Letter: CT, Norwalk economies look bleak

To the Editor

As Norwalk Democrats gather their energies to re-elect Gov. Malloy we might consider Connecticut’s progress on the “List of Lasts” published by the respected Yankee Institute. The comparisons are awesome.

A few appetizers: CT was the only state with a shrinking economy in 2012 (BEA June 6, 2013). A year earlier we had 4 cousins. CT had the highest debt per taxpayer of any state in the nation in 2013 (and 2012 — Institute for Truth in Accounting 2013). CT had the worst debt situation of any state in the nation (Baron’s Oct. 14, 2013). And, also in 2012.

Now Gov. Malloy is boasting that CT has a $506 million surplus. But he borrowed $560 million, spent $54 million and calls the remainder $506 million a “surplus.” The governor understands finance! Nice hat trick. And the governor understands economics, too, claiming that CT actually generated new jobs in 2013. But he left out that CT lost far more jobs than were created so we had a large net job lost. Some five years into the national economic expansion, CT remains the only state with a shrinking economy.

But actually Norwalk does even better! On a per capita basis, city spending/taxes has increased 55 percent over the past two decades even though city income has been just about flat – up about only 10 percent as renters move in and property owners move out. Not even CT can match that record. Nor can any other CT city. It’s called the “Great Norwalk Migration.”

And we know the solution. Keep raising property taxes and union salaries. Our newly hired Personnel Director (from Gov. Malloy’s Stamford) has it right on the nose, claiming that union contracts have to be “fair” and we should avoid “arbitration.” Be friendly! Raising city taxes 55 percent while incomes rise just 10 percent is certainly “fair.” Our teachers are the 5th highest paid in the state. That’s certainly “fair.” Especially for a city ranking down the income list to about number 30. Not even the NFT claims our teachers are the fifth most competent. After all, NFT members went to college.

In his first major appointment, Mayor Rilling has shown us that he, too, like Gov. Malloy, understands both economics and finance. And, if there are any doubts, well the new personnel director has removed them. Norwalk is the City of “fairness for its union employees.” And stagnant home values, Grand Lists and legions of new renters.

So before questioning Gov. Malloy’s financial record, Norwalk voters, especially Democrats, ought to look in the mirror. CT’s economy ranks last. But Norwalk is the state’s “fairest” city. Just look in the mirror. You have my word on it. Norwalk, this year, under its new Personnel Director, will become even a “fairer city.” Just ask our new personnel director. He likes “fairness” and reportedly doesn’t live in Norwalk or plan to do so. That just wouldn’t be “fair” either. But it is smart. Lucky us.

Peter I. Berman


6 responses to “Letter: CT, Norwalk economies look bleak”

  1. anonymous

    Spot on Mr. Berman. The cost of living here v.s. the quality of life, there is a complete disconnect.

  2. jlightfield

    The one beat drum note on CT taxation and economic growth is perhaps the greatest disservice to public policy that there has ever been. This map says it all, 50% of the USA GDP comes from major metropolitan areas, which includes much of Connecticut. Connecticut is where the economy for the United States is generated.
    Yeah the cost of living is high here, and Governor Malloy is has been turning around the policies of 20 years of stagnation, and zero growth. I will attribute the lack of growth more to the highly misplaced cynicism about “renters” who have historically been the the very young professionals who have contributed most the the economic fortunes of Connecticut.
    Stamford built rental housing downtown, they now have 10,000 people living in the downtown, 6,000 of them under the age of 35, and the city is booming, fun, energetic and a place where people get that investment in your downtowns beings economic vibrancy.
    Norwalk has amazing innovative companies that get their start here but then run onto growth problems because there is not enough housing that young people want to live in and is affordable. Fortunately there are some new housing projects coming online that will offer choice to young professionals.

  3. Bill

    If Rilling and this new HR Director don’t hold the line on union inflated wage increases, I swear to God this town won’t last as a middle class bastion in ultra-rich Fairfield county. We will become a new Bridgeport where the middle class flees to other cities like Fairfield and Trumball, and the poor will suffer the most. They won’t have a tax base for funding their schools, nor middle class kids to challenge their children academically and help reinforce positive attitudes in school. I feel most bad for the poor kids who suffer because we have to pay firefighters to live in overpriced Weston.

  4. Don’t Panic

    So, which is it? Are people fleeing to avoid the cost of living in Norwalk? Or are they fleeing to them because they can afford to live in pricier towns?

  5. Piberman

    Most folks understand the connections between stagnant incomes, property values, local property values and high municipal salaries. Most folks understand there are no magic bullets that can quickly undo decades of lax civic management. But if we as a community do not change our past behaviors and learn to control City outlays with respect to our modest incomes then our situation will not improve. No matter what visions politicans ignorant of both business and finance dangle before us. Elections come and go and we keep expecting better results following the same policies. And with the same City managers and administrators. As long as there’s no change we only have two choices – move or accept the same conditions we deplore. Or we can ask our politicians to paint fairy tales for us. Norwalk has fabulous politicians. So we might look elsewhere for solutions. Our local business people would be a good choice. Or we could ask finance and economists. Or we could just dream.

  6. retired union leader

    People like Professor Berman toss around numbers and terms to support their theories that Norwalk’s economy is terrible, and getting worse, because of unions. What they don’t tell us is what unfunded liability in a pension plan really means. It means, in very simple terms, if Norwalk, or the state of Connecticut, went out of business today and no more tax money went into any pension plans, there would not be enough money in the funds to pay off all the money that could possibly be owed to retirees for the rest of their lives, allowing for earnings of the funds and pension payouts, until the last pensioner passed away. They neglect to tell us earnings of the funds or the employee contributions every payday, nor do the give us real numbers on costs of actual pensions being paid out. At best, their numbers are guesses based on a number of assumptions that may or may not turn out to be accurate.
    The sky is not falling and we can be pretty sure that Norwalk and the State of Connecticut are not going out of business this week.

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