Miklave wants to make major changes in the way Norwalk does business

Norwalk Dem mayoral meet 050513 155
Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) makes his case Sunday at the South Norwalk Community Center during the Democratic Town Committee mayoral meet-and-greet.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Common Council member Matt Miklave has heard the questions, and wants everyone to know he is not being delusional when he points to Performance Based Budgeting as a means to freeing up money for Norwalk’s pressing needs.

“I don’t pretend I’m going to be able to implement Performance Based Budgeting on the first day I’m taking office,” he told NancyOnNorwalk at Sunday’s Democratic Town Committee mayoral candidate meet-and-greet at the South Norwalk Community Center. “That would not be fair, it’s not accurate it’s not right. What we are talking about is, on the first day, going down a path that will develop Performance Based Budgeting.”

Miklave, a shareholder in the Epstein Becker & Green, P.C., law firm with offices in several states and a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor, acknowledged that it will take some time to see the savings, especially given that whoever wins the November election will be working under what he calls a “disastrous” budget.

“We’re going to have to spend some money” to do the things he wants to accomplish, he said, such as fully fund the Board of Education budget. “We’re going to be looking for grants. We’re going to be looking for state, federal and local dollars to try to fund some of the work we have to do. It’s a big project. But we also have to make some hard choices.”

With eight years on the Common Council – he served 2001 to 2007 and was elected again in 2011 – Miklave was seen plenty he doesn’t like.

“The first thing we are going to do is demand that every city department actually evaluate every program they are providing against real performance objectives. Not performance objectives that are 12 months out, but performance objectives that are immediate,” he said. “And then we’re going to judge those performance objectives on a regular basis and I’m going to review them regularly to determine what programs are working and what programs aren’t. I will tell you now that the performance objectives that are set forth in the city budget are fiction.”

Miklave cited the fire department budget as an example, zeroing in on how many structure fires the department fights each year. His voice rising, Miklave ticked off the numbers: “In 2010, they fought 157. In 2011 they fought 157. In 2012 they fought 157, and, in 2013, they think they are going to fight 157. I actually said to (Norwalk Finance Director) Tom Hamilton, ‘You and I should throw in some lottery tickets with the numbers 157.’ That tells me they don’t even bother to read the performance standards they have set for themselves.”

Miklave said he intends to insist on real objectives written by the people who actually run the programs and departments, and said he will make them accountable.

“You tell me how fast it’s supposed to work,” he said. “You tell me how we’re supposed to do it. And if someone else can come up with a better program that will achieve that same goal cheaper and quicker, we’re going to take the money away from you and give it to them. That’s how you bring competition into city government. That’s how you inspire savings.”

Miklave was the only one of the four candidates Sunday to address the discussion about the allegations of racism in the fire department, and he spoke in generalities.

As a labor attorney, “I actually have a lot of experience with discrimination,” he said. “You have to make sure you have an aggressive program to make sure people feel valued and feel like they have an avenue. And what I’m hearing from several departments is folks don’t feel they have that avenue.

“Is it hard to recruit talented people? Yeah, it’s hard,” he said. “You can’t do it through an old-boys network, where somebody hires somebody’s cousin. You have to work really hard for outreach. We’ll work very, very hard to encourage qualified candidates regardless of their background to come to work here.”

When he addressed the crowd, Miklave touched on a theme common to all four challengers – making the government more accessible, accountable and respectful. Later, he expanded on that when asked about changes he might be contemplating.

“I’m not going to talk about personnel changes – some are going to embrace our changes, some who think that this is the way to run a major American city,” he said. “And that’s what we are; we’re a major American city. So they’re going to embrace that change. Some will be reluctant because they don’t want to change the way they’ve been doing things for years, and we’re going to talk to them and teach them and encourage them, and some people are going to decide by choice or otherwise that they won’t want to be part of the Miklave administration. And we’ll find a way to ease any transformation and any transition to make it humane, make it dignified and make it appropriate.”

Miklave also defended himself against charges by some people, including commenters on NancyOnNorwalk stories, that he has accomplished nothing of note in his time on the Common Council.

“I was responsible for adopting a tax credit ordinance for disabled people, I was responsible for the rewriting and the implementation of the entire city of Norwalk’s performance appraisal system, I served on the Planning Committee while we built the Maritime garage, built Harbor Yards, started the POKO development, started Head of the Harbor, progressed on Waypointe and progressed on 95/7,” he said. “I was on the council and the Finance Committee for eight budget cycles, demanding budget reform. So I’ve been pretty busy.”

