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Norwalk Council District D hopefuls explain their desire to serve

From left, Norwalk District D Common Council candidates George Tsiranides, a Democratic incumbent; Tom Keegan, a Republican; Carl Dickens, a Republican; and James Page, a Democrat.

The election is Nov. 5.

NORWALK, Conn. — NancyOnNorwalk asked all Norwalk Common Council candidates five questions. Everyone running to represent District D responded. Here in alphabetical order are their responses:

 

Carl Dickens. (Contributed)

Carl Dickens, Republican

What has inspired you to run for office?

“Seventeen years ago when my wife and I moved to the area because of a job promotion we began to look at area communities to settle down.  Norwalk kept moving to the top of the list and so we purchased our home on East Rocks Road. Slowly over the years that feeling we got that made us fall in love with Norwalk has been eroding. Quality of life a bit stagnant or eroding as well. Congestion, Infrastructure issues, home prices dropping and continued building without concern for the present or the future. I could either sit on the sidelines and complain or try to do something about what I was hearing from neighbors and friends.  I chose to try and do something about it.”

What qualifications do you bring?

“I am a resident, concerned citizen, with a deep background from my professional career of problem solving and managing large amounts of revenue. I am not a yes man, a good listener, and I build bridges not walls.”

Why should people choose you over your opponent?

“That is always an interesting question. I am not running against anyone. I am running for the residents of District D. In this system four candidates are running for two seats. I want to be one of those two that the people choose to represent them and be their advocate for a better district and city. In the end it is about the best person who will listen to them and get the job done for them. I am a tireless worker and will be on their behalf.”

What is the biggest challenge facing Norwalk?

“Having traveled in my job all over this country to big and small cities it is the same everywhere. Lack of revenue, over crowding for the size of the community, crumbling infrastructure, schools needing help and support, traffic congestion, and overall quality of life.”

How would you address it?

“Listening to the residents of the city regardless of political affiliation. Being an advocate for District D and the city. Reaching out and creating meaningful dialogue with other cities in the state and out of the state who have increased their revenue and quality of life without taxing their citizens and business to the point of they either stay or leave. There are no easy fixes, however, growth and change take work. Growth of any city and especially Norwalk right now needs to be carefully planned. The citizens must have a say in the direction of their community and their largest investment in the city’s home and business ownership. I will role up my sleeves and go to work on day one.”

 

Tom Keegan. (Contributed)

Tom Keegan, Republican

What has inspired you to run for office?

“I was inspired to run for Common Council by several factors and more by who than what. I was approached by our District’s leadership and I was asked to consider running. I was humbled by their confidence in me. I spoke with family and friends and they encouraged me to run. I have always been interested in local issues and their effect on Norwalk residents like the Poko project, I would read about The Poko Project, the mixed use 95/7 Spinnaker project that became a mall, rock crushing affecting South Norwalk and many others. I would read in the newspapers and on the internet about the many “Champions” for Norwalk like Mr. Dumas, Diane Lauricella, Diane Cece, Donna Smirniotopoulos and our mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton and how they would fight to make Norwalk a better place to live. I have always been an others before self-type of person so I agreed to run in hopes that I too can make Norwalk a better place.”

What qualifications do you bring?

“I have been a Police Officer for 42 years. The last twenty-five years as a Lieutenant, The ‘Boss’ so to speak. A while back one of my subordinates told me that I was respected by the group because I had earned it. He said I consistently put the group above even my own needs. I was very humbled by his statement. I always strive to be generous with myself and not selfish. I also firmly believe in community first and decisions not for selfish reasons but for the common good. During my career I’ve learned how important it is to be a good listener. Listening to what people have to say is paramount to good decision making. I know I can collaborate with others to get thing accomplished. I was fortunate to do just that as The President of Cranbury Elementary PTO for four years and as The President of NAA which is one of the strongest advocating organizations for youth sports in the city.  I will stake my reputation against anyone. I know I am honest and trustworthy. Qualities that in many cases have become among the missing. I am also a fixer by nature. It is the primary reason I became a Police Officer because to do so I believe you have to have a genuine interest in helping people. I live by a simple creed which includes the motto when people call for help…you’re the help. I want to help Norwalk be a better place.”

