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Why Norwalk needs an independent party

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More activist than politician, I’ve never sought office for personal gain, nor taken the fast track, party loyalty pledge.  This year, in the middle of a pandemic, I decided to give our American traditions of representation with checks and balances one last try.

City Hall was closed most of 2020 and 2021, yet outside special interest money flowed into the re-election coffers of the mayor, along with   fast-tracked ‘zoomed’ agendas.  It was during this period that I decided to bring the Independent Party back to Norwalk and run for an At-Large seat on the Common Council.  Why? Because outside and outsized special interest agendas would not be possible without the complicity or ignorance of a rubber-stamping common council. 

I’ve assembled a team of 15 courageous residents of all political stripes to run for the Common Council, the Board of Education and other city-wide offices, in order to stand up for Norwalk, stand up for residents and stand up to this administration.  Whether I win or lose, my political legacy will be the return of the Independent Party to Norwalk. Let me address the obvious question: why do we need it?

Representation: Over 43% of Norwalk’s 57,000 registered voters (roughly 25,000) are registered as unaffiliated or independent. This statistic doesn’t factor in Democratic or Republican voters, who consider themselves moderates within their respective parties, or non-partisan when it comes to local government.

Check and balance: Unintended consequences occur when opposing views are silenced or power becomes too concentrated or lopsided, leaving residents without any check on their government. Currently, 24/25 of Norwalk’s major elected offices, including Mayor, Common Council and Board of Education are represented by a single party, despite a 45/55 percentage split in votes in 2019.

Non-partisan:  I believe political parties are irrelevant to providing city services and I’m not alone.  According to the National League of Cities, 22 out of 30 of the most populous cities in the U.S. have non-partisan elections.  Given Connecticut’s election rules, bringing back the Independent Party back was the closest I could get to promoting a non-partisan, common sense approach to electing good government representatives on the local ballot.

 

Norwalk Needs More Accountability, Balance and Communication.

Accountability. Concentrated power has given way to transparency and accountability issues.  Years of private caucus meetings have hindered public discussion and debate over development, population density, personnel issues, school funding and economic policy. Decisions have been made behind closed doors. Exacerbated by the pandemic, special interest agendas have fast tracked through the Common Council and Board of Education. Personnel and ethics issues plague City Hall, from hiring practices, behavioral issues, to promotions, salaries, retirements and rehires.

Balance. Lopsided power and special interests removed balance from our city. Campaign contributions from developers and legal firms have outsized influence over ordinary residents’ voices. City Hall’s designated ‘Enterprise and Opportunity’ development zones are overly generous both financially and geographically.  These apartments are built under the guise of ‘affordable’ housing, but that’s only 10% of the units; 90% are priced at or above local market. Tax incentives means revenues needed to operate a more densely populated city won’t be realized for years, leaving long-time residents picking up the tab.

Communication. Norwalk’s government needs to communicate more with residents. They work for us and must be transparent.  A decade of back door deals and rubber stamping by the Common Council and more recently, our Board of Education has placed unsustainable pressure on our classrooms, city streets, parks, infrastructure and budget. This must stop.

The current administration, working hand in hand with Hartford has made us the most densely populated city in Western Connecticut, without considering the city’s ability to service more people, it’s impact on quality of life or how Norwalk would pay for it.

We NEED to do better.  We CAN do better.  Those running on the independent line WILL do better and have made the commitment to represent the residents of Norwalk – better.

Lisa Brinton

Common Council At Large – Candidate

Independents For Norwalk

31 comments

Jason Milligan October 7, 2021 at 3:43 pm

Agree!

Debate is good.

We need other voices and other opinions.

There are moderate people currently serving that are afraid to speak up given the current dynamic.

More balance will make it easier for them to voice their opinion.

Jason Milligan October 7, 2021 at 3:44 pm

We need other voices and other opinions. Debate is healthy.

There are moderate people currently serving that are afraid to speak up given the current dynamic.

More balance will make it easier for them to voice their opinion.

