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League of Women Voters of Norwalk voter guide: Dist. C 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 C candidates, in alphabetical order:

Candidate: John Kydes (D)

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

JK: As a Norwalk business owner for over twenty years and a lifetime resident, I understand the needs and concerns of my community. My professional career in construction and property management has allowed me to gain many ideal qualifications to serve our City. Over the years, my work with large budgets that require group approval has taught me how to be work well with others and be an effective communicator. I believe that these skills have provided me with the tools I need to be a positive contributor to the Common Council. Being a father and husband for the past 12 years, I have learned how to be respectful and be patient, knowing that a calm disposition and a listening ear are the major character necessities for good leaders. Through my experiences and a clear understanding of council duties, I will be prepared on day one, if elected.

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?

JK: I have familiarized myself with Norwalk’s city charter and I believe that extending municipal terms to four years should be a top priority. Norwalk is one of very few cities in the state of Connecticut that has two year terms. By extending terms to four years, Norwalk will allow elected officials the opportunity to see projects through to completion, give them the opportunity to be more productive and allow them more time to focus on public needs versus campaigning for re-election. I will support the formation of a charter commission.

LWV: Norwalk is a diverse community, but members of the city’s boards and omissions 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?

JK: I find that board or commission appointments are often given as reimbursement for political support. It is important that the decision-makers of our city be the best Norwalk can find and not payment for campaign endorsements. I propose a publicized application process that will allow residents to apply for openings. With a second party reviewing applications and confirmation by the Common Council, we can avoid multiple reappointments and increase the diversity within Norwalk.

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?

JK: I find that Common Council meetings are the ideal place for residents to voice their opinions on current agendas. Residents who comment on agendas are helping to bring a fresh perspective to the council. Making the best choices, by having the most information, should be the goal of every council member. The current forum for residents to speak is good but I believe more can be done to increase the turnout. The public needs to be regularly informed about current Common Council agendas and the process on which to comment. I suggest that Norwalk works with local news outlets (e.g., The Hour, The Daily Voice) to help promote public involvement. If elected, I will commit to arriving a half hour early to every Common Council common meeting and listening to the concerns of residents.

With modern technology, the public now has the opportunity to message Common Council members and other local government officials, via email. More effort should be made to publicize email addresses and office hours, to help facilitate resident concerns.

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)?

JK: My concern with present development projects is the lack of foresight into what the future will bring. With a population of over 86,000, Norwalk’s infrastructure is not equipped to keep pace with our current development plan. Our schools are overcrowded and struggling financially, traffic is overwhelming and our taxes keep increasing. Yet, our elected officials are adamant on attracting large projects that will provide little benefit to Norwalk and strain our resources. The city’s focus should be on stabilizing Norwalk with smart development and opposing large residential projects, as Norwalk will have difficulty to financially sustain a larger population at this time. I will advocate for light industrial and corporate office projects that will have the least negative impact on our community but provide the greatest return.

Elected officials often use the news of new development for political gain, leaving the public unaware of its possible negative impact. By shaping our future with development that creates little city revenue, increased traffic and low income jobs, we are setting ourselves up for future financial struggles. If elected, I will put the best interest of the city ahead of my own political gain, by keeping the public of aware of project developments via email, op-eds or newsletters.

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?

JK: As a father of two children in the Norwalk public school system, the BOE is a major focus of mine. In recent times, the BOE has struggled with budget cuts, salary freezes and layoffs. My concern is that nearly 60 percent of Norwalk’s budget goes to the BOE and yet those finances have not improved our educational system. My hope is that, with the help of Dr. Rivera and suggestions from Council members, the BOE and the public we can offer positive suggestions about how their budget can be utilized in the best way possible. Keeping the money in the classroom and leveling off administrative salaries would be a good start. As a council member, I will closely monitor expenditures, lobby Hartford to increase state funding and work to fully fund the BOE budget.

LWV: 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?

JK: I believe that if we continue to attract large stores and massive residential complexes, Norwalk will continue to struggle for years to come. The cost of maintaining our infrastructure and the consequences of low paying jobs will eat through any taxes our city collects from these types of development projects.

I will support projects that provide living wage jobs, have the least impact on our infrastructure and generate the maximum city tax revenue through smart growth initiatives. Light industrial and corporate offices are examples of economic development that I would support and work to attract to our city. Norwalk will always be attractive to developers, due to our geographical location; we must now make smart, educated choices on what will benefit us now and in the future.

I understand that Norwalk cannot stop developers from building but local government can help inform the public on the negative effects of specified projects and provide an outlet for them to comment (e.g., BJ’s). By providing a transparent government with an effective outlet for the public to see current building applications, we can guarantee that future development projects have the best interest of residents in mind. As a unified community, we have the opportunity to shape Norwalk into a financially prosperous City.

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?

JK: I have not signed a pledge that restricts me from making the best choices for Norwalk.

Candidate: Michelle Maggio (R)

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

MM: I am a lifelong Norwalker and a product of the Norwalk School System. I have chosen to raise my family here, and to run a small business in the district I represent. I have four children, my oldest attends Roger Williams University, my two middle children attend Norwalk Public Schools and my youngest is at Carousel Preschool. My husband is a captain in the Norwalk Fire Department, so my understanding of the issues of the city extend beyond the average citizen’s and I have unique perspective and insight.

