By Common Council Member Anna Duleep (D, At-Large), former minority leader
I am dismayed at my colleague Joanne Romano’s surprising decision to step down from the Norwalk Common Council. While I cannot question anybody’s stated feelings, I am startled by a few lines of (former) Councilwoman Romano’s resignation letter. Ms. Romano wrote, “It is pointless to me to continue down a path where there is no light at the end of a partisan tunnel. Where my contributions are no longer looked at as meaningful and my voice is no longer acknowledged.” [see attachment below]
I remember accomplishing a recent, bipartisan victory with valuable input from Ms. Romano. On Nov. 13, the Common Council unanimously passed a resolution “to solicit advice and feedback concerning how the city of Norwalk can minimize inconvenience to voters following redistricting of state legislative districts.” As Councilwoman Romano stated, “The redistricting put everybody in confusion … We have to find ways of making it easier for everybody to vote, because it is their right and it is their privilege.” [Council calls for forum to improve future voting at polls, The Hour, November 13, 2012]
As I explained to my caucus, Joanne was my one – and only – choice to co-sponsor this resolution. She and I were the only two council members (to my knowledge) who had worked as moderators at a polling site. I felt listing one name with a (D) and one name with an (R) would sufficiently reflect my intent to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion to solve a seemingly small – but for some, highly vexing – issue on Election Day.
Joanne suggested that I ask the entire Common Council whether they wanted to join us as co-sponsors. I balked, primarily because I wrote the resolution less than 24 hours before our deadline to include items on the council agenda; I did not want my invitation to appear disingenuous. Joanne made a good case for inclusion of council members of all party affiliations, and I agreed. I’m glad I did.
By Tuesday night, I amended the item to add our eighth co-sponsor, Councilman Nick Kydes. I jokingly explained to my counterpart, Majority Leader Doug Hempstead, that I was listing Joanne ahead of him as a co-sponsor, despite his outranking both Joanne and me, the author of that resolution!
Since Nov. 13, we have had a great response to the idea of hosting this forum. The League of Women Voters wants to be included; so, too, does state Sen. Bob Duff. I am exploring the idea of making the forum a “virtual town hall” format, so Norwalkers don’t have to get a babysitter or expend valuable gas racing to City Hall just to be heard. I plan to announce a date as soon as I can confirm the availability of the highest-ranking member of the Secretary of the State’s office who wants to: 1) find out what Norwalkers think he or she can do to improve the quality of our voting experience; and 2) ease the burden on our hardworking registrars, Karen Doyle Lyons (R) and Stuart W. Wells, III (D).
For this and many other reasons, during my last meeting as minority leader, I asked Doug Hempstead why he wasn’t giving me the option of voting for – or against – one of the qualified women in his caucus to become majority leader. Or one of the talented Republican men waiting for a chance to assume a leadership position. I took the liberty of expressing my hopes to Councilwoman Michelle Maggio (a newcomer I’d hoped would succeed Doug as majority leader) and to Councilwoman Joanne Romano. At the time, I wondered why Joanne seemed less than excited when I told her I hoped she would be the Republican’s nominee for council president. I wondered why Mayor Moccia seemed even more agitated than usual. Later that night, I sat stunned while one of the three women currently serving on the Common Council resigned her post.
I realize the majority caucus makes choices that vary significantly from the decisions made in my caucus. Back in November 2011, when the Democrats were the elected majority, each member of my caucus pledged to the others that he (or she) would serve NO MORE THAN one year in a leadership position. I know my colleagues elected me majority leader in reliance on my pledge. I considered it a gentlemen’s agreement, and I still consider Council President Carvin Hilliard bound to that pledge – not as a council member, but as a gentleman. Had I known Mayor Moccia would push so hard for Mr. Hilliard to serve a second year in a row as council president – and worse, that Republicans might vote for Carvin rather than a loyal member of their own party – I never would have switched my vote (from Matt Miklave to Carvin) for the sake of caucus unity.
Although Republicans favored delaying the transfer of power, the Democratic caucus forged ahead the night of November 27. We even split the second year into two six-month terms as minority leader to symbolize our party’s deep commitment to sharing opportunity, power, and responsibility. Some of us cheer the peaceful transfer of government power, no matter how great or minor that power!
I was underwhelmed when the Republican caucus re-elected Doug Hempstead as majority leader rather than boost an up-and-comer as we head toward municipal elections in 2013. But I respect their right to make choices that reflect the values of their own caucus, even if they differ from mine. However, when their voting bloc impacts the selection of MY new council president, I must take a stand.
If Mayor Moccia insists on pushing Mr. Hilliard to break his word to his former caucus, I hope they will at least do me the courtesy of allowing me to nominate somebody else first. I have not yet decided whether to nominate a member of my caucus (only to watch a fine man lose) or choose the best candidate in the Republican caucus (thus acknowledging they have the votes to decide this race). I imagine my new minority leader will have an opinion! But rest assured, now that I have honored Carvin’s and my promise, I write this simply as one member of the Common Council who got some legislative business accomplished one night with the help of Joanne Romano.
Anna K. Duleep
Correction made, 11:23 a.m.
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