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

 

(Correction, update Oct. 21, 5:56 p.m.: Michael Geake’s political registration was wrongly listed as a Republican in information provided by the League of Women Voters. Mr. Geake is currently a Democrat, having switched his affiliation from Unenrolled prior to the Democratic mayoral primary. Mr. Geake was elected as a Democrat in 2011, then changed to Unenrolled and left the Democratic caucus and joined the Republican caucus. He was added to the Republican ticket — as a Democrat endorsed by the Republican Town Committee — after a previously endorsed Republican withdrew.)

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 B candidates, in alphabetical order:

Candidate: Phaedrel Bowman (D)

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

A: 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. 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 from the U of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education in quantitative research, 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.

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 feel it is time to form a charter revision committee to update our city charter. It seems that we are in need of additional boards and some existing commissions need to be reorganized.

Norwalk, and especially South Norwalk, has serious flooding issues. Seeing as Norwalk is located on the sound and also has a river and several creeks and streams, we would benefit from an Erosion and Sedimentation Control Board that could help monitor and control the city’s management of erosion and sedimentation so that storm drains and pipes are not constantly becoming filled to the point where there is unnecessary flooding. We can be proactive instead of reactive about this problem.

In addition, the council does not have the authority to reorganize the Police Commission. This is important to me as someone who will be representing South Norwalk because many South Norwalk residents feel they have been treated unfairly and targeted by the police department at some point in their lives. On top of that there is currently no reasonable system in place for residents to complain. The Internal Affairs Department is within the police department, and the three-member Police Commission includes two former male, Caucasian, police officers.

This is a commission that needs to be representative of the community and have at least five total members. In a city as diverse as Norwalk, there should be at least one female, at least two minorities, and no more than two former police officers.

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 would address this issue by helping identify qualified minorities and females for different boards and commissions. I will also vote for appointments in a manner that best provides the city with qualified board and commission members as well as diversity on those boards. I would also request that we always have ample time to review the credentials of appointments being put forth for a board or commission.

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: I believe that the public should have the opportunity to bring new items to the Common Council agenda at a predetermined time in the meeting even if this is only during one of the monthly meetings and not both. If this was added to the current public participation procedures I think we would have a decent system of hearing public opinions. I do believe public participation is desirable and would continue to encourage the public to share their views. The problem in Norwalk is that city officials on a large scale ignore anything said during public participation.

However, that doesn’t mean that the people should stop speaking out!

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: What needs to change about the way Norwalk does business is there needs to be more transparency and accountability. Also, ALL Council members need to be demanding of the mayor and developers in their inquiries about what is happening in terms of development, land use, and open space. It is unclear what is happening in this regard under the current administration; all residents get to see is stalled projects, empty lots, and developers that are not being held accountable.

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: Education should always be our top priority and they should always receive the funds they need to maintain high academic standards. However, each year the budget, expenses and outcomes should be examined 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.

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: As a South Norwalk representative I plan to work with the necessary individuals to work to improve public safety as well as alleviate some of the unnecessary burdens plaguing our small business such as parking meters and fees that drive off would-be customers of said businesses. I would also be supportive of effectively marketing our district’s attractions to tourists.

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.

Candidate: Michael Geake (D, endorsed by the Republican Town Committee and running on the Republican line)

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

A: Personally, I was raised in a very middle-class family, so from an early age I learned you can’t have everything you want: Every expenditure is a trade-off between competing priorities. I was also taught to value education, and I worked my way through college. I’ve had to work my way up from pretty much the bottom, and I’ve continued my education even to this day. I became a single parent when my daughters were 5 and 7, and I raised them alone for several years. All of this makes me appreciate the struggles families face and that you actually can succeed through hard work.

Politically, I have served two terms on the Common Council (2007-09 and 2011-present) and as a Second Taxing District Commissioner (2004-08). I have also served on various boards and commissions in five towns in four different states, so I have seen a variety of different approaches to governing, not just “the Norwalk way.”

Professionally, I have worked for Fortune 25 companies, I have worked for small companies, and now I am self-employed. I have been responsible for data centers with tens of millions of dollars of equipment and multimillion dollar budgets. I have even managed a group that was responsible for data processing across 18 subsidiary companies. This all has given me an appreciation of what the business community needs.

Academically, I have a BS in business administration, and an MBA in information systems. I can understand the material presented and analyze it appropriately.

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 am extremely familiar with our charter. I read the parts that relate to the Second Taxing District when I was a commissioner, and I read the rest of it shortly after being elected to the Common Council for the first time. I also know how hard it is to revise the charter; it is not something to be done without good reason.