(This week: Conversations with Democratic Party candidates Harry Rilling Andy Garfunkel, Vinny Mangiacopra and Matt Miklave. After the primary, we will extend an invitation to Mayor Richard Moccia and his opponent or opponents for interviews.)

130505_009 Miklave on alleged NFD racism


18 responses to “Miklave wants to make major changes in the way Norwalk does business”

  1. KSully

    Matt Miklave is clearly the leader Norwalk needs to lead the city forward. He is the only candidate who has offered voters a real plan for funding education, enact budget reform, create real economic development and keep taxes and spending in check. Matt’s detractors say PBB will cost too much. Not true. The investment in implementing PBB is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential savings. A 1% savings from PBB equals $3,500,000.00; more than enough to fund this year’s education budget gap. Doing nothing is simply not an option as more funding cuts from Washington DC and Hartford will continue to mount. Matt’s proposals and plans are far and away the most thoughtful and comprehensive. Moreover, Matt isn’t trying to perpetuate some “insider” agenda or to pad pensions. He has one goal and one goal only…to help create a stronger future for Norwalk.

  2. YourDaddy

    PBB reminds me of Ross Perot’s charts and Al Gore’s lock box. Easy to remember, but about inspiring as watching grass grow.

  3. LWitherspoon

    More vague generalities interspersed with an occasional relevant factoid.
    “We’re going to have to spend some money” to do the things he wants to accomplish, he said, such as fully fund the Board of Education budget. “We’re going to be looking for grants. We’re going to be looking for state, federal and local dollars to try to fund some of the work we have to do. It’s a big project. But we also have to make some hard choices.”
    What does this mean? Does Mr. Miklave think the City is not already looking for grants? Mr. Miklave is presumably aware of the City’s budget, since he’s on the Common Council. How about instead of platitudes, he tell us in specific terms what he would have done differently in that budget? How would he pay for the increases in spending that he favors?
    It is ironic to hear Mr. Miklave talk about making hard choices, because any time somebody tries to make a hard choice and save money, Mr. Miklave is the first one to pander to the affected constituency by bloviating about the injustice of it all.
    Sometimes Miklave’s bloviating is self-contradictory. I guess he has trouble keeping track of all the groups he panders to. For example, he voted for the new Fire Station and then denounced it as “a monstrosity” in order to curry favor with the DPW union. Then he offered to PERSONALLY paint a bike lane on Calf Pasture Beach Road to curry favor with cyclists, presumably forgetting that doing so would take work away from DPW union workers! Whoops!
    I’ll leave it to others to weigh in on Mr. Miklave’s “accomplishments” but I strongly suspect that those are mostly puffery too. It’s ironic to hear Mr. Miklave taking credit for “progress” on Waypointe and 95/7 when others have noted that he actually caused massive delays in those projects.

  4. David McCarthy

    It is extremely irresponsible and unprofessional for someone saying they are a serious mayoral candidate to through out a charge of racism in such a cavalier manner. That a few people feel aggrieved is certainly true. Whether that is sour grapes or a real issue has not been substantiated.

    To go further and say that Norwalk hires firemen through an “old boys network” is beyond the pale. The professional examination is given by an outside firm, and the results have been posted here. The most serious charge that I have seen (that has any facts associated with it) are that the cut-off line was drawn too low to ensure inclusion of a certain sex/racial mix. To say otherwise is to insult every other person that wears that badge.

    Hiring is handled by the city’s HR staff, not some handful of people in a back room. If Mr. Miklave has charges to make, let him make them. I don’t see anything that even approaches a fact here, and in my mind, off-hand remarks like this are sufficient enough to completely dismiss him as a serious candidate.

    …and for those that don’t know, I am not related in any way to the Fire Chief. I never met him until I came to know him through his work on the Human Services Council in 2010.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @David McCarthy

      “I actually have a lot of experience with discrimination,” he said. “You have to make sure you have an aggressive program to make sure people feel valued and feel like they have an avenue. And what I’m hearing from several departments is folks don’t feel they have that avenue.”

