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Norwalk Minority Parties Threaten Ethics Complaint Over Reapportionment Plan

(File Photo) Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Fred Wilms and Norwalk’s Independent Committee Chair Lisa Brinton

Lisa Brinton, the head of Norwalk Independence Party, and Fred Wilms, the head of the Norwalk Republican Party, issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they were “grossly disappointed” with the recommended proposal for reapportioning Common Council electoral districts. They vowed to file a “joint ethics complaint with the appropriate city and state agencies.”

At its meeting Tuesday, the Ordinance Committee voted 5-1 to advance an ordinance establishing a committee  to reapportion council districts it says will better align with the city’s population. Council members say they believe the changes  will be small. Heather Dunn, an independent, was the lone vote against the proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance calls for a seven-member committee, with no more than three members from the same political party. The members will be appointed by the Common Council president and then approved by the majority of the council “following consultation with the majority and minority leaders.”

This decision to  leave the selection process officially up to the council president is what Brinton and Wilms object to.

Brinton and Wilms wrote that this “forcefully and deliberately signals to the public that you have absolutely no intention of allowing 45% of the public, including Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Unaffiliated voters, to have any voice in redrawing Norwalk’s electoral district boundaries.”

“The 45% of us in the minority know better than to believe the redistricting committee will be composed of anything but ‘acceptable insiders,’ when the authority to put forward names rests in the hands of one person,” the letter read. 

They cited examples from other cities including Stamford and Danbury where the minority party leader is “allowed to appoint individuals with genuine diverse views” to these types of committees.”

Their letter stated that they believed “concentrated power in a single party has everything to do with special interests and little to do with democracy, serving constituents or improving our city.” 

“It is also inconsistent with the bipartisan approach the CT State Legislature utilizes to map both  state and federal districts,” the letter read.

At the Ordinance Committee meeting, Council member Nora Niedzielski-Eichner pushed back, stating that the set up of the commission will ensure that the commission represents a variety of viewpoints.

“This will not in fact be a bipartisan committee, because this is not a bipartisan city. Our stats actually are that unaffiliated voters are a very substantial block,” she said. “And that was one of the many reasons that this committee did not feel that the quote unquote, bipartisan approach was actually in fact appropriate for the city.”

Niedzielski-Eichner said she was “really grateful” for the “hard work of everyone coming to a nonpartisan solution that, again, does not give any political party a majority on this committee in order to strive for a nonpartisan redistricting.”

The ordinance—along with two others, which were approved unanimously: updated language to the city’s blight ordinance and to its policies around the sale of city property—now goes to the full Common Council for adoption on Tuesday, February 27.

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