As a small, neighborhood business owner, I know what it means to have to make a payroll on a weekly basis. I know the feeling of responsibility and the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from growing a business. I understand my district and the larger city intimately. I know the pain and struggle that my fellow residents and other business owners go through on a daily basis. I know these things and I know what needs to be done to make our city a little better, and I am not afraid to do them.

I don’t view the council as a platform for self-promotion; I feel it is a responsibility and a duty, which should not be taken lightly. I have learned a lot about myself and the way our city works in the last two years of my service on the council. This experience and knowledge will allow me to serve the district even more effectively.

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?

MM: 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.

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?

MM: 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.

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?

MM: Meetings are organized discussions of specific issues. Members of the public regularly speak at full meetings of the council, but only on topics that are on or related to the agenda. Allowing people to speak on any topic would lead to never-ending discussions that would discourage others from ever coming out because they would be forced to listen to endless off-topic discussions. We are pleased by the high level of public participation at council meetings; plus, we recognize the thoughtful contributions made by members of the public on a variety of issues.

In fact, we have a great deal of comments made by residents, at both full council meetings and at the committee level. Residents who have something to share, invariably do so, and there is often constructive give and take at committee meetings. During the course of the year, the council holds public hearings on a variety issues. Many of these public hearings are well attended, and occasionally the concert hall or community room is used to accommodate the crowds. Moreover, all residents have access to the mayor and council members, and do make their opinions heard. The council is elected by and represents the people, all of the people, of Norwalk. There is a great deal of one-on-one interaction between council members and constituents. Also, meetings have been held in special venues, such as Marvin School, Lockwood Mathews Mansion, the Police Headquarters, and Fodor Farm, to make it easier for members of the public to attend.

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)?

MM: We do not compare Norwalk to other communities; every city and town has its own specific characteristics, history, and culture. We all live in and love Norwalk. We don’t talk it down. There are five major projects currently underway in the city at different phases of completion. These include 20 North Water Street, Waypointe, the Hospital Expansion, and the Data Center at Norden Place. Even though the country, and Connecticut, is still feeling the impact of the Great Recession, Norwalk has managed to weather the storm admirably. Building permits are up, our parks are in excellent shape, we are now rebuilding the fishing pier at Calf Pasture, and our schools are fully funded for the first time in memory. Walking down West Avenue, one can immediately see the changes involved in the community because of the vibrant development.

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?

MM: 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…

LWV: 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?

MM: 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.

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?

MM: 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: Sarah Mann (R)

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

SM: I believe that I am a fair, open-minded individual. While I was raised in a town much like New Canaan my living and working in Norwalk has shown me that there are many different kinds of people with many stories that live here and call Norwalk home. Norwalk is a unique city, composed of many different neighborhoods and with that different demographics. East Norwalk a bit like Nantucket according to The New York Times. Silvermine, artsy and eclectic. West Norwalk is steeped in history. South Norwalk an interesting urban mix. Rowayton has its seafaring history. Norwalk is a fun place to live and I love calling it home. Every time I drive by the harbor I am reminded how lovely it is to live here and how blessed we all are to be able to call Norwalk home.

I have spent many years volunteering here in town. I have served on the Boards of the United Way of Stamford & Norwalk and Lifeline. I have been a mentor in the Norwalk Public Schools for 12 years (to a young man I call a friend to this day at 20 years old), served with the Junior League Chaired the Pet Companions Project and served on the State Public Affairs Committee. On the city side I have served on the Fair Rent, Human Relations commissions as well as the Norwalk Parking Authority. I have been president of the East Norwalk Improvement Association.

My professional experience has been in the not-for-profit sector.

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?

SM: 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.

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?

SM: 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.

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?

SM: Meetings are organized discussions of specific issues. Members of the public regularly speak at full meetings of the council, but only on topics that are on or related to the agenda. Allowing people to speak on any topic would lead to never-ending discussions that would discourage others from ever coming out because they would be forced to listen to endless off-topic discussions. We are pleased by the high level of public participation at council meetings; plus, we recognize the thoughtful contributions made by members of the public on a variety of issues.

In fact, we have a great deal of comments made by residents, at both full council meetings and at the committee level. Residents who have something to share, invariably do so, and there is often constructive give and take at committee meetings. During the course of the year, the council holds public hearings on a variety issues. Many of these public hearings are well attended, and occasionally the concert hall or community room is used to accommodate the crowds. Moreover, all residents have access to the mayor and council members, and do make their opinions heard. The council is elected by and represents the people, all of the people, of Norwalk. There is a great deal of one-on-one interaction between council members and constituents. Also, meetings have been held in special venues, such as Marvin School, Lockwood Mathews Mansion, the Police Headquarters, and Fodor Farm, to make it easier for members of the public to attend.

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)?

