NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Republicans took thoughtful advice from a state-level operative Monday in their bid to “debunk the myth.”
The Norwalk Republican Town Committee’s Outreach Committee, in its second meeting, strove to address some of the things causing them angst – such as being tarred by comments made by Republicans at a national level – by taking advice from Regina Roundtree, chairwoman of the Black Conservatives of Connecticut and chairwoman of the Connecticut GOP Urban Affairs Coalition.
Roundtree told the eight Republicans present that the problem is “void within our party.”
“What we don’t do in our state as a party or even as individuals is we don’t rebut the lies,” she said. “We’re silent. Silence almost automatically means acceptance. So as a party, we don’t rebut anything and I guess we feel like ‘that’s national’ and we don’t say anything, but as we are learning we should always be able to come out and say ‘we would like to make a statement on such and such.’”
Republicans should communicate better with people in the cities, Roundtree said.
“Something doesn’t go their way in the legislature and when they go back home they don’t take responsibility for it. ‘It was the Republicans.’ That’s the easiest, quickest answer and you know what? There are no Republicans there to rebut that. So it’s true. Because nobody else came up and told them that it wasn’t true,” Roundtree said. “So it’s this void. So what has to happen is we have to find a way to communicate our message to individuals within the urban communities to give them a choice to think.”
It’s nice that Republicans send each other articles, but the idea should be to put those ideas in local news outlets, she said. Statements on national issues should come from local leaders, to make it clear that Connecticut Republicans are not connected to the ideas that are putting people off, Roundtree said.
“If we just start combatting the void, we win 80 percent of the argument. Because we have legitimate answers to, you know, whatever,” Roundtree said. “… It has to start with better communication and it doesn’t cost a fortune. We don’t need mainstream media to do it.”
State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) said it is necessary to go talk to people.
“The most important thing when you are trying to make a positive change in government at any level is to know what is important to people,” Lavielle said. “Not what you want to do but what is important to them.”
Republicans tend to fear talking to different groups because they are afraid, she said.
“Why don’t you just try to talk period in a way that doesn’t offend anybody?” Lavielle asked. “… Are you seriously going to speak to one group which is perceived as a minority differently about being safe than you are to another group that is perceived as being a different minority? Or are you going to talk about being safe in a way that doesn’t imply that one group is responsible for people not being safe?”
Roundtree said that before outreach begins there needs to be strategizing.
“What’s your message? I think sometimes we jump the gun. Messaging has to be first before you do the outreach. Before you decide you want to go out, you need to know first what you are trying to say,” Roundtree said.
She said she had just given a seminar about reaching out to urban communities.
“Focus on the system, not on the people,” Roundtree said. “Do not talk about broken people, talk about a broken system. Because we cannot legislate morality, but if we fix the systems that hold people back, then we allow people to rise to what they are and you will not offend people, because everyone will agree that Welfare is broken.”
Roundtree talked a lot about the differences between urban communities in Connecticut, that much depends on the structure of a city. Access to transportation in a city changes the outlook, she said.
“It’s an awful lot to think about,” Torrano said. “Matter of fact, my head is full right now. I don’t know if I can remember all of this stuff. You gave us an awful lot to think about. … But it’s a good start and I think we’ve got some really, really good people on the committee.”
Torrano said four or five committee members couldn’t make it to the meeting. There was a heavy Stamford presence. Stamford Republican Town Committee Chairman Eva Maldonado, Carlos Rivera of Stamford, who is Latino outreach coordinator for Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella, and Darline Perpignan of Stamford, who was a campaign committee member for the Bentivegna congressional committee joined locals Jamie Duque, Harold Bonet, Olga Arteaga, Torrano and Lavielle.
The group moved to take a regional approach.
“Hopefully you guys, even if you’re from out of town, don’t bail out on us, because if we can turn this into a regional thing, working for Stamford, Bridgeport and Norwalk, that’s great,” Torrano said. “Obviously, my heart is in Norwalk; I want to see Norwalk do well. I want to get more people on the RTC who have the same values as I do but not necessarily the same complexion. I just want to get them on there. Hopefully we can do that.”
Perpignon was named chairwoman. She spoke about crafting a mission statement and said things might take time.
“It might not be tonight that we get a clear goal to an objective. We need that to move forward. It might be in the next meeting,” she said.
But, Perpignon said, it’s time to get started. “When I thought about this meeting, it’s about debunking the myth in this party, like we are a rich party and all old white men. It’s time we debunk some of these myths,” she said.
Torrano made some self-deprecatory remarks to Roundtree about the way the group was getting going.
“You’re starting,” Roundtree said. “A lot of RTC’s haven’t made this attempt. Kudos to this group for doing that.”