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Democrats' Letter: Norwalk Needs Fresh Perspective

NORWALK, Conn. – This letter has been submitted by the Democrats running as Common Council at-large candidates.

Running a city is a large, complicated and expensive undertaking. It is, in effect, big business. For example, the city of Norwalk spends more than $250 million a year and, as taxpayers, we need to make sure that our money is spent in a cost-effective, responsible and responsive way. To build the kind of community we all want, we need visionary, hard-working leadership – people who keep their eye on the ball, shape the agenda and then follow through. We need first-rate minds, first-rate commitment. Yet the Republicans presently tasked with running our city are still governing in the status quo, "just slap on a coat of paint and don't rock the boat" mentality.

To make this city thrive we must have an overall economic development program for the 21st century that will focus like a laser on creating, and keeping, jobs right here in Norwalk while at the same time navigating a steady course during the stress of the economic downturn.

Putting shovels in the ground may be a good campaign slogan, but there is no substitute for good economic policies that pursue the right economic development. There are too many Norwalkers out of work or underemployed to not have an extreme sense of urgency when it comes to really creating jobs here.

During the past six years, how many truly innovative and forward thinking new ideas have come out of the mayor's office about the kinds of jobs we can create with our development and revitalization projects? The Republican campaign theme this year couldn't be more accurate, they truly are in motion for Norwalk – very, very, slow motion.

All around us, new technologies are impacting on every aspect of the way we live and work and we need to embrace and integrate that technology into our local governance.

In education that means we have got to focus our resources on closing the digital divide between rich and poor, and making sure every child who graduates from Norwalk schools is ready for the 21st-century global economy and can meet a minimum level of competency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). We need new blood on the Board of Education, as well as the Common Council, so that we are all pulling together as a Norwalk team, leaving party politics outside the door when we meet. Our kids are more important than any brand of party politics.

While the present city website gives lots of data, it is not very user-friendly and often not very up-to date. With modern technology all city data and proposals should be made easily available to decision-makers and to the general public, for it is the public, the people who pay Norwalk taxes, who must hold our leaders accountable for results. We should create a publicly accessible website that tracks citizen complaints – potholes, abandoned property, downed power lines, etc. – so we can track results and response times. Citizens should be able to text their complaints and transmit photos showing the problems and these should be made readily available. That should get results! We need to know who is responsible for work and how they execute that responsibility.

Our first order of business should be to focus on establishing our priorities and then finding ways to fund them. We need to actively seek funds from both federal and state agencies and rigorously pursue grant funding for new projects. Rather than take last year's budget and add to it or cut from it, let's focus on what we keep, not the cuts, and make sure we are getting what we pay for with a regular, rigorous review of every program – not every two years, but every two weeks!

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" isn't good enough, Norwalk needs better enterprise than that. We not only want to pro-actively maintain our city, we want to push it forward to make sure it really is "all it can be." We need a mayor that engages in the process of government, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We need a mayor that helps change the trajectory of our city. Andy Garfunkel fits the bill.

As Democrats, we are a party of action, and in this coming election we want the chance to renew our commitment to revitalize the city that is our home. We'll work together as a team with a fresh perspective, using innovative ideas, discipline, good old-fashioned elbow grease and common sense. As Democrats, we want to give everyone a voice, and represent all the people in this diverse community. We want to cultivate and add to the assets innate to our city: our waterfront, our commercial centers, and our tourist attractions. We need to make our residential communities flourish once again. Norwalk should be a destination, and a point of interest. By voting for the Democratic slate, you can bring about the change that can help our city thrive and expand to its full potential.

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