SomeOnesGhost October 7, 2021 at 8:16 pm

Norwalk’s Independent Party was a specific institution that grew out of a particular set of circumstances at a particular time in history. From Jasper McLevy to Irving Freese to Jennie Cave, (from Socialist to Socialist/Independent to Independent) it had its own character, its own lineage, its own history. It dissolved years ago, and it is gone. Unless you are Doug Hempstead, you can no more will the Independent Party back into existence than you can re-establish the Roman Senate or reinvigorate the Whig Party.

If you wish to run as a third-party (or non-party) alternative to the present party structure, that is fine, and perhaps even admirable. But it would be better to not try to burnish your effort with a historical legacy to which you may aspire, but with which you have no actual connection. The Norwalk Independent Party is gone, and you are not a part of it.

Stuart Wells October 8, 2021 at 6:57 am

Connecticut has four recognized state-wide minor parties, one of which is the “Independent Party.” It frequently endorses candidates for state and federal offices, none of which are on the ballot this year. Norwalk has about 1,000 voters registered as affiliated with the “Independent Party.” Some are left-over members of the now dormant or defunct Norwalk Independent Party; some are likely affiliated with the state-wide minor “Independent Party”; and some are likely unaware that “Independent” is a party, since that name is used on most news media as meaning “not affiliated with any party”.
Lisa Brinton and the other candidates she assembled for “Independents for Norwalk” will appear on the ballot on the “Independent Party” line as that is the party name used in her team’s petitions. Those petitions are issued by the Secretary of the State’s office and so we are not clear on the relationship, if any, between Ms. Brinton’s “Independent Party” and the state-wide minor party of the same name. Hopefully this will be cleared up eventually when this new party files its party rules.
Stuart Wells, Registrar of Voters

Jo Bennett October 8, 2021 at 7:04 am

Thank you, Lisa, for having the courage, vision, energy and civic-mindedness to bring an independent party to Norwalk. It’s about all the facts that you cite above and the future of our unique city.

I’m a lifelong Democrat who refuses to blindly vote along party lines anymore. Locally, on BOTH sides of the aisle, there are a heckuva lot of us. We are never going to agree on everything, but we are tired of hearing “nothing to see here” while our city is being ransacked. (Which is while I’ll be on the I line in November.)

Alyssa Shapiro October 8, 2021 at 8:02 am

Thank you for your educational plea for change. I have complained for the 17 years we’ve resided here. Norwalk has so much going for it! You have explained our custodial problem – it isn’t about party, but the current party is very sullied

Frank Izzo October 8, 2021 at 9:21 am

@Ghost Well said. Also, proven by the fact that MANY Independent candidates seem to have been unable to register as Independents themselves (according to public records. Absolutely a noble endeavor and good luck to all in this fight.

Ron Conley October 8, 2021 at 9:57 am

Well-written and reasoned statement of purpose for less party-dependent representation, Lisa. It contains some fairly serious accusations, and, in this age of media extremes, I’m naturally a bit skeptical of all claims, but want to learn more.

Is there a possibility of having a private conversation via email about the ‘special interest money’, back-door deals’, etc? I’d like to have more information to evaluate on my own.

I currently vote Democratic, but not forcefully committed; I was a proud ACP member when that party existed. I feel that party politics as a whole are negative influence, and would def be open to helping support truly independent candidates. Thanks!

Stuart Garrelick October 8, 2021 at 10:03 am

As usual Lisa, well said.
More than a “party” we need independent thinkers who can evaluate any problem based strictly on the merits of the situation, with no preset agendas.
And transparency would be a welcome change. It’s quite frustrating to read and hear about some problem and then have it swept under the rug, never to be heard about again.
Good luck.