I’m also quite familiar with our city ordinances, having just chaired the ordinance committee. These are what deal with our day-to-day lives. While not trivial, it is easier to add a new, or alter an existing, ordinance. This session, we added Norwalk’s first blight ordinance, added an ordinance to require absentee landlords to register with the city, and are trying to finish amendments to the ordinance dealing with the keeping of fowl in the city.

I know Mason’s Rules of Order, which govern how council and committee meetings are conducted. It, along with the Freedom of Information Act and its related regulations, are what keeps our meetings orderly and above board.

Finally, I know the various departments of the city, what they are responsible for, and which committee they report through. Typically, the issue is not with these rules, but sometimes it is with their implementation. That’s why we need to elect people who both understand these rules and will uphold them.

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: First off, I reject the underlying premise that there is a problem with diversity on city boards and commissions. That simply is not the case; boards are diverse by gender, they are diverse by race, they are diverse by faith, they are diverse socioeconomically, and they are even diverse by sexual preference as well. Do the framers of this question not value the time and effort given by those now serving? In the past, we have held the equivalent of a “job fair” to attract new members of the community, and very few stepped forward and offered to make the sacrifice for their city. So the pool of willing members is not large. In all but a few exceptions, it is the mayor’s prerogative to appoint someone with whom he is comfortable – the council can make suggestions, but they cannot put forward the name, and then vote yes or no on the mayor’s choice.

Unless there is a very compelling reason, and politics and policy preferences are not compelling reasons, I will respect a mayor’s right to a government consistent with his needs.

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: Again, I must reject the premise of the question. The public has ample opportunity to contact Common Council members; both my e-mail address and cellphone number are published on the city website, and my home phone is a listed number. Today alone, I have received numerous e-mails and two telephone calls about Oak Hills Park.

What the public is not allowed to do is perform for the cameras and disrupt or delay the conduct of legitimate city business. The reality is that it is typically the same small group of individuals who sign up to speak, and they are allowed three minutes at the beginning of our meeting, before we vote on anything other than the previous meeting’s minutes, to speak on topics that are about to be addressed by the council, and many have been given extended time when the point they are making requires it. These rules are necessary because one specific member of the public (who is still a frequent contributor) would, in effect, filibuster the council by speaking at length on topics on and off the agenda.

Even more important than the council meetings are the committee meetings, which are off-camera and where all the real work occurs. I have always had a public participation period at the beginning of my committee meetings, and so long as it doesn’t disrupt our work, I allow members of the public who may possess special knowledge or skills to join our debate and even sit at the table.

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: Fundamentally, this question can be rephrased “do you think it better to build more capacity than you can rent (like Stamford) or have developments stall and not be built when economic conditions change (like Norwalk)? Neither is particularly desirable.

I was first elected when the national economy was slipping into its worst recession since the Great Depression, and I am back on the council as all those stalled projects are finally getting built. Short of providing the financing for private developments ourselves – something I would fight with my dying breath – there was nothing we could do but wait until the economy improved.

It could be argued that the city could delay making its improvements until construction was well underway, but then you would have issues coordinating the two activities. Perhaps the approval process could be streamlined, but this would not speed developments stalled because of financing and could let projects through that weren’t properly vetted.

Norwalk has weathered the recession and kept its AAA bond rating, neither of which is a trivial accomplishment. Multiple developments are either complete or are well underway, so all those vacant properties are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

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 most important thing is trust between the Board of Education and the Common Council. My first term, I could not believe any of the figures we were provided. It seemed as though they considered the budget we passed as just a suggestion; the monies they spent never matched what they had requested. This term, with a new cast of characters, the board and the council sat down and reviewed their requests line by line so we knew not only what they wanted, but why.

The issue of “dovetailing” spending with our financial condition is a tricky one. We are not even close to being the second wealthiest town in the state, or the second highest cost of living, yet (before the pay freeze) our teachers were the second highest paid in the state (they are now 5th highest). Maybe we could justify this disparity if our schools were the second, or even fifth- highest performing in the state, but that is far from the case. As labor accounts for the bulk of the BoE budget, we must get this cost under control over a reasonable period of time.

While doing this, we still have to make sure our graduates are prepared to face the world. We need to support the upgrade of the curriculum – with the capital expenditures that implies – and we must ensure they are comfortable with technology. Ours is no longer a pencil and paper world.

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: We are also home to two of the Fortune 500! But the entire economy is built on small businesses, not giant ones, so of course that is what you will see the most. I’m not sure where the pawn shop assumption comes from, but I haven’t seen a great influx of such establishments.

Norwalk is a city surrounded by smaller towns, so like it or not, we are going to have the bulk of the services for the area. This is only exacerbated by the fact that those surrounding towns are wealthy and actively restrict development. So when Lowe’s or BJ’s, or anyone else wants to market to this area, of course they’ll locate here, and they’ll locate as close to major roads and highways as they can. What we need to do is transfer as much of the burden of improving those roads and streets to the developer.

