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League of Women Voters of Norwalk Voter Guide: Dist. A Candidates

NORWALK, Conn. — The League of Women Voters of Norwalk, a non-partisan organization dedicated to voter education, puts 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 apparent 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.

Here are the responses from the four District A candidates, in alphabetical order:

Candidate: Eloisa Melendez (D) Office: Common Council, District A

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

A: As a lifelong resident, I have Norwalk’s best interest at heart. I’m a recent graduate of Norwalk High School and a current student at Norwalk Community College. I’m eager to get involved and participate.

Q: 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?

A: I understand that Norwalk’s city charter needs to be reviewed and examined. I currently don’t have an opinion.

Q: 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?

A: I believe it should be easier for all willing people to serve on the city’s boards and commissions. If elected, I would help recruit qualified people to serve.

Q: 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?

A: People should be allowed to speak about things that are not on the agenda. I believe that it is very important for people in Norwalk to voice their opinions and concerns in an open way. There should be an easier way for the public to speak about things.

Q: 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)?

A: I think the council should work with the community and zoning officials to build responsible development for our city.

Q: 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?

A: There’s direct collation between good schools and home values. That is one reason why schools should be properly funded, however Norwalk should be willing to invest in our future.

Q: Norwalk appears to be attracting more pawnshops 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?

A: Small businesses are the economic engine of our country. I would work with the mayor’s office to market Norwalk as a place to start small businesses.

Q: 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?

A: I have not signed any pledges or made any commitments that would affect my performance, the positions I would support, or the decisions I would make as a Common Council member.

Candidate: Robert Mercurio (R) Office: Common Council, District A

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

A: I believe my experience in community service as well my managerial experience as an FDWD First District Water Department) Filter Plant Supervisor will qualify me to assume the responsibility as a member of the Norwalk Common Council. I will be a hardworking, conscientious and dedicated member of the council who will work in the best interest of the citizen of Norwalk. Public safety, taxes and education will be a priority. I am capable of reaching across the aisle to get the job done.

Q: 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?

A: We, the Republican candidates for the Common Council, are familiar with the charter. It provides a set of rules that apply to all residents and elected officials. Periodically, changes are made if something becomes outdated. Similar to the constitution, the process to change our charter is difficult, with precise timelines, and ultimately a citywide vote — precisely to discourage frivolous changes. A more effective way for a council member to serve the city is to carefully examine the information provided by city staff, ask questions, attend meetings, and then, when it’s time to vote, represent the interests of the city to the best of their ability. By thoroughly understanding the issues, a councilperson can better ask informed questions and make better decisions and not simply seek the easy or politically advantageous solution. Though it seems odd to have to point this out, attending the meetings of the council (some current Democratic members seeking re-election have extremely high absentee rates) is a very important part of being on the council. Attending community events, not just in your district, but throughout the city, so that you understand the needs and concerns of more people, is another important way in which council-people can be more effective. Maintaining a good relationship and working closely with city staff is another crucial aspect to better service. Knowing the charter, the city code (our many ordinances) and the responsibilities of the departments and how to get things done is the most important manner in which council people can serve.

Q: 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?

A: The question is simply wrong. Our boards, commissions and agencies reflect Norwalk’s wonderful diversity. Our boards and commissions are comprised of people from all walks of life, different ethnicities, income groups, faiths, etc. No qualified and reasonable members of the community, who come forward, willing to serve, have been turned away. We have not taken the time to catalog the ethnicity or income level of every person currently serving, but for those of us who have taken the time to actively recruit members to our boards and commissions, what we look for, first and foremost, relate to qualifications.

Q: 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?

A: The Common Council has no control over the specific choices made by the Board of Education with respect to curriculum, administrative assignments, academic standards, or the organization of our schools. However, we are extremely proud to have developed and passed an operating budget this year that enabled the BOE to restore the bulk of the positions and programs that had been cut last year during an extremely difficult budget cycle. The Republican-led council made that possible by passing the first fully funded BOE budget in recent memory (against the inexplicable opposition of three Democratic council members who are seeking re-election). The average tax increase in Norwalk over the past five years has been 2.25 percent, or in line with inflation. The leadership of the city – the mayor, the Board of Estimate and Taxation, and the Republican-led Common Council — continues to balance the needs of our schools and those of taxpayers. It should also be mentioned that the council approved major technology upgrades for our schools, hired outside auditors to examine BOE accounts, and purchased software that enables the city and the BOE to better monitor the budgeting process. Given that the per pupil spending in Norwalk is higher than that of surrounding towns and is in fact among the highest in the state, it would not seem that school funding is the issue. Given that our teachers were the second highest paid in the state, and after the current pay freeze are still the fifth highest, it would not seem …

Q: Norwalk appears to be attracting more pawnshops 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?

