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Norwalk needs proportional representation for all parties

Letters to the editor. Send signed letters to Nancy@NancyOnNorwalk.com with a suggested headline.

It’s interesting that the Charter Revision Commission hasn’t opened the database of public suggestions and comments. Likely because if they did, they’d show just how many of them they ignore.

To be sure, most of these suggestions are going to be inane, wrongheaded, self-centered, and misguided. To quote Tommy Lee Jones from Men In Black, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it,” and I’m sure that this database would prove no exception to this wisdom.

But if the CRC had opened the database, they’d find my suggestion, offered freely here.

Norwalk needs three reforms:

1. Even-year elections.

2. Ranked-Choice Voting for unitary offices like Mayor.

3. Expand the Common Council to five members per district, elected proportionally.

In the past weeks, we’ve heard much complaining from the usual quarters of dissent, that a 4-year mayoral term would make Harry Rilling into a dictator. Folks, I hate to break it to you, but letting the Washington Generals make a run at the Harlem Globetrotters every two years instead of every four, isn’t going to give them a shot to actually win.

The problem runs much deeper. Much of the same quarters of dissent have also demanded “minority party representation.” Of course, what most of them actually mean by this is that Norwalk’s Republicans, the largest minority party, basically want seats to be set aside for them and them alone. For the party that supposedly opposes Affirmative Action and entitlements, the irony is particularly sweet.

But while they’re deluding themselves that it would make much policy difference – taking 45% of the seats still means they’d lose most votes on the Council – they’re not wrong in wanting election results to be proportional to vote shares. In fact, a true proportional system – not mere set-asides – would be the best result for all of Norwalk.

Far from being a monolith, Norwalk’s ruling Democratic Party is actually a coalition of disparate interests, all held together by a distaste for the national GOP that’s emblematic of our era of nationalized politics and polarization – nothing unusual. Although the distaste won’t change anytime soon, under a proportional system we’d see many of them start voting for Greens and DSAs (Democratic Socialists of America). And we’d also see many socially-moderate/fiscally-conservative types from both the Democrats and GOP either going for Lisa Brinton’s Norwalk Independents Party or reviving the moribund Libertarians.

In this new political landscape, both Republicans and Democrats would hold fewer seats, but the Republicans would stand a chance of getting heard. The Norwalk Independents wouldn’t be beholden to Harry’s Democratic machine, and neither would the Greens and DSA or Libertarians. Instead of seeing the Globetrotters trouncing the Generals game after game, this would be more like forcing all the players to go and actually compete in the NBA, where anyone can win on any given night.

Even better, such a politically diverse Council would be the furthest thing from today’s rubber-stamp on Harry’s machine’s power. A Council where Democrats don’t hold a majority, even if the left overall holds one, is one where Harry doesn’t always get his way, and where deals can be made.

Everyone but the political machine in Norwalk would stand to gain. The Republicans would be incentivized to stop acting like a support group for disgruntled right-wingers, and actually try building coalitions to challenge the Democrats for once. Lisa’s Independents would stand a snowball’s chance at holding Council seats, as would the other minor parties. All of these internecine battles on the Council would be a little less opaque if Councilors had a G, I, L, or DSA next to their name, instead of a boring old D or R that tells you nothing about the actual policies they support.

It’s time for Norwalk to forge ahead and try something different. The two-party system is fundamentally broken, and it’s killing our country, our state, our city, and our neighborhoods. No one even likes it! In order to leave it in the past, we need to embrace better, more small-d democratic ways of representing the good citizens of our republic.

David Muccigrosso

Comments

2 responses to “Norwalk needs proportional representation for all parties”

  1. Tysen Canevari

    Great letter David. Thanks for sharing

    1. David Muccigrosso

      Thanks for the compliment! I know we don’t always agree, but I think the one thing most of us agree on is just how much the two-party system sucks. “Minority party representation” would only be a sop, a half-fix. We need REAL reform to dismantle the ugly machine politics that hurts us all.

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