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Norwalk: Are we really all in this together?

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A host of medical and science experts have suggested we’ll be operating in a COVID-19 world for the next 18-24 months or until a vaccine, broad testing or herd immunity kicks in. We have no choice but to adapt lifestyles and bank accounts.  For those wanting to remain in Connecticut, the virus exacerbated an already struggling economy.  If we are ‘all in this together,’ then city and state officials must demonstrate with actions and not just words that we truly are.  Extreme rhetoric from the right or left is not helpful and can’t be allowed to overshadow common sense practices regarding public health, safety and finance.  Compromise, balance and pragmatism are NOT partisan words.

Somewhat uniquely, I’ve experienced the socially distanced mask and glove world, following a 2006 bone marrow transplant.  Less exceptionally, coming from the private sector, I’m used to adjusting my household spending due to employment or economic conditions. That’s why in addition to safeguarding our public health, it’s EQUALLY important for elected leaders to take proactive steps to mitigate the financial struggle that lays ahead for residents and small businesses.

In addition to consistent enforcement of social distancing, city and state officials must demonstrate fiscal restraint, taking steps to revisit, prioritize and cut across the board non-essential financial burdens.  Why? Because more than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs since federal and state governments mandated shelter in place and non-essential businesses shut down.  Last month, Connecticut’s unemployment claims climbed to 400,000—representing nearly 23 percent of the private sector workforce.  We don’t know the exact fall-out in Norwalk yet, but it’s hard to imagine us escaping the fallout.

The National League of Cities forecasts 300,000 to 1 million public sector workers impacted nationwide because of the private sector’s rise in unemployment. That’s why, with over 85 percent of Norwalk funded by local residents and small business, it’s imperative city hall consider the following measures:

  • City & BOE Personnel Wage Freezes: Timelines for public employee salary increases must be reexamined, as already done in the private sector. Scheduled collective bargaining must not occur until after the COVID-19 crisis has passed and economy has returned to normal.
  • Real City Hall Cuts:  Relying on the Rainy Day fund, without genuinely ‘sharing the burden’ is not fair.  Labor concessions must be made, in addition to examining jobs that should be furloughed, reduced or eliminated due to the virus’s two-year window. Senior staff should take salary cuts. Lead from the top down.
  • Education: Legislative energies must be directed towards state funding for increased English Language Learner (ELL) students versus pursuing a new high school and adding more local debt.  ALL school initiatives must be revaluated.
  • Automobiles & Parking: Lost revenue resulting from residents not giving up their New York license plates must be addressed. A moratorium on parking fees for the Washington and Wall Street areas encourages local business patronage.
  • Development: Suspend any NEW taxpayer-funded incentive programs in the pipeline by whatever name city hall wants to call them. This includes property tax incentives previously known as the Innovation District, Real Estate Tax Credit, Enterprise Zone, Low Income Tax Credits, etc.

 

A byproduct of single party rule is that the people’s business is often conducted in caucus, behind closed doors and outside public view. COVID-19 has exacerbated the not so imaginary line between government and the people, flying in the face of democracy, critical discussion and fairness.

 

Turning to Hartford

This fall, I encourage both party’s candidates to advocate for:

  • Improved fiscal management and belt tightening in Hartford, rather than shifting state burdens to municipalities
  • Better policies supporting businesses and jobs in the private sector, as much as state and local government
  • Balanced state education and housing policies as to not disproportionately and negatively impact Norwalk

 

Nowhere is Norwalk’s lack of advocacy more visible than in our Education Cost Share (ECS) funding and lack of financial support for English Language Learner (ELL) students.  At the same time, Hartford pushes for increased density in Fairfield County at Norwalk’s expense, disproportionately impacting finances and quality of life.  Balance, fairness and equity should be the mantra of any elected official representing our great city. We’re six largest in population and eighth largest in state tax contributions, yet see virtually no return on our tax dollars, despite rising school poverty. This lack of equity, disproportionately impacts our budget and ability to service other city obligations. We need responsible management and belt-tightening, because IF we truly  are ‘all in this together’ then officials must do more than extend thoughts and prayers – like enduring the same sacrifices those longing to remain in our city and state are making.