Why should people choose you over your opponent?

“I don’t believe the common council race is a me against them situation. I think each candidate will make their case to the voters. In my case The voters of District D will decide which 2 candidates of the four running best represents their interests.  I have been a public servant for my entire adult life, be it as a career police officer, volunteer firefighter or as a community volunteer i.e. PTO President, youth sports coach.  I have always put my community first.  I will ask the electorate to judge me on my character and not against the other candidates. I have always been honest and trustworthy and if I am elected I intend to stay true to my character.  That is the only promise I can make.”

What is the biggest challenge facing Norwalk and how would you address it?

“I believe the major problem facing Norwalk is one party rule and the lack of balance in City government and on The Common Council. There is no dialogue. There is no exchange of ideas and/or solutions to any issue or problems. The decision making is one sided. I believe that the residents who pay taxes are therefore under represented. As a result, many decisions rendered are politically motivated and adversely affect Norwalk’s true investors, the families that choose to live here, buy homes here and raise their families here with higher property taxes. The decisions that are being made affect the quality of life of the entire City. The decision to build more and more fortress apartments adds stress on our City’s infrastructure and creates more need for City services in many case without an increase in the revenue needed to sustain the project. The first step to change is o vote for it on November 5th.”

 

 

 

James Page. (Contributed)

James Page, Democrat

What has inspired you to run for office?

“Hello Everyone, my name is James K. Page. As a community leader throughout Fairfield County, I am excited to be your candidate for the 2019 Common Council election. I am Inspired to continue to serve and give back to the City of Norwalk and its community because the city of Norwalk has done so much for me and my family. I have been afforded the best education through St. Joseph Catholic School and Brien McMahon High School.  My parents raised me and my siblings in a great community where they owned their home in Norwalk for over 40 years. Norwalk is a great place to live! People from all over the state recognize Norwalk is perfectly located within Connecticut’s boarders. It is become known as the hottest city to live in on the East Coast.

“We all are aware of some of the key points of interest and concern—taxes and education.  Lower taxes and a successful approach to a better education for all students is of utmost importance.  As a candidate of the Norwalk Common Council, I am inspired to seek better ways in which to accommodate the citizens of Norwalk.

“I am purpose driven! As one of the change agents of Norwalk’s vibrant, prosperous and beautiful city, I am on a mission to see Norwalk continue to thrive and succeed. I have over 20 years of continued community service. I am extremely passionate about the city of Norwalk and the community in which I live. As the Founder and President of Building Community nonprofit organization, my vision is to build our community together by sharing our ideas and collaborating on strategic plans and implementing meaningful solutions by focusing on financial management. I believe in the “One City, One Team, One Community” approach and treating every person with significance. We are a diverse city! I am committed to working with every constituent of Norwalk, our stakeholders, and our surrounding neighbors to make Norwalk better.

“My wife, Michelle, and I are proud to be lifelong residents of Norwalk. For the past 16 years, we have been fortunate to reside in District D as homeowners.  We are both Brien McMahon High School alumni and proud parents of three adult children.”

What qualifications do you bring?

“Next month, I will successfully complete a four-year term on the Board of Estimate and Taxation.  As a board member, I have worked collaboratively to recommend four of the city’s Operating Budgets and four of the city’s Capital Budgets. Also, I have worked closely with all the department heads in Norwalk to responsibly distribute taxpayer dollars in the most appropriate ways. For the past four years, I have worked in collaboration with the Board of Education to fund their strategic plan and to make certain the appropriate funding is available for students, teachers, administrations, and for the upkeep of our schools.

“I have over 20 years’ experience in working in the accounting and finance environment, specifically within the public, private, and nonprofit sectors where I served as the Chief Operating Officer. I am a passionate transformational educator who teaches entrepreneurship, accounting, and other business courses. I currently serve as the Undergraduate Program Director for the School of Business at the University of Bridgeport.

“Recently, I completed a Certificate Program from Cornell University in Strategic Leadership. I have an earned Doctorate in Higher Education Leadership and Innovation from Wilmington University, Wilmington, DE. I earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Computer Information Systems from Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, CT.”