We just saw the worst recession since the Great Depression, yet the city maintained its AAA bond rating even though tax revenues dropped. This allowed us to invest $25M on road improvements and another $2.5M on flood mitigation. As the economy has improved, long-stalled major development projects have sprung back to life.

There is one change I would propose: From 1957 to 1979, Norwalk had an enterprise zone that abated taxes for a period of years for improvements in certain parts of the city. I’d resurrect that ordinance so that we might get some of the abandoned buildings in South Norwalk reoccupied.

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 never and will never sign any pledge of support or loyalty to any cause, party, or organization. My time in Norwalk politics is ample evidence that I will vote my conscience on all issues. Had I been endorsed by the Democrats, I would not have signed their loyalty oath. In being endorsed by the Republicans, the only commitment I made was to continue being the same me I have always been.

There is no better proof of what I say than last year’s vote to outsource trash hauling. Even though I had a union card in my pocket, even though AFSCME had donated to my campaign, I supported the outsourcing because it made financial sense to the city (especially after the union refused to negotiate in any meaningful way). After the vote, the local AFSCME official screamed at me and said they would never support me again. Apparently, he thought my vote had been bought and paid for; he thought wrong!

As Francis I. Burnell said 100 years ago, after having been sworn-in as the first mayor of the consolidated city of Norwalk, “We are here to serve no party nor interest, except that of this city.”

Candidate: Travis Simms (D)

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

A: I am a lifelong resident of South Norwalk. I currently work and live in South Norwalk and have a pulse on the issues that affect my community as a whole. Having served on the common council, I’ve gained the political experience to address these issues and to influence the change that we need. As a member of the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee, I have also been afforded the opportunity to work close with my peers, who include former mayors, state representatives and current and former common council members.

In addition, I have maintained an active role in my community. I am co-founder of A Better South Norwalk community group aimed at improving the quality of life for residents in South Norwalk. I also serve on the boards of the South Norwalk Community Center and the local NAACP.

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 am familiar with the city charter and understand the fundamental purpose, however there are parts of it that need to be revised to reflect the current times and issues that we face in the city today. Specifically, some of our commissions and boards overlap in terms of jurisdiction and have made the process to address issues and make decisions in a timely manner difficult. I would also vote to add a youth advisory committee to address the issues and needs of the youth in our community.

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 would work with the local DTC to help encourage, develop and identify a qualified pool of candidates from diverse backgrounds in the community. I would also work to revise the city charter to include term limits or restrictions that ensure rotations on city boards and commissions as well as periodic accountability reviews for appointed members.

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: I believe public participation at the council meetings is desired; however the current process does not allow for flexibility if the item is not on the agenda. I think at the very least, items that don’t make the agenda should still be presented for discussion within a limited amount of time and with the understanding that some items may have to be sent to the respective committee to be addressed.

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: The entire process has to be more transparent. The council has to put stricter guidelines in place to hold the administration and developers accountable, otherwise the city loses. For example the site plan for the 95/7 SoNo project was approved in 2008. It has been a stagnant project with approved extensions for over five years while South Norwalk suffers with a major eyesore and lack of development in the community.

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: I would encourage members to utilize data reports to determine where and how resources should be allocated. I would also encourage our state policymakers to secure funding to support our education initiatives.

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: I would encourage fellow council members to think outside of the box and focus on the future of the city. I would also work with the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to understand their needs and the type of support they need to grow their 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: No.

Candidate: Frank Verdone (R)

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

A: I spent 21 years in the Army Reserves, ending my career as a master sergeant. I also spent 20 years as a Department of the Army civilian employee, so I understand government process and the way to get things done. I have been involved in the community for many years, including positions such as deputy grand knight for the St. Matthew’s Knights of Columbus. I work well with others and am empathetic enough to understand different perspectives. I like to base decisions on facts and don’t have any preconceived notions. My military training helps me to think in an orderly fashion, my life experiences help me to remain neutral, but helpful.

I have been a positive role model or children and believe in being a good citizen. This is why I wish to serve my community further on the common council.

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: 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: 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.

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: 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.

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.

Norwalk Local Voting Districts

Comments

One response to “League of Women Voters of Norwalk Voter Guide: Dist. B Candidates”

  1. Don’t Panic

    Mr. Verdone,
    You too were not on the council at the time “WE” passed that budget. Seems you find the same constituent concerns as “silly” as Mr. Mercurio. In fact it appears one or the other of you was copying answers from each other (or more likely both from Mr. Schialabba).

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