Activists Launch NorwalkFirst Charter Revision Website and Lawn Sign Campaign

October 18, 2016

Norwalk – Today, local city activists announced their campaign for ‘real’ charter revision with the launch of their website www.norwalkfirst.com and VOTE NO “Do It Right or Not At All” lawn sign campaign, continuing their grassroots efforts to educate voters and push for charter revision that benefits residents and taxpayers, not just politicians.

After more than a decade, city officials re-opened Norwalk’s outdated, 103-year old charter this year. Activists Deb Goldstein, Diane Cece and Lisa Thomson expressed disappointment that all the mayor and council did was reward themselves with a longer term and more pay, when they had the opportunity to bring the city, with an annual operating and capital budget of ~$366M into the 21st Century.

Over the past two years, all three have advocated for charter revision to address chronic problems, and expressed frustration that the Charter Revision Commission only focused on items instructed by the mayor and council and that had nothing to do with daily events that impact the governing of Norwalk.

After attending all but one of the Charter Revision Commission meetings, Thomson said, “Having created a Charter Revision Commission for the first time in over a decade, it’s unfortunate the commission’s primary directives from the common council was narrow, addressing: 1) a 4-year mayoral term effective 2017, which has resulted in an aggressive passage campaign by the incumbent, 2) increase in council member pay, 3) elimination of a few outdated offices and 4) adoption of gender neutral language. At the same time, they ignored repeated concerns to fix systemic land use issues, or how city departments work with one another on issues that impact every resident and homeowner.”

Diane Cece said, “Norwalk is a city of 86,000 people.” Referencing the National League of Cities, she explained, “The most common form of city government, is a council-manager form. City councils oversee general administration, set policy and budget, but a professional city manager carries out day-to-day administrative operations. This is just an example of the kind of dialogue the charter commission could have had.”

Surveys by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), indicate this form of government has grown from 48% usage in 1996 to 55% usage in 2006 and is most popular in cities with 10,000 or more people.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the group plans to continue to push for ongoing charter revision.

Deb Goldstein said, “In a city that has lurched from one land use controversy to another over the last five years, it is irresponsible to carry out a process that required multiple public meetings and working sessions, produced a 177-page report, and used the precious resources required for ballot referenda, only to lessen electoral accountability for the city’s top elected official and implement largely symbolic changes. While raising pay for councilmembers is desirable, it should only be done in the context of giving them real tools to allow Norwalk to be a leader in good government.”