After more than a decade, City Hall re-opened Norwalk’s outdated, 103-year old charter. NorwalkFirst was forced to begin a public education campaign about the squandering of an opportunity for real charter reform. Real reform could have considered other options, such as:

  • a City Manager or a City Planner
  • expanding Council membership to facilitate better committee work
  • a review of the current council, boards, commissions and agencies
  • residency requirements for department heads

 

Instead, politicians rewarded themselves and special interests without dealing with structural problems that residents have been clamoring to have fixed. Even people who consider a 4-year Mayoral term and pay raises for council-members reasonable are uncomfortable with the removal of accountability and unintended consequences, including:

  • lack of term limits for the Mayor
  • removing the voter from the approval of future council raises
  • lower voter turnout in off-year elections

 

Promises of a second charter commission this summer never materialized, leaving the important work on charter revision undone.  For these reasons we strongly urge residents to VOTE NO on Questions 1 & 3. Send a message that frivolous use of the charter revision process for political gain in response to special interests is unacceptable and tell officials to DO IT RIGHT OR NOT AT ALL.

 

Ballot Question Vote NorwalkFirst – www.norwalkfirst.com
 

Question 1: Shall the term of mayor and Town Clerk be changed from 2 to 4 years.

 

 

 

NO

 

The benefit to residents and businesses from these changes is, at best, unclear. The Commission proposes that this will improve planning and other activities over a longer time horizon. But, that assumes that citizens always approve of the incumbent Mayor’s decision-making, and do not wish to change direction. Providing an electoral check every two years is the better option, unless this change is accompanied by other checks and balances. It is not.

 

Had the offices been separated into two questions, the public would benefit from a four-year term for the Town Clerk, given its historically apolitical nature and the benefits of infrequent turnover in the position.

 

Question 2: Shall the offices of City Treasurer, City Sheriff and Selectman be eliminated?

 

YES

 

There are clear benefits in eliminating these positions, which will reduce some costs in holding elections, and simplify the ballot so Board of Education candidates appear on the front of the ballot.

 

Question 3: Shall the annual salary of each Common Council member be set at two (2%) of the base salary of the mayor?

 

NO

 

The benefits of adjusting council pay with a 462% raise is unclear at best. We have not explored whether paying citizen legislators at a nominal rate is better than paying more, or perhaps nothing at all.

 

However, this creates a clear conflict of interest by removing direct voter approval of council pay and giving it to the council. The incentive to raise the pay of the Mayor AND the council will remain unchecked by anything but budget concerns and is inadequate.

 

Question 4: Shall all charter References to member of the Common Council be gender neutral?

 

YES

 

The benefits of using inclusive language in the charter and other city governance documents are clear. We endorse this and can only wonder why this concept wasn’t applied to all gender-specific terms in the charter.

 

 

Paid for by NorwalkFirst, Lisa Thomson, Partner