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Norwalk Common Council appoints new tax assessor; commission to study council districts

Norwalk Common Council
The Norwalk Common Council met on Tuesday, June 11.

Nearly a month after interim tax assessor Paul Gorman announced he was Norwalk’s new tax assessor, the Common Council made it official Tuesday, unanimously appointing him to the role.

The council also appointed members to its reapportionment committee, which will reexamine the council districts for the first time since the 1950s, to make sure all residents have the same level of representation.

New tax assessor

Council member Greg Burnett, who chairs the council’s Finance and Claims Committee, said Gorman has been an asset for the city since he began as the assistant tax assessor and as the interim tax assessor.

“I think he has displayed leadership and the technical ability to perform in this capacity,” Burnett said. 

Gorman, a former Westport analyst inspector, was hired as a Norwalk deputy assessor in April 2022, taking on duties that included managing commercial real estate property inspections and valuations. He became the interim tax assessor in March 2023, after the departure of William Ford, who had been the assessor since January 2020.

As the interim tax assessor, Burnett said Gorman has been a resource, particularly during this past budget season when the city dealt with a property revaluation. 

“Mr. Gorman has been actively involved in the revaluation process, providing education and information to Norwalk residents to ensure that they understand the process completely,” Burnett said. “He’s also been actively involved in terms of a very difficult phase-in [of new property values] approach, which we’re going to encounter by providing advice and counsel on the best way to go forward with this situation.”

The new reapportionment committee

According to state and federal regulations, after every census—so every 10 years—the city is supposed to reapportion its city council districts to make sure they are equitable, according to council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner.

“That has not been done since at least the 1950s, so we are way overdue to do so,” she said. “As part of the charter revision process last year, one of the recommendations coming out of that was to get ourselves in conformance with state and federal law, which includes reapportioning the council districts.” 

The council approved an ordinance earlier this year that established the creation of an advisory committee, which will work with data vendors on making sure all “of our city council districts are roughly of the same size because that is a constitutional obligation as complies with the Voting Rights Act, which means protects minority representation in each of our districts.”

“The role of the advisory committee will be to advise the data vendor in relation to local knowledge,” Niedzielski-Eichner said.

That could mean providing advice about keeping streets together with similar interests.  

The seven-member committee, unanimously approved by the council on Tuesday, includes Khea Gibbs, Jody Proct, Diane Cece, Susan Remson, Brenda Penn Williams, Scott Goodwin, and Kenneth D’Arinzo. 

The ordinance that created this committee put most of the power in the council president’s hands, something that members of the public, particularly the Republican and Independent party leaders objected to. They said the committee should have had required input from party chairs to ensure minority party representation. 

However, some members of the Common Council, which is made up of 14 Democrats and 1 Independent, said they wanted the committee to be “nonpartisan,” and allowing the council president to come up with a list—with input from community leaders of all sorts, including churches and nonprofits, as well as political leaders and council members, was the best way to do that. 

Still, some members of the council questioned whether it was representative of the city.

“What extent was ethnic or cultural representation considered in the criteria to select these people? And second, to what extent do you feel they have been vetted to be impartial to the recommendations provided by the consultant eventually?” Council member Johan Lopez asked. 

Council President Darlene Young said she thought the group was “a good mix.” 

“Are we missing Latino representation? Not sure, but maybe. Are we missing some others? I’m not sure, so I don’t know what you mean by representations,” she said. “And so we tried to do this as far as party affiliation as well, so we had to make sure that that was balanced. And so I know there was a real ire about some of the people so we squashed that, so these are the names.”

Young also noted that she “specifically asked everyone to submit names” and Lopez had told her he wanted to submit a name, but never did 

“I don’t believe I received a response in terms of the available names I have to potentially serve as possible candidates,” Lopez  said. “Second, I don’t feel that the list is reflective of our demographics—it’s common sense, you can just look at some of our basic stats. That’s my only concern.”

Still, Lopez voted along with the rest of the council for the committee members. 

The plan is to have the new districts set before the 2025 municipal elections. 

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