Lisa Brinton

18 comments

Bridgert P May 10, 2020 at 9:16 am

City government is out of touch and the mayor’s “pressing ahead” and “business as usual stance” begs logic. Promoting spending hikes during this depression is incomprehensible and cold- hearted. Citizens deserve better and the city’s government self-serving selfishness must end.

Thank you Lisa for your advocacy – you are Norwalk’s true public servant.

Jodi S May 10, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Amen Lisa!! You have my vote! Can’t continue business as usual on the broke backs of taxpayers!! No raises and no construction!! I hope they hear you! If not people will continue to leave this once great state! For sale signs are EVERYWHERE!!!!

Mike Mushak May 10, 2020 at 12:32 pm

A call for non-partisanship while blaming government workers and trash-talking Democrats. Typical Lisa nonsense.

And more of the typical misinformation Lisa spreads ad nauseum even on Mothers Day. Lisa actually said “we see virtually no return on our tax dollars” which is a boldface lie. Shameless!

Oh, and considering Lisa’s support from Norwalk’s most rabid Trump lovers, not a single word from her about Trump’s mishandling of the entire pandemic including his daily lies and embarrassing behavior, nor the Republican Party’s shameful conduct in sneaking hundreds of billions of breaks for corporations and the wealthy (including of course the Trump family business) into the pandemic relief bills.

See the article on page 7 of today’s Hour, that describes an average tax break in the pandemic relief bills for millionaires of $1.6 million, while little guys like us get $1200. Wow.

Lisa might as well just say “let them eat cake” as she demands sacrifices from the hard-working little guys to help pay for the tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, which has been the Republican strategy for decades.

But in Lisa’s humorous “non-partisan” worldview, it’s all CT state and municipal workers fault, and of course Democrats’ fault, and teachers and first responders and state healthcare workers and all the other essential government workers should be penalized for Trump’s deadly incompetence, fully supported by the morally corrupt Republican Party.

Today’s death count is now over 80,000, when Trump said 6 weeks ago it would just go away like a miracle, and the Republicans and Fox News said it was all a Democratic hoax.

What better time is there to follow Lisa Brinton’s advice and cut the pay of teachers and police and other front line workers to pay for the Republican tax cuts for the weathy and corporations? Let’s try never.

Happy Mother’s Day Lisa. Please give it a break!

AlanBeck May 10, 2020 at 2:21 pm

I could agree more. If you say the pain is being shared, your actions should show that it is indeed being shared.

Andrew May 10, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Pandemic bill was passed in the Senate 96-0. All Trump did was sign it, but sure it’s his fault what was out in the bill by Congress.

Eleanor Lx May 10, 2020 at 3:43 pm

I agree with Lisa. It always amazes me how the Dems love making everything about Trump while continuing to bankrupt their local and state economies. If Norwalk can not contain its insatiable appetite for spending during this pandemic, this should speak volumes about the city’s viability and Norwalk’ future path of mirroring Bridgeport in the not so distant future. Further, to inflict a tax hike and no spending constraint in these painful economic times is simply out of touch and not a government for the people.

Patrick Cooper May 10, 2020 at 4:17 pm

This excellent letter from Lisa Brinton is timely, and in fact, necessary. Political messaging is always about marketing a falsehood, and calling that out for what it is will rankle the usual feathers. This is as old as “the emperor has no clothes”. Or the local version – the landscaper can’t do math.

“We are all in this together” is just a slogan. Sacrifices require actions – not words. This is about tone-deaf leadership pushing through a budget that spends money that most experts predict will be an illusion when the tally is complete (just read the “5 trends” article below – and see State Budget Shortfalls and CT Consensus Revenue Estimates).

Further demonstrating a complete distain for the taxpayers, Rilling is now pushing the absolute worst possible tax break deal for his crony developer friends (sorry Jason, you’ll need to kiss the ring to get a Spinnaker sized sail up on Wall). @Adolph Neaderland’s “Where I Stand” letter is timely as well – a forever advocate for “smart” planning and development, his LTE is a thoughtful take on what kind of housing we should be encouraging – especially now that we understand the true dangers associated with close quarters in a pandemic. But our townie common council has to live up to promises. Why do you think that dirt pile is still sitting there where the Lohman’s plaza used to be? I find it hysterical that those who claim to stand up for the “little guy” includes these multi-millionaire developers as part of the oppressed.

