Norwalk charter overhaul greenlighted by voters

A ballot waiting for votes, late Tuesday in the Norwalk Public Library.

Norwalk voters soundly approved the City’s first charter revision in a century Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans say.

Official results were not available overnight. But the City’s political leaders based their perceptions on ballot tapes collected from all the polling places.

Democrats showed an early preliminary result of it passing with at least 80% of the vote. Republican Town Committee Secretary Diana Paladino said early Wednesday that it definitely passed.

Late Tuesday in the Hilton Garden Inn, Mayor Harry Rilling said he was thankful.

“We wanted so much for that charter revision to pass,” he said. “All it did was increased the Police and Fire Commissions from three to five, or two to four, depending on you read it, and just organize the charter. When I first ran for Mayor, and I was looking at the charter. I had to go to this chapter, that chapter in that chapter to find out the authority that the Mayor has. And it was very convoluted, very difficult to navigate. We’ve made it so much cleaner.”

Efficiency study consultants said last year that the charter needed to be completely overhauled. The Common Council subsequently hired Attorney Steven Mednick to guide the work, a step forward from the 2016 effort when volunteers presented a less comprehensive charter revision to the public, only to see most of its work fail at the polls.

“I am delighted that the Proposed Charter Revision has passed,” Charter Revision Commission Chairwoman Patsy Brescia said in an email. “It certainly was time for our wonderful city to bring the charter into ‘today.’ When you focus on the date of the writing of our charter, 1913, and place that date in perspective, 1913 was prior to the start of World War 1 and before women had the right to vote. Our new charter is easy to use, describes the current functions of our government and provides for more citizen involvement, I believe it is a win, win for Norwalk. Thank you Norwalk for voting for the Proposed Charter.”

“I think we’ve done a great job,” Rilling said. “I’m so pleased that it passed.”


One response to “Norwalk charter overhaul greenlighted by voters”

  1. David Muccigrosso

    What won me over on this was the requirement that the charter be revisited every 5 years.

    One of the big things Thomas Jefferson got right was his insistence that the Constitution not be a “dead hand of the past” that “[binds]” us to previous generations’ mistakes. He hoped for a Constitutional Convention every 20 years or so.

    Outdoing him by a factor of 4 gives me hope. After 250 years of democratic experimentation across the world, we KNOW what works: parliamentary systems with proportionalism. These systems deliver on the promises our Founders made even better than the simplistic First-Past-The-Post and Single-Member-Districts setup they devised. Probably the best system ever is Japan’s Parallel Voting scheme, where geographic districts are paired with “top-up” seats that match each party’s proportion of the national vote.

    The closer we can get Norwalk to something like this, the better. In my mind, Ranked Choice Voting is the first step. @Lisa, it’s time to start campaigning for RCV in our first revision!

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