John O'Neill October 8, 2021 at 2:09 pm

Some thoughts on a Tremendous Friday afternoon:
1) It is my hope this Independent Party forces voters to actually think before pulling the lever on Election Day. The fact that the 137th district continues to vote for an invisible man is an embarrassment to them and our city. For those who don’t know his longevity thanks to them gives him CT Health care for the rest of his life — Not a bad deal.
2) Kudos to Lisa and her group for their passion and energy. I envy their putting themselves out there and be willing to take a stand that might not be politically correct.
3) While Norwalk doesn’t need a revolution it certainly can use some tinkering. Our schools need more accountability and the current Board of Ed is certainly lacking on oversight. At least the kind of oversight needed to develop a dynamite school system…The Democratic Party currently controls Norwalk Politics. If I thought they did a reasonable job of vetting candidates I wouldn’t complain. BUT the fact that they do a horrible job of vetting candidates means we need a change. The Independents give Norwalk a choice that doesn’t have to be between Dems and Gop.
4) The local Dems keep talking about Norwalk schools being #1 in the State — Has anyone looked at the schools in their Division? To say that our elected leaders are misrepresenting the facts is an understatement. Has anyone heard from teachers about the nuanced record keeping on discipline in our school system? Pravda seems to be alive and well thanks to many of our political leaders in town — That needs to change. I hope voters pay attention and not be swayed by those in the political establishment in this town..Our children need to be challenged. The current culture within our town seems to think excuses are an easier approach — That needs to change.
5) Lastly, I still haven’t heard about Bob Duff apologizing for using NPD as a prop for his political career. Anyone who has any respect for our cops has to think that is the most pathetic act committed by a politician in a long time. One that will not be forgotten anytime soon. And I’m not just spitting in the wind….

Justin Matley October 8, 2021 at 7:01 pm

@Lisa. Nice job. I agree on many macro points here and the essence of government operation. Not sure if we wholly align on policy but you have done a nice job repackaging yourself this cycle and I commend you for that. It stands in stark contrast to the Republican’s continued turn, and that’s a real compliment. You’ve given people some things to think about.

I don’t love several of your candidates you’ve rounded up, but as a means to jumpstart a third party, you deserve some real kudos for the work. I hope people give you guys a fair look.

Justin Matley October 9, 2021 at 8:57 am

@John – I like some of your points. Ultimately competition creates ingenuity; and as I’ve said, I like good ideas. If Lisa’s group can create some of that and force good candidates with empathy and some intellect (who propose real policy ideas versus flailing around complaining) from any party into the fray, I’m very supportive of it.

Patrick Cooper October 9, 2021 at 1:10 pm

Comments in NoN are usually posted to express an opinion, or persuade others with new information, or insight.

@CT Patriot – does neither. This is hinky mis-direction. Unfortunately.

Explain how voters “split the ticket” in races where the R’s are not running a candidate?

“Split ticket” voters usually have a good reason – and are less inclined to pull the straight party lever. Meritocracy of the candidates, single issue, or close relationship. They define “moderates”. The blood oath party folks don’t like them.

Let’s take a single District in Norwalk – say – District D – home to the backyard pizza oven. Traditionally leans a little right. The D’s will run their two candidates, the R’s are running incumbent Keegan, and no one else. Running on the Independent party line is Heather Dunn.

If you are one of Harry’s D’s – you are voting straight D party. After that is where we test CT-Patriot’s thesis.

Hard core R’s will vote Keegan, but what to do with their 2nd vote? According to CT-Patriot – they will use that to vote for one of the D candidates. Really? Not one of them would have pizza residue on their fingers…..unless, they were really CT-Traitor.

But the moderates? The issue before us is a city government that is lop-sided, unbalanced, and utterly controlled by cult-of-personality Rilling. Many folks – even right in this comment section – see the benefit of having a mix of insights and experience, skills and “competency” to provide the residents with more input, greater transparency, and put the balance back in our “representative” government.

So logically – U’s, I’s, moderate D’s, and moderate R’s, will see the benefit of having both Heather, and Tom, on the council – and will vote accordingly. Similar calculations in other districts – too. Yes, technically – that is a split ticket, but it sure doesn’t serve it up to Harry’s D’s.

No – I’m afraid that now is the time to be warry of folks who provide advice from behind the cover of nome de plumes. Patriots can be traitors in sheep’s clothing.

CT-Patriot October 10, 2021 at 5:47 am

@Patrick Cooper….

I was discussing plurality voting.

If candidate A1 gets 30% and candidate a2 gets 30% then candidate b gets the remaining 40% candidate b is the winner even though 60% of voters preferred candidates a1 or a2.