 

Why should people choose you over your opponent?

“As a community leader, entrepreneur, and a finance person with c-level experience as well as an experienced administrator in an elementary-middle school, an experienced educator, faculty, and administrator in higher education, I bring a high-level of experience to effectuate my role as a member of the Norwalk Common Council.”

What is the biggest challenge facing Norwalk?

“As stated earlier, a continual effort to lower taxes as well as close the achievement gap are the two biggest challenges facing the city of Norwalk. While we have witnessed a decrease in taxes, I believe there is still room for improvement.  However, job well done for those who were responsible for the changes that have been made, to date.”

How would you address it?

“As a member of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, we worked together as one team. As Democrats, Independents, and Republicans we spent many long hours having friendly, firm, and fair discussions on how to do the right thing for the citizens of Norwalk. As an elected member of the Common Council, I will continue listening to the people of Norwalk, work with constituents, and elected officials to develop the urban core, spend the taxpayer’s money responsibly and focus on successfully addressing and implementing the strategic plan.  I understand the grand-list process, the mill-rate process, the budget process, and how to gain buy-in from all respected parties.

“Norwalk has a great educational district, but we still need help. We have the most passionate and caring teachers, administrators, and staff. However, in order to close the achievement gap, I will remain committed to investing in the lives and future of our young people by determining the many ways in which students can learn and implement those strategies for better outcomes.

“Two years ago, I met with appropriate persons about the implementation of a Dual Enrollment Program at Brien McMahon High School in partnership with the Ernst C. Trefz School of Business University of Bridgeport. Last year, I met with administration and faculty at Norwalk High School for the same purpose. Students have enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to gain free transferrable college credits in Accounting and Entrepreneurship.  I have now partnered with multiple high schools throughout CT where over 500 students are now enrolled in the Dual Enrollment Program at the University of Bridgeport.  Recently, I created a Bachelor of Science Data Analytics Program, scheduled to launch in Spring 2020.

“We must continue to address the needs of our schools and invest in the future of our students. We must invest in the necessary academic technologies to prepare the youth of today for the workplace of tomorrow. The future jobs of tomorrow include Data Analytics, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence. Additionally, we must find creative ways to help them gain the necessary soft skills to be successful in the workplace.

“As a community leader, an ‘on the ground’ presence is essential. We are faced with many challenges in our federal government. As a local government official, I believe in building relationships. I believe in building a community. I believe in serving the community with high-quality customer service while being accountable, transparent, and staying connected to the community. My commitment to District D includes being your eyes, your ears, your voice, and the face that always represents you well.

“I request your support and your vote on November 5, 2019. VOTE James K. Page!”

 

 

 

George Tsiranides.

George Tsiranides, Democrat, incumbent

Why are you seeking reelection?

“Being born and raised in Norwalk, raising my own children here and opening three businesses that have all served our community has given me a strong sense of commitment and pride in the continued growth and overall strength of our city. After serving a term as councilman I feel I have a greater grasp on the responsibilities of the position and have open lines of communication with the mayor, other members of council and the municipalities to be a strong voice for my district.”

What do you consider to be your most important achievement in this term?

“Dealing with the flooding issues has been one of the biggest wins this term. We have been able to achieve a noticeable difference with something that has been a problem for so many people for such a long time. Not to take away from other important achievements like our move to be more environmentally friendly through limiting plastic use. There have been so many great accomplishments, it is hard to choose just one.”

What is the biggest challenge facing Norwalk?

“Promoting the expansion of the city to encourage fiscal growth while keeping our town-like feel and causing the least amount of disruption to our residences.”

How would you address it?

“By continuing to meet with the developers, visit the sights, liaison with the municipalities and discuss the pros and cons that each project will have on the community that it resides, while encouraging public participation to consider the feedback of our taxpayers.”

What’s the most under looked aspect of your work?

“Being on the Council has given me a greater understanding of the time commitment involved. Council members dedicate much of their personal time to research and visit the locations as well as meet with the people involved with the projects or issues that occur in our city. The process is much more involved and is very rewarding when something we have worked so hard on comes together for the City.”

