September 5, 2018
Norwalk, Connecticut is home to a diverse population, major Fortune 500 and 1,000 corporations, and bustling retail, tourism and nightlife – all within close proximity to Long Island Sound. As a city with about 88,000 residents, the government officials of Norwalk work diligently to improve the quality of life of its residents. How does it do that? Who controls the budget, passes ordinances? Here is a brief overview of how Norwalk government works.
Structure of Norwalk Government
The best place to start learning about Norwalk’s government structure is the Mayor’s office. The Mayor is the leader for the executive branch of the city government and oversees many of the services that are provided to residents. The Mayor is also responsible for tasks such as maintaining city applications and permits, providing various programs to the city and making sure residents are kept up to date on what’s happening. Most importantly, the Mayor’s office chooses all Boards, Commissions, and Department Heads, with the many of these requiring the approval of the Common Council.
The Common Council is Norwalk’s law-writing body. The city’s charter gives many administrative powers exclusively to the Council. The Common Council is comprised of a number of Committees that oversee important tasks including:
- Health, Welfare, and Public Safety
- Land Use and Building Management
- Ordinance Committee
- Planning Committee
- Public Works
- Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs
The Role of “Other” Actors
Norwalk is currently working on various initiatives to improve the city and its neighborhoods, including the Citywide Plan, Parking Plan, and Urban Neighborhood Plans. Here is a brief description of the government departments and other quasi-government organizations that are working on these plans.
The Planning and Zoning Department works to grow and develop the City by providing information, guidance, and administrative support to various zoning and other city commissions. It is the primary manager of the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) or citywide 10-year plan that will outline improvements for the future of the city. Development of the citywide plan is guided by an Oversight Committee made up of Planning Commission members and other members appointed by the Mayor. The plan must be adopted by the Planning Commission and endorsed by the Common Council.
The Norwalk Parking Authority is a financially self-sustaining organization responsible for operating and maintaining the municipal parking system in the City. The Parking Authority is made up of five local citizens appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Common Council. Its annual budget is not financed by taxpayer dollars. In addition, the Parking Authority helps promote and support economic development in Norwalk with new programs such as smart parking via cell phones and collaborating with community organizations and businesses.
Urban core neighborhood planning in Norwalk is primarily undertaken by the the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. Working with City departments, the Agency plans, coordinates and procures grant funding to preserve and improve urban core neighborhoods and to attract new development. The Redevelopment Agency is governed by a Board of Commissioners who are appointed by the Mayor and approved by the Common Council. In addition, all redevelopment plans and efforts are reviewed and approved by the Common Council.
Your government plays a huge role in your daily life, from the amount of taxes you pay, to the condition of the streets you drive. Norwalk residents also play an important role in their government by voting. Voters elect officials for positions such as Treasurer, the Board of Education, Registrar of Voters, Common Council, Mayor, Town Clerk, Board of Selectmen, Sheriff, and Constables. They can also be involved in government by coming to public workshops, community forums, and having a say through surveys and online discussions.