      Be careful what you read into the article. First of all, Mr. Miklave was responding to my question, not making an accusation. Second, he was talking, as the story said, in generalities. Note “hearing from a lot of departments.” The “old boys network” referred to all city departments, and reflects a common charge made in some quarters. Mr. Miklave acknowledged the charges and the discussion about the NFD, but immediately went to overall policy discussion.

  5. Bruce Kimmel

    Last year in a packed concert hall, Miklave voted for a 2.8% tax increase in the operating budget that provided the BOE with $5 million less than it had requested. About ten minutes after his vote, he announced, with great fanfare and passion, that he would fight to fully fund the BOE two months later when the Council revisited the budget. There was great applause when he did this. However, every person on the Council knew that was virtually impossible to do since it would have required a two-thirds majority. Miklave knew this, but made the speech anyway. (Duleep also pulled the same stunt as Miklave, made the same type of speech, to the same type of applause.)

    And this year, after a long-winded speech on how the budget process is terribly flawed, a real disaster, he voted against the wishes of his caucus and actually supported the proposed budget, which increased taxes by $3.9%, which has since been lowered by the BET to about 3.6% Politicians who try to have it both ways have no respect for the intelligence of voters. They generally believe politics is a game of manipulation.

    I believe one of the few, if not the only, concrete examples of PBB that Miklave has talked about had to do with childhood obesity and cutting money for health department programs and using it to keep schools open longer hours. That would clearly cost the city a very pretty penny and probably would have no influence on our obesity rate. There is no evidence that longer school hours reduces obesity.

  6. LWitherspoon, Bruce Kimmel & David McCarthy — three of Norwalk’s more ardent defenders of the status quo. What Kimmel, McCarthy and LWitherspoon do very well is make poor assumptions about Matt’s dynamic plans to improve Norwalk. What they’ll never do is offer real solutions of their own, nor will they advocate for any solid/factual position of any of the candidates they’re supporting. Nowhere in any of their three postings do they mention the name of a candidate who they believe has better ideas than Matt Miklave. Not once. Why question is why? The answer is simple. Whoever they’re backing, whatever status quo candidate they’re fronting for and protecting, doesn’t have comprehensive ideas, solutions or answers to the problems facing Norwalk’s families and business community. That fact leaves them one option; attack the valuable ideas of the one candidate — Matt Miklave– with the courage to take on the status quo. It’s a shame Bruce, David and L wont simply put their petty political alliances aside and advocate for the only candidate with real plan to move Norwalk forward rather than continuously ranting against anything that threatens the security of their little power base. I know many voters in Norwalk agree with me when I say, if LWitherspoon, Bruce Kimmel and David McCarthy are lining up against Matt, then Matt is doing something right. If the status quo, aka whomever L, Bruce and David support, is still in office in January of 2014, those of us who believe Norwalk needs to move in a new direction under insightful leadership, will be the real losers.

  7. Bruce Kimmel

    Are KSully and Katie Sullivan two different people?

  8. David McCarthy

    Mark, you are either a reporter or an apologist, and it seems like you are choosing the latter, too bad. He said what he said, I wrote what I wrote and people can make a judgment without your help.

    Matt is trying to pander to a certain group of extremists, and you surprise me by defending him. There is no defense possible of accusing the entire HR and Fire Dept system of being an “Old Boys Network” without the slightest bit of evidence, and I don’t care how often people repeat senseless things, it doesn’t make it so.

    I don’t think the Republican administration has hired any of the people that are a part of this so called network. I believe all were Knopp appointees. All were confirmed by the appropriate process and are subject to the laws of this state, which are among the toughest in the US (appropriately so) when it comes to EEO.

    I am not a defender of the status quo, but I do believe in protecting people’s rights. It’s called due process, and as a lawyer, Matt should understand that. If someone (or a system) is found to be wanting, it should be changed. There are ways of demonstrating the need, first. An idiot with a megaphone, or multiple rumor-mongerers are not among those ways.

    For instance, Matt is correct that some departments have not updated the little statistics in the budget book. If he honestly thinks that the repeated use of 157 house fires means anything to anyone on this planet, he is mistaken. The department heads should take the time to update them, or eliminate them. If they aren’t driving anything, eliminate them. This is something changed with an email, not something to base a campaign on.

    I can see from Matt’s increasing hostility that his campaign is not gaining traction. He is tired and snippy and that’s too bad. He flamed out way too early.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @David McCarthy

      “Mark, you are either a reporter or an apologist, and it seems like you are choosing the latter, too bad. He said what he said, I wrote what I wrote and people can make a judgment without your help.”