10 comments

Missy Conrad October 24, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Our Federal level of government must be recognized as a big part of Norwalk, CT’s, taxation & reimbursement. The latest tax bill in our US Congress really hurt us & has created a huge deficit, on which interest must be paid. We all are already behind from the Bush-Cheney Administration’s being the first in history to cut taxes while starting a war, the Iraq War. Then, in the first Obama term, the leader of our opposition party in Congress declared that their focus would be, not to advise & consent, but to obstruct Obama from becoming a second term President. Currently, President Trump is cutting social programs to fund military spending, which is already “almost as much as the next eight highest combined, & nearly three times as much as China & Russia combined (Resolution, US Conference of Mayors, 2019, “Calling on All Presidential Candidates to Make Known Their Positions on Nuclear Weapons & to Pledge US Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War, Returning to Diplomacy, & Negotiating the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”). As a person of Faith, of searching for knowledge, & of enjoying culture & sports, I implore you all, on this United Nations Day, to speak up about this imbalance & against the idolatry, apostasy, & outright waste of money of & for nuclear weapons. We are one human race sharing & stewards for our one, beautiful Earth!

David Mapley October 25, 2019 at 8:11 am

I live in District D ,where the sidewalks are jungles and the property taxes are 5x other cities around the world (I own 2 homes).. The big issue is our poor state representation forcing property owners to foot the deficit to our detriment. Why do people tolerate 9cents Duff? My taxes have risen so rapidly over 13 years that I am starting to think about selling up when I retire – as many friends have already done. This is a sad indictment of life in Norwalk!!!

John ONeill October 25, 2019 at 4:29 pm

@David — You haven’t seen anything yet. I would not be shocked to see our taxes go up 10% or more in next couple of years…Of course that’ll be Trumps fault..

Mike Mushak October 25, 2019 at 4:59 pm

@David Mapley, you said your taxes “have risen so rapidly over 13 years” so I looked them up which is public record, easy to do.

Your taxes dropped 11.7% this year, are 9% less than when Harry Rilling was first elected 6 years ago, and are 5% less than they were in 2005. That’s not even accounting for inflation.

How can you say your taxes have risen rapidly when they have actually decreased?

Lisa Brinton’s taxes dropped 9% this year and are the same as they were in 2009, 10 years ago, but she’s constantly declaring how fast her taxes have risen under Mayor Rilling. In fact, they have decreased!

Why the deliberate campaign of misinformation?

John ONeill October 26, 2019 at 9:09 am

@Mike — That could mean their houses were overvalued to start with. I did a sampling of 100 home sales in 06850/06853. The city’s appraiser had 15% overvalued by 10% or more, and had another 15% undervalued by 10% or more.
Regarding ELL financing — Would you agree that our elected officials have dropped the ball on raising hell in Hartford/DC for support? The numbers are staggering. Those students (who we should support, but not Norwalk only) have cost $225+ MILLION over 10 years. The school year – 2,100 students. Probably another $35 Million. What’s the plan as ELL population doubles in the next 10 years?

Bryan Meek October 26, 2019 at 9:22 am

Taxes went up 150% at Cranbury Shopping Center….and with it so will the price of milk and bread. These costs will shift to consumers naturally. The gamed revaluations resulting in 400 lawsuits are guaranteed to cost the city tens of millions which will naturally be shifted to homeowners. The damage done to this city’s tax base in the last few years will take decades to absorb.

Lisa Brinton October 26, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Mike: my taxes hit $23k – they are down by about $1500 – Rowayton is flat. Nice to see you trolling 🤣 Despite all the development growth – the mayor manipulated the Rainy Day fund and took $6m out. Grand list growth of 12% is only going DOWN with the record number of appeals and 400 lawsuits.

Taxes are going right back up based upon the trends I see. Based upon contracts negotiated – we will see at least a 1% increase in costs unless the mayor’s reorganization produces a bunch of efficiencies. A 1% increase means we need $250m in grand list growth. Don’t think that is happening anytime soon.

