#10 RESIDENTS DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS, SPECIAL INTERESTS DID: The quest for an extended mayoral term began and ends with a powerful special interest group–The Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, whose president lives in Shelton. They will outspend opposing tax-paying residents 20:1. A separate Political Action Committee, whose chairwoman is the wife of the current Council president, is supported by the mayor himself, who is soliciting funds for the PAC.
#9 SPECIAL INTERESTS SPENT EIGHT YEARS PUSHING THIS DESPITE OPPOSITION: No record can be found that suggests residents and taxpayers of Norwalk requested longer mayoral terms. The first of many references can be found as early as 2008 in which the Chamber of Commerce began pushing this concept to unwilling Common Council members.
#8 NO EVIDENCE THAT TWO YEAR TERMS ARE HINDERING GOOD GOVERNMENT: There is no evidence to support suggestions that longer terms equal more effective government. If our state reps and senators and our house of representatives all serve with 2 year terms, then a city mayor should be able to. If a Mayor is doing a good job of implementing their city vision, the voters will keep her or him in office.
#7 TERM CHANGES SHOULD BE NEUTRAL IN EFFECT AND HAVE TERM LIMITS: Even the many proponents of four year terms and council pay raises argue that the 2017 effective date gives an unfair advantage to the sitting mayor and council members, presumed to be the incumbents in the 2017 vote. Any changes to terms or salaries should have been made effective with the 2019 election, when no sitting elected official is presumed the incumbent. To retain some accountability, there should have been term limits.
#6 CHANGES WERE LIMITED IN SCOPE AND MADE IN HASTE: The limited time and scope of the directive to the appointed charter revision commission restricted these good volunteers from looking at other more important areas of the charter, and focused primarily on two areas – extended terms for elected politicians and pay raise for the council. Other matters such as restructuring government, considering a city manager, hiring a city planner, expanding the common council, considering term limits, revisiting residency clauses for key department heads, etc never got vetted due to the commission mandate and timeline.
#5 COUNCIL PAY APPROVAL SHOULD REMAIN WITH THE VOTER: The proposed pay raise for the Council, tied directly to the mayor’s approved base salary (currently $138,468), equates to a 462% increase in year one, and removes the requirement for the council to seek public approval for future increases. With the proposed 2% of the mayor salary as the set point for the salary, the council will automatically get a pay raise every time they vote to raise the salary of the mayor, and it will saddle taxpayers with a 130% budget impact each time the Mayor’s salary is increased.
#4 THE BOARD OF ED IS NOT PAID AT ALL: While the $600 a year council salary seems inadequate to some, apparently especially the council members who voted yes for an increase, the fact remains that the other major elected body in this city, the Board of Education receives no pay and no stipend, yet they have fiduciary responsibility for 59% of the city budget. Public service on a city council should NOT be a money making endeavor!
#3 CHARTER REVISION SHOULD BE USED UNLESS IT FOCUSES ON REAL ISSUES: Charter revision did nothing to improve our zoning process, and leaves intact a system that left virtually every neighborhood in Norwalk fighting uphill battles, most notably the mosque property and spot zoning for big box retail. Nor did it issue a city mandate to enforce the POCD as a plan, and not a guideline.
#2 UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: The resulting “off” year elections will almost certainly see record low voter turnout (estimated as low as 15%), entrenching stagnant party-majority councils.
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO VOTE NO ON BALLOT QUESTIONS #1 & #3….
#1 REWARDING REDUCED ACCOUNTABILITY IS BAD FOR NORWALK: Residents shouldn’t reward politicians who rewarded themselves with longer terms and higher salaries and yet did nothing to improve the operation of our government – all we’ll end up with is a costlier government and a longer time to change leadership.