      Mr. McCarthy, as the saying goes, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. You were not at the interview. I clarified to you and our readers what the question was and how he responded. You read into it that he was claiming racism in the NFD, and you attacked him based on YOUR imagination. You jumped to conclusions, and you are making assertions about this story that I attempted to clear up. I am not defending Mr. Miklave, just explaining the facts. See, we believe in the truth, not partisan spin.

  9. David McCarthy

    Bruce…Katie is likely someone in Matt’s family. If she sees solutions in what Matt is posting, or even a slight glimmer of one in the “vague generalities” as LW calls them, then she is very close and not reading anything, but merely sticking up for Uncle Matt. The only thing we can probably be sure of is that it isn’t old RikkiBobbi.

    For the record, I support the 8 years of stewardship of the city by our current mayor. Promises delivered in the hardest economic times in decades.

  10. Broderick I. Sawyer

    @ Dave McCarthy (and anyone else who is willing)
    It would be my honor to sit down with you and give you all the information I have, an hour of your time will be necessary.
    It will be beneficial to hear both sides of my particular history here, you have yet to hear from me; face to face.
    Whether we the aggrieved have a real issue or it is simply sour grapes, will be for you to decide.
    A conversation may well assist with finding a solution to the problems, that will hopefully end with a fair resolution to a complex problem.
    I’ve never spoken to or met you as far as I recall, so it is unfair to appear to pass judgement on my personal situation without speaking to me, although I’m sure that is not your intention.
    I look forward to speaking with you, it may be you, being in the position you are in, to actually help.
    Please contact me at your convenience.

  11. The mp3 file of Councilman Miklave answering Mark’s question is now attached at the bottom of the story.

  12. Tim T

    After reading the propaganda filled posts by the Republicans all I can say us that they are running scared. It seems they know their time of running Norwalk into the ground is over.

  13. Peter I Berman

    What prior managerial experience and accomplishments in 10 years on the Council would make a reasonable case that Mr Milkave would be an effective Mayor ? Has he ever practiced PPB professionally ? Has he been a leader with solid legislative accomplishments ? Does he have deep understanding of the City budget ? Did he support City employee pay raises these past 10 years or encourage remedial arbitration ? Would he be a serious candidate to manage a private corporation with a 300 million dollar budget ?

  14. Frankie_Boy

    How does someone in the private sector, who’s not running a large company, “practice PBB professionally”? Are there amateur budget-planners who might use performance based measures? [Aside to Berman- you don’t check your facts, but can you please check your spelling?]
    What is “remedial arbitration”? Beating up on secretaries, clerks and laborers who Peter Berman thinks make too much is not how you encourage workers to give 110%.
    Looking for a chief executive with prior budget experience sounds good. Too bad Jack Welch is retired and Dannel Malloy (who has the experience Berman wants) is too busy messing up state budgets to come to Norwalk.

  15. LWitherspoon

    @Katie Sullivan
    Clearly you want Matt Miklave to be Mayor. You would better serve your cause by answering the questions I raised above. How would he pay for the increases in spending that he favors?
    It does not reflect well on you or on Mr. Miklave to respond to reasonable questions by attacking the questioner.

  16. Suzanne

    L. Witherspoon, I asked for clarification personally from Mr. Miklave and I got it. If you check out his WEB site, he has an e-mail address at the bottom to personally contact him about his plans.

    From my reading of both his Platform section on the WEB and his answers to my questions, Mr. Miklave plans to evaluate the effectiveness of City government department by department. There is an assumption of wasted time and money and that is probably true.

    He has also proposed instituting more effective IT management (having attended a public meeting recently that was postponed for thirty minutes due to a lack of a working tape recorder, I appreciate this.)

    By increasing the efficiency of governmental management, including appointed Commissions and Councils, expenses would be less and, thus, increases in spending for the most necessary areas could be paid for. This makes sense.

    Mr. Miklave seems fairly obsessed with basing management on data rather than the favoritism and emotion marking this administration so grievously. Give me a budget wonk any day of the week to manage a City – popularity and party should not matter if the person is intent on being of service and evaluating the data upon which the service is based.

    Every candidate has information on their WEB Site that can help in evaluating their candidacy. Information and not sniping does, in fact, help in understanding the positions each mayoral hopeful is taking.

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