Meaning, it TAKES votes away from the two major parties ( R & D) so between the two major parties, one will be declared the winner as the odds of an Independent winning is a very small margin.

The way Norwalk has been voting historically leans Democratic.

Let’s see what happens after the election.

Lisa Brinton October 10, 2021 at 8:56 am

CT Patriot – Your math is correct describing a three-way race for mayor, where only one candidate can win. (Basically, my argument for accepting the cross endorsement of the RTC in 2019.)

However, this year my race is for a council seat at large, where 9 are running for 5 seats. My team also has a full BOE slate running against the ‘mayor’s’ slate. The Republicans put up no one. Finally, the in district council races are for 2 slots with 4 candidates.

East Norwalk has popular ‘hometown boys’ running on opposing tickets – against 2 newcomers less beholding. Perhaps that’s the race you’re referring to. If so, it’ll be interesting to see how EN votes, given they’re completely under assault. Will the hometown boys speak up for East Norwalk or their parties?

In other districts, new, unknown candidates are squaring off; the difference, nobody on the Independent line had to kiss the mayor’s ring to run.

We’ll see if voters split tickets for diversity of thought & ideas & less council rubber stamping. We’ll never know how many folks will vote independent unless we try.

Going forward – I hope to run candidates in areas where we can win & cross endorse moderate Democrat or Republican candidates, who won’t give into growing extremism or absurd ‘loyalty tests’ locally or nationally. Both parties are guilty.

Speaking locally, it may be an inconvenient truth to my loyal Dem friends – but the reason it’s been so easy for Hartford’s density apartment agenda & regional high school to prevail over a South Norwalk elementary is due to single party rule. Would this have happened if Hartford & Norwalk were both controlled by the Republican Party- absolutely. Likely different issues, but ‘an agenda’ would have prevailed & been ramrodded thru. My argument for voting differently. We have federal, state and local elections – line them up the wrong way & there are consequences.

Norwalk needs checks & balances & we don’t have that now. Lower Fairfield County cities have targets on their backs because Hartford needs revenue – income & sales taxes. More people = more money to feed the beast & redistribute up state. Did you know Norwalk ranked 8th out of 169 towns in income taxes sent to Hartford in 2018? Not because we’re rich, but because we sent 42,000 tax returns. How much came back for our impoverished schools….7%.

The challenge for Norwalk is servicing more people. How do we fund our schools after doling out property tax credits for 7 or 15 years? Or pick up dog poop in Oyster Shell Park? Have adequate beach parking? Or address road congestion & paving potholes?

Hartford could care less …. that’s Norwalk’s problem. And that’s where the Rilling Administration & rubber stamp council failed the people of Norwalk. We need folks who will stand up for residents vs party loyalty. And, if the Dems win hands down again – then I guess we’ll have our answer: More apartments, cars, people and tax credits.

Red headed movie star October 10, 2021 at 7:35 pm

Thank you Lisa for persisting and organizing the Independent party. Your clarity of issues and explanation is appreciated. Go for It!

milbank October 11, 2021 at 7:41 am

Calling themselves “Independents” is the way Republicans are now trying to get elected in Norwalk. Just look at all the ones who usually post right wing Republican party values on NoN and other local sites promoting these so called “Independents.” Exhibit “A” among many just on this site? John O’Neill.

John O'Neill October 11, 2021 at 10:05 am

@Milbank — Hahahaha..
You have just proven my point about non-educated voters. Voter Records in this town are public records. IF one does even the slightest amount of research you’ll find many of those running under the Independent Party are registered Dems or Unaffiliated. Let me know if I can help you with any other questions you may have. An informed electorate is our friend. I would also guess that many of those Dems running under Independent Flag are not considered Left enough to pass the vetting test of our current Dem Town Committee…What’s that about ??
Thank You for starting my week off with an amusing anecdote…

