Open Letter to the Voters of Norwalk from Norwalk First
Norwalk First’s position, from its inception, has been both an education campaign to alert voters that there were charter revision questions on the ballot and also an advocacy campaign to ask voters to join us in sending a message that we expect more from our government.
It is unfortunate that, in the absence of a neutral education and information campaign from the City, as both the Mayor and Corporation Counsel acknowledged were critical 1, 2, the political argument between the YES camps and the NO camps is all that is available.
It is equally unfortunate that the bipartisan charter revision commission is in the untenable position of having to defend our opponents’ positions. We have great respect for the charter revision commission members and recognize that they worked hard to discharge their duties as they were instructed, with a very limited time horizon and a very limited scope.
Council-members are well aware, even if the commission members are not, that minutes recorded at a meeting do not include verbatim comments of members of the public. Cherry-picking statements to attack a member of the public who participated in good faith in those hearings amounts to an ad hominem attack.
It was the decision of the commission to limit the scope to the questions provided by the council, even though there is nothing that would have prevented them from expanding the scope. We respect that decision, but the members of the public who went to make that request were well within boundaries to do so.
It should be noted though, that much of the public who might otherwise have participated, were actively engaged during the charter revision process on matters that are still at the heart of Norwalk First’s concerns—things like public hearings over the proposed zoning change to accommodate AMEC carting, the proposed zip-line in Cranbury Park, and similar matters. It is ironic that they are now to be held responsible for not also storming the charter revision process, especially when those that did participate were led to believe that a second commission would be forthcoming to deal with the issues that were too difficult to tackle initially 3.
Doubly so when those same council members have been hearing these requests in public comment at committee meetings and commission meetings for upwards of a year before they decided to take up charter revision.
EVERY prior council in recent memory has rejected the proposal to open the charter to expand the Mayor’s term, including the one that held office in 2015. Yet, this council chose to focus on that issue. We stand by our position that the public did not advocate for this, and did not view it as a priority in its concerns about the charter.
We welcome a direct dialog with the proponents of these measures (among them a PAC headed by Mr. Kimmel’s spouse and the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce,) but will not be drawn into any political exchange with the members of the charter revision commission about their decisions. They completed their task of making a recommendation for questions to be put before the public. The change advocates have the burden of explaining to the voters why these changes are of more benefit to the citizens of Norwalk than what exists today. We fully believe that they have failed to do so. In fact, we believe that in some respects, these changes will make things worse by removing accountability to the voters, which is why we recommend voting NO. We invite everyone who is planning on voting next week to visit our website at www.norwalkfirst.com to explore the issues for themselves.
Ultimately, the voters will decide on November 8th.
1 “We are not insensitive to some of the issues that came up during the charter revision process, specifically during the four public hearings,” Kimmel said. “… We are very much concerned about our Planning and Zoning. We will look into that. There are questions raised regarding the Police Commission. There’s been issues raised that make a lot of sense, to me at least, on the language of charter itself. … I think we will begin to consider the possibility of another charter revision commission in the summer.” (Nancy on Norwalk “Norwalk charter revision moves ahead, over Hempstead’s protest” May 25, 2016)
2 “Mr. Coppola said everybody has to get the word out so the public knows and also have the people working the polls instruct voters on Election Day.” (Charter Revision Commission Meeting Minutes March 9, 2016)
3 “Mayor Harry W. Rilling said the city will make a concentrated effort through advertising, social media and other means to get the word out to the public about the charter revision questions that will appear on the November ballot. He anticipates voters will have plenty of information with which to form opinions, one way or the other, on each of the four questions.” (The Hour “Push to get word out on Charter Revision in Norwalk” September 20, 2016)
Paid for by Norwalk First. Lisa Thomson, Partner.