By Lisa Thomson, REd Apples of Norwalk
NORWALK, Conn. – If one were suddenly dropped into Norwalk, with no prior knowledge of the city, and happened to read the op-ed page, letters to the editor, or blogs, one might surmise that the residents and politicians of our city enjoy arguing about just about everything. This person would read how as a city, we lurch from one controversy to the next, whether with our schools, parking, golf course, environment, city planning or manner of paving our roads.
However, as many of us realists understand, things are never as bad as they seem, but neither are they as good as they could be.
As a former business executive, now mother turned activist, I have dared to venture into the political playground of Norwalk, mainly in education, but over the years have identified some of the most common bad habits that impact our quality of life as residents. Anyone seeking to be elected or re-elected to public office, whether it be the Board of Ed, Common Council or Mayor’s office should be prepared to put forward their positions and solutions and not just high level rhetoric.
At our most strategic municipal operating level, I’ve summed up what I consider to be Norwalk’s Five Most Common Bad Habits collectively developed over the years. They include:
1. Inconsistent or disregarded practices by the status quo
2. Limited transparency in matters of public interest
3. An inclination to ignore best practices from other towns
4. A laggard’s approach to technology deployment
5. Outdated policies, fiercely guarded by gatekeepers, that hinder progress
Many of the people who run our city or seek political office start with the best of intentions, but in short order become bullied or become the bully – and get far too caught up in local personality politics. The end result is either exhaustion by those seeking change or a running down of the clock, when it comes to pursuit of the things that really matter in our city. Since most offices are two year terms, it seems we spend more time campaigning than managing our city.
The phrase “all politics is local,” couldn’t be more appropriate for Norwalk. Perhaps it’s our history of town consolidation in 1913 that reinforces the incredibly localized neighborhood tribalism versus the greater good of a single Norwalk – although, that was a century ago! I don’t even think it’s a Democrat versus Republican thing, since so many run for office in one party, only to end up serving in another. Maybe it’s geographical, with I-95 and Route 7 cutting the city into four distinct quadrants that divides us. But one thing’s for sure, we’re all Norwalkers once we receive our tax bills.
A prominent political friend once said, “Norwalk needs to grow up,” and he couldn’t be more right. The 4 year old economic reality of this country and state demand it. The party is over and neither politicians nor residents can afford to indulge any further in our bad habits. We need to manage our city more efficiently, cooperatively and productively.
We may have limited control over what goes on in Washington or Hartford, but we do have a say when it comes to how we run our town. This year, voters need to be very mindful of the plethora of candidates. Demand specifics. No platitudes. Anyone who’s taken the time to read this op-ed already knows the impact that any one of the five bad habits has on our schools, city planning, services or quality of life – not to mention our wallets.
So, it’s time for Norwalk to break some of our costly bad habits. Supposedly, we’re one of the Top 100 Cities to Live In in America. Time to start operating like one!