The school budget is set to continue to rise as enrollment goes up. The BOE just asked for $1.2 – 2M. The $40m increase over the past six years reflects a lot of that. We added 500 students.

At the same time DPW’s operating budget was steady at $1m over that same period. From time to time the capital budget kicks in- but maintenance of roads, sewers and sidewalks has suffered.

What is so great about this election is that it’s not a red versus blue contest it’s about who’s math LONG TERM do you believe. It’s also about density. The mayor has made it very clear – it’s pedal to the metal and more apartments. Not jobs, not mitigating traffic, not asking the state for our fair share of money back or even hitting the road himself and drumming up some cash. Not over what is the right economic balance between homes vs apartments. Just more of the same. I have a different reform and prosperity vision. We’ll see what happens on Election Day.

Lisa Brinton October 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Also, I forgot to mention – it’s not about me Mike. It’s about the people of Norwalk. East Norwalk taxes went up, Cranbury, Silvermine, anything near the water went up (unless it’s subsidized apartments) By the way, can you shed any light on the rumor that Sound Landings and Trinity Financial have run out of money. Hence the reason the last part of Washington Village has not been torn down? The $350k end of the housing market (Post war capes) had their taxes go up. West Norwalk is mixed – Rowayton again mixed. Maybe you should try being a little less ‘personal’ and look at some macro trends my friend.

Mike Mushak October 26, 2019 at 7:48 pm

@Lisa Brinton, the city website which is the official tax record has your tax reduction at $2,075, or a 9.2% drop from last year. Please explain where you got your $1,500 reduction from.

Either way, your taxes went DOWN, along with most homeowners across the city based on the reduced mill rates. Please provide the hard evidence to support your claim that taxes went up for most homeowners across the city, as no one I know is seeing it.

Overall, your taxes are about 3% less than when Harry Rilling was elected, yet you claim they went up under his administration. Why?

Your property tax is actually 2% less now than it was in 2005, 14 years ago, even before inflation is figured in. Yet you claim taxes have exploded in Norwalk. Why?

Your property is assessed at over $1 million more than it was when you bought it about 23 years ago, an appreciation most folks would be quite happy with. Surely that must make you happy.

And you complain that taxes went up on waterfront properties. Of course they did! Look at the valuations, which is some cases is ten times what they were 20 years ago. Wealthy folks from all over including Darien, New Canaan, Westport, and NYC discovered our beautiful waterfront and were willing to pay top dollar, often many millions, for prime real estate and then often knocked down the homes and built huge replacements, which jacked up the appraised values of all waterfront property in Norwalk.

In many cases they helped that trend by paying top dollar, and now they are disappointed that their taxes have gone up based on assessments based on comparables, which there are many of to use as there have been many recent sales to compare to, sometimes even on both sides of the houses in question as that market remains hot. If they feel like it was an unfair process, they have the right to prove it in an appeal.

But most homeowners I talk to across the city have been pleased with the tax reductions they received.

Lisa, again, please provide any evidence you have that most homeowners taxes have gone up across the city, a claim you are continue to make without any facts but with broad generalizations.

We certainly all can see the lower mill rates in every district, and the corresponding affect on the average assessed properties which is lower taxes except for East Norwalk which saw slight increase based on a larger increase in the median assessed value compared to everywhere else. Its been reported already, but since it seems to have been missed by the Brinton campaign, here it is again, with reductions and the average decrease or increase for the median assessed property in that district per year:

1st District (Downtown Norwalk): 4.06% reduction or $237 decrease.
2nd District (SoNo): 0.58% reduction or $31 decrease.
3rd District (East Norwalk): 4.17% reduction but a $284 increase (based on higher average assessments).
4th District (Sewered Main Area): 5.79% reduction or $396 decrease.
5th District (No Garbage Main Area): 7.14% reduction or $659 decrease.
6th District (Rowayton): 2.1% reduction or $351 decrease.

Norwalk Lost October 26, 2019 at 9:00 pm

Does anyone have any statistics regarding number of municipal employees vs. city size? At city hall, almost all the parking lots are taken up by employees. Is this normal for a modestly small city?

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