No, my Norwalk friends and neighbors – you have been hoodwinked by the folks you elected to serve the city – because they are not protecting the collective interests of the city stakeholders (largely residential property owners) – no, they only serve the mayors political agenda. Sadly, we will pay a very heavy price for this past election cycle, confusing Washington DC politics with local issues. CT was experiencing an “exodus” prior to Covid19 – and given the economic hardships that are on the horizon, there is little chance that trend will abate. While cliché, it seems fitting to end with the widely known axiom – the first sign of insanity is doing the same action that results in negative out comes repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Last one out, turn off the lights please.

JustaTaxpayer May 11, 2020 at 8:20 am

Too funny….”morally bankrupt Republican Party”. Hopefully there will be a vaccine for Covid and then a set of anti-viral drugs for TDS. We’re going to need it. Sure, CT will vote in a glass of water with a “D” on it while the good folks of Florida, NC< Michigan and Pennsylvania will see the world differently.

Babar Sheikh May 11, 2020 at 12:58 pm

Time to start raising taxes on the rich, giving them tax cuts again and again has not been working. Anyone who thinks teachers, firefighters and such should get pay cuts is a grossly misinformed person.

Bobby Lamb May 11, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Let them eat cake is right. As Lisa is sitting safely inside trying to sell her $1.5 million dollar Rowayton home she is demanding frontline workers get a pay cut or laid off. These are the folks continuing to make sure the city is running – the police, first responders, DPW workers, building inspectors and HEALTH DEPARTMENT employees. The fact that this is who you are demanding bear the burden of this global crisis speaks volumes.

John B. May 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm

Thank you Lisa, it’s a shame to see what kind of leadership the city could have had.

Drew Ablank May 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm

Question for the Mayor: If social distancing is our new normal due to the pandemic and we begin to see how other countries (who have already passed through the phase we are currently in) have eased back into school settings with much needed physical space between each student as well as teachers how do rilling and duff meet those circumstances (not calling them requirements yet) if we are already short on school floor space and already in a crunch on the overcrowding issue as it stands which is their m.o of building building building more housing? Spare the argument of 1 kid per building and going on the premise that many people are not going back to NYC or other overly crowded metropolis’s. How do we/they keep families safe as it flies against their agenda?

Nancy Chapman May 11, 2020 at 4:57 pm

FYI, from the Mayor’s update: “Mayor Rilling will be hosting a Zoom Town Hall on Monday, May 11, at 7:00 p.m. He will be joined by Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik and State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. Members of the public can submit questions live by visiting bit.ly/May11TownHall tomorrow night. No registration is required.”

David Bayne May 12, 2020 at 8:21 pm

Joe you are comparing one month (under lockdown) to one year in your other examples. Not to mention cancer and heart disease are not contagious and do not grow exponentially. What exactly is your point?

Bryan Meek May 13, 2020 at 7:44 am

@David Blayne. Diabetes will kill 10x more people than this virus this year. What is your opinion of sugar being in just about everything in the food supply chain.

But Joe is onto something, when the data shows that much, much fewer people died from cancer and heart disease this year, then we will all know how badly we’ve been played.

Of course some will still believe that we needed to kill off our economy and normal society for a disease that has about 1/100th of the normal death rate which is 0.8%. They will still believe it if the “news” tells them to.

David Bayne May 13, 2020 at 6:02 pm

It’s crazy because on the one hand, I have the head of a local ER, paramedic and doctor friends, virologists, doctors and scientists telling me how serious this is. On the other hand, I have these strangers who complain about everything on the internet and a roofer turned Fox News commentator saying it’s all a hoax. So hard to know who to listen to.

Isabelle Hargrove May 14, 2020 at 7:55 am

Thank you Lisa Brinton!

And I am pretty confident that Mayor Brinton would not have straddled Norwalk with a capital budget 3 times higher than last year in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse.

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