A: This question is a restatement of a silly attempt to create a campaign issue during the recent Democratic primary. Small businesses open every day in this city, the local press covers the many ribbon cutting ceremonies almost on a daily basis. Building permits are up, construction permits are up. There is development all over the city. Plus, and this is extremely important: Businesses both small and large are attracted to cities with diverse economies and prudent fiscal policies, both of which are reflected in our ability to retain a AAA bond rating year after year. That rating will allow us to continue investing in our schools, repair our roads, implement a major flood mitigation program, and preserve our lovely beaches and parks. That’s what all businesses are looking for.

Q: 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?

A: No. And we take great exception to the fact that the Democratic candidates were asked to sign a pledge that essentially required them to conform to the wishes of the Democratic Town Committee, first and foremost, or risk being re-nominated in the future. The only pledge that we, the members of the Republican council ticket, will make is to work hard to represent the interest of the people of Norwalk; to work hard to move the city forward and to protect our city’s increasingly bright future.

Candidate: Edmund Ryan (R) Office: Common Council, District A

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

A: I’ve lived in Norwalk since 1998. I’ve served on my condominium association’s executive board for the past 6 years.

Q: 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?

A: I’ve read the charter, and I have no recommended changes.

Q: 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?

A: Our boards, commissions and agencies reflect Norwalk’s diversity. The boards and commissions are comprised of people from all walks of life, different ethnicity, income groups, and faiths.

Q: 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?

A: Residents are encouraged to bring their ideas and concerns to Council members and are welcome to attend the appropriate committee meetings where discussions are generally informal. Issues brought forth by residents are very important catalysts to the process.

Q: 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)?

A: Every town is unique. Projects are moving forward, building permits are up and our parks are in excellent shape.

Q: 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?

A: The Common Council only controls the total operating budget spending cap, not the allocations to individual departments including the Board of Education. the council also approves capital budget outlays towards school building improvements, repairs and technology investments. The Common Council provides the physical structure and the Board of Education teaches our students.

Q: Norwalk appears to be attracting more pawnshops 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?

A: All businesses help the community by providing a service or a product, by employing residents, and by paying taxes.

Q: 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?

A: No. The only pledge that we, the members of the Republican council ticket, will make is to work hard to represent the interest of the people of Norwalk; to work hard to move the city forward and to protect our city’s increasingly bright future.

Candidate: David Watts (D) Office: Common Council, District A

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

A: I graduated from Southern Connecticut State University (2001) and Yale University Divinity School (2003). I served on both the Zoning and Human Relations Commissions. Also, I helped run the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program.

Q: 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?

A: Norwalk’s city charter should reflect today’s realities. Council members do not have staff, nor researchers to help with backup material. Often, council members receive their packets with only a weekend and a day to consider legislation.

Q: 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?

A: Any Norwalk citizen who wants to serve on a board or commission should be allowed. Unfortunately, politics can stand in the way of very good people never getting to serve. Both, political parties should work together to hold open house nights where Norwalk residents could be recruited.

Q: 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?

A: Members should be allowed to voice their opinions and concerns. Maybe, on a case by case basis, constituents could be allowed to speak on matters not pending before the Common Council. Moreover, citizens should be granted extensions of time to make their point, if time permits.

Q: 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)?

A: Neighborhood groups should be allowed to have more input on the city’s development projects. The Common Council should seek community minded people to serve on land use boards and commissions.

Q: 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?

A: The local officials should demand better results from our state delegation and more state aid. It is time for a new legislative agenda with more accountability. We have a social and moral obligation to provide our kids with the best education in the state and country.

Q: 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?

A: Norwalk is a great American city, with a great workforce. We should market ourselves and play to our strengths. I am in favor of helping local businesses grow and giving incentives to those residents who want to start a business.

Q: 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?

A: No, I have not signed nor made any commitments that would affect my performance.

Norwalk Local Voting Districts

Comments

2 responses to “League of Women Voters of Norwalk Voter Guide: Dist. A Candidates”

  1. Don’t Panic

    Mr. Mercurio, last we checked, you were not on the council that voted on the budget “WE” passed. Otherwise, an excellent presentation of the party’s election talking points. Suggesting concerns that some citizens may have had are silly shows that you do not intend to represent or listen to all Norwalkers. Thanks for clarifying that.

  2. RU4REAL

    Mr. Mercurio is doing whatever he is told by his boss, simply follow the script Robbie you can win.
    If he really believes city agencies, boards and committees are diverse, he has blinders on.
    Which ones Mr. Mercurio, please tell us?

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