SM: We do not compare Norwalk to other communities; every city and town has its own specific characteristics, history, and culture. We all live in and love Norwalk. We don’t talk it down. There are five major projects currently underway in the city at different phases of completion. These include 20 North Water Street, Waypointe, the Hospital Expansion, and the Data Center at Norden Place. Even though the country, and Connecticut, is still feeling the impact of the Great Recession, Norwalk has managed to weather the storm admirably. Building permits are up, our parks are in excellent shape, we are now rebuilding the fishing pier at Calf Pasture, and our schools are fully funded for the first time in memory. Walking down West Avenue, one can immediately see the changes involved in the community because of the vibrant development.

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?

SM: 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…

LWV: 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?

SM: 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.

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?

SM: 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: Kevin Poruban (D)

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

KP: As a lifelong resident, I have always had an interest in my community. I take pride in Norwalk and could not think of any place I’d rather live. My desire to always keep learning has served me well because I never settle for the status quo. This has taken me into a technical career with AT&T and broadened my analytical skills. I take pride in my ability to get to the bottom of things. As an NCO in the military, I learned supervisory and administrative skills. All that I have learned has made me more knowledgeable, but I feel that I never have all the answers – that I will always listen to what others say because I may learn something new. I feel these skills helped me be an effective and respected member of the Common Council when I last served from 2001 to 2007 and I look forward to being able to serve Norwalk once again.

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?

KP: I am familiar with the city charter, having read various portions in detail in order to better understand the operation of our city’s government. The Common Council is the real authority of the city, for the Mayor is only limited to what the council authorizes to be done. As elected officials, Common Council members are still just citizens and are only available as much as their personal lives allow. In a city the size of Norwalk, we may want to look toward a more dedicated position for council members so that they can be available as our citizens need them. This could be done by creating full time positions for some of the key Council members such as the council president, majority and minority leaders or even just the council at-large positions since they are elected by the entire city.

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?

KP: This has always been an issue. Citizens are reluctant to serve if their opinions are not valued and partisan appointments make can make boards and commissions divisive. I feel we need to do more in recruiting proportionally to our community composition. We also need to vet the appointees better. With no disrespect meant toward any volunteer, just because we have a body willing to serve doesn’t mean they should be placed in a position on a board or commission for which that they have no understanding of. Some knowledge or experience in what the position will be dealing with should be preferred. I also believe that appointments should be term limited to allow for fresh ideas and concepts as our community progresses.

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?

KP: I understand the desire to keep the public comment portion of the council meeting limited to topics on the agenda. However, I have always disagreed with that and was pleased when Mayor Knopp would allow people to talk “off topic.” Citizens need to be heard and sometimes that is their only opportunity to say what they want before all the members of our city government. It’s also the only place where they can be heard “on the record” – to have what they want to say recorded in the minutes of the meeting. I remember one council meeting where we had over 40 citizens speak and, in the interest of brevity, I feel that this should still be time limited. However, perhaps a meeting of the full council could be scheduled on a quarterly basis (with no actionable agenda) to allow for public comments to be made on the record.

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)?

KP: As I drive through Stamford on I-95 each day, I often wonder what could have been for Norwalk. Property development – especially commercial property – can be a double-edged sword. It can bring well-paying jobs to your community of leave you with big empty boxes in economic downturns. I feel we need to review our projects with a very critical eye and see where we can make improvements in our process. It would also be good to look at “best practices” from other progressive communities in our state.

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?

KP: A good education system makes your community a desirable destination. It also costs money. My previous service on the Council required expenditures to improve facilities and update books and curriculum. We offset those by combining purchase power with the City and buying quality computers. I would like to continue to find areas of savings as well as find new sources of financial assistance for our school system through corporate partnerships.

LWV: 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?

KP: We seem to be attracting the wrong type of “small businesses.” New York City’s “broken window” campaign comes to mind. I feel we need to determine the direction we want our community to go and we need strong leaders who are willing to make the tough decisions that direction may require. Attracting corporations to our community does more for our tax roll than “big box” stores. It also brings in better paying jobs which allow people to sustain housing in the community.

We need to overhaul the way we’ve been doing things and market Norwalk better. We need to do more than just change our tagline. To encourage business growth, we first need to know what type of businesses we want in our community and we should look at our school system as part of a plan to provide the type of education they might seek in their employees. This would be the first step.

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?

KP: I have not signed any pledges or engaged in anything which might pose a conflict of interest or sway any decisions I may have to make. My only interest is in doing what’s best for Norwalk.

2 comments

onewhocares October 24, 2013 at 9:03 am

This unaffiliated long time resident thanks the LWV for hosting this event and giving me a bird’s eye view of the 10 candidates for BOE. 10 !! Isn’t it great that 10 people stepped up for four seats!! Thanks to all.
The evening showed me clear winners, losers, and some nice people. In my opinion, the winners were Bazzano, with a long successful corporate career, had a clear message of improving the school system while not “crushing” the taxpayer, Rosato, who spoke clearly about breaking down the fiefdoms, and Harris, who eloquently stated her positions, love of children, and experience. The losers, Collarossi and Haynie, for showing us dysfunction, Roman, for not having any message, and Mosby, who we know had a terrible record while serving on the BoE years ago. The others were nice people but didn’t sway me….

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