Erik Anderson October 11, 2021 at 1:08 pm

@milbank What I find most troubling with your theory is that there is no mention of the Independents for Norwalk Candidate’s actual stances and intentions. If we were to take your theory and apply it across all candidates this election I believe there are equally troubling supporters of those endorsed by the Democrats. To further question your logic, the Independent slate has more registered democrats running than any other affiliation, myself included in that number. If questioning and/or opposing the incumbency, in this case Democrats, is a litmus test for affiliation then to me it sounds no different than the values espoused by the extremist right wing positions you rally against regularly. All candidates should be scrutinized with their record, if a current or former elected official, and their engagement in local issues. I realize that my response will do little to change your mind, however I believe it is important to prove that not just your self-proclaimed “right-wing Republicans” support the Independents for Norwalk. One last point, many of those you would consider “right-wing Republicans” have publicly voiced support for a number of individuals running on the Democratic ticket. I don’t believe this should sway any voter, however fair is fair when lobbing bombs in the political arena.

milbank October 12, 2021 at 12:23 pm

I question YOUR logic. You’re claiming to be a Democrat yet you are running against the Democratic party candidates.

I’ll keep this brief and go to your “One last point,”

“many of those you would consider “right-wing Republicans” have publicly voiced support for a number of individuals running on the Democratic ticket.” So you say, Eric…. Give me an example of those I ‘would consider “right-wing Republicans” backing “a number of individuals running on the Democratic ticket.”
Name one.

John O'Neill October 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm

@Millbank — Me

Thanks for keeping me laughing this week as it’s been a stressful one at the office.

The world has turned upside down. Liberals used to be open to ideas and new people…Conservatives were narrow minded and not open to new ideas. Somehow in the last 20 years that has changed completely. Up is Down and Down is Up as they saying goes…

Erik Anderson October 12, 2021 at 5:49 pm

@milbank Oh dear, you are a delight. To answer your question, one example would be Drew Todd’s support of John Kydes. Nothing against either of these gentlemen, however, Drew has espoused support of Trump and Kydes. I am a Democrat. I need not prove this to you. Simply because I do not support the current administration does not make me any less a Democrat. Your logic seems all to similar to that used by Trump supporters in the GoP against those that don’t kiss his ring. Yikes.

Erik Anderson October 12, 2021 at 5:58 pm

@milbank I would be remiss if I didn’t bring light to the fact that you didn’t address other points I mentioned in my response. Namely focusing on the candidates themselves versus any apparent supporter. I would love to hear your reasons for supporting the Democratic ticket this year, rather than your constant attacks as to why the Independents for Norwalk are “Republicans”. Who knows, maybe you could sway a few voted your way if you could articulately detail the passion behind your support for the Democrats running this year.

milbank October 13, 2021 at 3:31 am

Yes, true, Kydes claims, like you, to be a Democrat except he is actually running on the Democratic ticket. He’s the Joe Manchin of the Norwalk Democratic Party. I can certainly understand Drew Todd backing him and with the Republicans only running one candidate in “C” which Todd is backing as well, it’s understandable. What did Todd post here on NoN? . . . .

“Good Luck John! You and Read will make an EXCELLENT TEAM working and doing what’s right for our District!!!

VOTE READ & JOHN!!”

Yeah, just like I’m glad I don’t have to vote in West Virginia, I’m glad I don’t have to vote in “C”.

“Your logic seems all to (sic)similar to that used by Trump supporters in the GoP against those that don’t kiss his ring.”

That’s right. That is the nature of politics today.

You say you are a Democrat yet, are not running as a Democrat. If there is a logic somewhere in that, it escapes me. You either “is or you ain’t.” You remind me of Ronald Reagan when he said, “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me.” Then he left to those his values aligned with.

I vote for Democrats because I am a Democrat and all the party stands for. Even in local politics, anyone who calls themselves a Republican in this age, betrays a value system I don’t want in positions of power over where I live. I am fine with how the Norwalk is being run by the Democrats.

One last thing Eric. I responded to your first post in good faith based on the content and tenor of your post to me. You responded by patronizing me. As you may have noticed, I don’t respond to those who patronize me. I have nonetheless, responded to you and answered your questions in order to clarify what my earlier post to you.

