualified residents’ chance of securing employment. Thereby, decreasing the local unemployment rate,slowly beginning to increase the tax base, offsetting the residential burden, and building a stronger local economy.

LWV: Have you signed any pledges or made commitments to any organizations or individuals that would affect your performance, the positions you would support, or the decisions you would make as a Common Council member?

OD: The decisions I will make as an elected official will be influenced from my personal experiences and background, by the needs and voices of our residents, through bipartisanship on the council, and by intelligent and informed constituents who want to see our city flourish.

Candidate: Deidra Davis (D)

LWV: On a professional level, what life experiences and qualifications have equipped you to become an effective Common Council member?

DD: As an accounting professional it has allowed me to serve as treasurer for a nonprofit organization. I have been past president of the Roodner Court Tenants Association now

serving as vice president. I am a community individual who is dedicated to unifying community on issues and an advocate that is focused on solutions.

LWV: How familiar are you with Norwalk’s city charter? Are there ways in which you feel the Common Council could more effectively serve the people of Norwalk if changes were made? Please explain any of your recommended changes?

DD: I’m not completely familiar with the Charter, however, I believe that the Council could serve the needs of the people by being more visible and accountable.

LWV: Norwalk is a diverse community, but members of the city’s boards and commissions do not represent our diversity. On some commissions and boards, many persons continue to be reappointed, resulting in many qualified individuals never getting a chance to serve. If you are elected, how will you address this issue?

DD: Many of our non-English-speaking residents are not being represented and that can be because the same people are being appointed and may not be 1) capable of approaching these individuals because of the communication barriers 2) not connecting within these communities to ensure they are being heard. Coming up with an appropriate number of terms you can serve before transitioning off to allow new members and fresh ideas, and appoint cultural committees that can assist with non-English-speaking residents.

LWV: Members of the community want to voice their opinions. Currently, the only opportunity for residents to speak publicly is at Common Council meetings, but only if the item they wish to speak about is on the agenda. Do you believe the current public comment procedure needs change or is it satisfactory as is? For example, do you believe that public participation at Common Council Committee Meetings is desirable? If elected, what will you do to encourage members of the public to share their views before the Common Council?

DD: The current procedure is satisfactory, as it encourages the community to stay engaged and be part of the process in order to make a change. However, I would encourage members of the community to seek out their Common Council person to voice their concerns and Common Council persons to bring those concerns to committee.

LWV: In looking at neighboring communities (e.g., Stamford) what improvements, if any, do you think should be made in the way Norwalk deals with property development (including stalled projects), land use and open space? How would you propose the Common Council go about making those improvements (if any)?

DD: Open dialogue. The more a community is informed, the less resistance you get. The community should know what the proposals are. There also has to be a measure to meet the needs of all, and affordable for all with COMMUNITY development at the forefront of any projected land use. Let’s hold everyone accountable and the way we accomplish this is through our ability to define and measure success in our city for all.

LWV: What would you do to ensure a reasonable balance between the Board of Education’s need to maintain high academic standards through quality programs and the need to establish spending levels that dovetail with the overall financial condition of Norwalk?

DD: Allowing teachers to bring creativity back into the classrooms. Creativity is not costly. Providing access to more online tools will also help them to discover ways to do this by allowing them to seek cost effective ways to present materials.

LWV: Norwalk appears to be attracting more pawn shops and big box stores than other viable businesses. What do you see as the Common Council’s role in improving the business climate in Norwalk to 1) help offset the residential tax burden and 2) make Norwalk a more desirable place? Specifically, what will you do to encourage business growth if elected, and how will you do it?

DD: Businesses grow by meeting the needs of the people in a community. Focus groups can help to determine that need. If there is no NEED there will be no growth. Businesses target areas that appear to be appealing, then they get there only to find it is not profitable for them. They go, leaving empty space, creating unemployment, etc. Let’s grow Norwalk by understanding our city’s wants, needs, and desires. By marketing and recruiting businesses to our city that meet that criteria. Also, the overlap of like businesses, while competitive, can also cause businesses to fail. We need a comprehensive way to understand what we need and seek that.

LWV: Have you signed any pledges or made commitments to any organizations or individuals that would affect your performance, the positions you would support, or the decisions you would make as a Common Council member?

DD: No, I am here for the people. My only commitments will be to support and serve the community. Any organizations or individuals that I have worked with will not affect that goal.

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