Erik Anderson October 13, 2021 at 7:36 am

@milbank I appreciate your response. In our volatile political landscape there is an air of extreme tribalism that is deeply concerning. It is understandable for individuals on both sides of this expanding political chasm to vilify the other team. One part of this dynamic that troubles me, and I have seen it happen in our city, is a lack of debate within the parties themselves. The idea of “you is or you ain’t” further propagates the tribalism and allows for rule by the fear of being the other. When I first became involved with local politics there was most definitely an air of these behaviors, however as of late this appears to be the modus operandi of our local parties. What I have seen from this shift is an overabundance of value on loyalism over challenging policies and actions respectfully. Debate is an incredibly important factor to have successful governance and we are sorely lacking that vital component in our local governing. Perhaps there is no debate because all elected officials agree wholly with all policies and votes placed before them. Regardless of whether that is the case or not, I believe our city needs a change. I want elected officials that listen to constituents, question proposals and focus on the long term longevity of our city. The muddled management of Norwalk lately has seen some great things occur but has also led to pitfalls and failures. My support of an Independent slate stems from the inability of either local party to challenge the status quo within each body which continues to alienate individuals who question the current administration or refuse to do as they are told. At the end of the day, I am a Democrat, but honestly no matter my label I know my values and I am proud of them. Instead of continuing the back and forth of “am I or aren’t I” I will state that I care deeply about the wellbeing of Norwalk and look forward to fighting for my city well beyond this election.

milbank October 13, 2021 at 8:40 pm

Eric, I was busy today and just saw your response.

You say, “I want elected officials that listen to constituents, question proposals and focus on the long term longevity of our city.” While I’m not involved in “making the sausage.” beyond what I see when I look in on local-access cable of city meetings once in a while, reading local publications and have only had a couple of one-on-one conversations with Mayor Rilling and some other local elected officials, I my observation is that the elected officials by and large, do listen to constituents, question proposals and focus on the long-term longevity of our city. I’m not intimately involved in Democratic Party politics but, I do not get the impression that there is a “Tammany Hall” situation with a “Boss Tweed.” Nor do I get that impression when I watch public municipal hearings on TV. That the party is a team, yes but, that is what parties are. Lisa Brinton refers to her slate as a “team.
As far as internal party discussions go, don’t go to party meetings so, I don’t know how either party hashes out policy among themselves. As far as public debate goes, well, as long as you have people like Drew Todd behaving as he does at them, the quality, civility and tenor of those debates will suffer. My impression is that elected officials from the Democratic Party conducting those meetings are not the source of those problems.
“At the end of the day, I am a Democrat, but honestly no matter my label I know my values and I am proud of them. “

I expect the Republicans calling themselves “Independents” on Ms. Brinton’s slate feel exactly the same.

“The muddled management of Norwalk lately has seen some great things occur but has also led to pitfalls and failures. My support of an Independent slate stems from the inability of either local party to challenge the status quo within each body which continues to alienate individuals who question the current administration or refuse to do as they are told.

“Muddled management of Norwalk”? I don’t see it as that way. As you said, “lately . . . some great things [have occurred]” and yes, there have been “pitfalls an failures.” Nothing is perfect to everyone. That’s how it goes managing any city, especially one as diverse in so many ways as Norwalk.
“I care deeply about the wellbeing of Norwalk and look forward to fighting for my city well beyond this election.”

I see that and admire that greatly. I appreciate your passion and dedication and hope you continue on “well beyond this election.” Just come back to the home where you belong.

Good luck to you.

Erik Anderson October 13, 2021 at 9:26 pm

@milbank Thank you for your well thought out response. I won’t rehash everything as we seem to agree on a number of points. I will acknowledge that I am jealous of your lack of knowledge of internal politics in our city. Perhaps I would be writing comments similar to yours if I did not know the inner workings. When you mentioned Tammany Hall I laughed out loud as I have used that exact description in correlation to our local parties. We are not as extreme but have a number of similarities. I encourage you to stay involved and try and keep an open mind on those of us running on the Independent line. Thank you for your well wishes and I would love your vote for constable if you feel so fit. 🙂

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