My Platform – My Pledge

Politicians often rattle off a laundry list of issues and proclaim that they will make solving them their "top priority." Our citizens are justifiably tired of waiting for leaders to bring economic  development, grow the grand list, close the achievement gap and the digital divide, make public servants more accountable, bring City services into the 21st century, invest in pedestrian and bicycle way-finding systems and tackle the rising incidence of violent crime. We are tired of talk. We want action. 

Some may look at My Platform-My Pledge  as just another list of promises. I believe it is different because I do not pledge to accomplish a specific goal and I do not promise to solve any issue by a magic date. There is no "end date." There is a process we must engage to address these issues. I hope to create a framework by which all stakeholders – public officials, educators, civil servants, business and community leaders, advocates and all citizens who care about our city – have an equal voice in shaping our future. And I hope to ignite a great discussion about what we can do to build a better Norwalk. 

Building a Better Process

Good decisions start with good information and a good dialogue. When leaders "talk to themselves" rather than listen to each other and the public, they fail to learn the things they must to challenge the status quo. The challenges facing Norwalk are not unique. Others face the same issues, but have managed to tackle them using innovative, creative solutions. We have to be willing to challenge the "old way" of doing things and to draw on the rich diversity of our people to develop new solutions. 

How can we do this?

  1. By establishing a performance standard for every program and service, so we can judge what works what doesn't work, and what others can do better. If we are trying to measure how well we fight violent crime (for example), we should not be measuring how many people we arrest or how long we throw them in jail; we should be measuring how many violent crimes are committed in our city every day.  

  2. By making city government more accountable and more accessible. Once we create performance standards for each program or service, we should make them widely available to the public and to government leaders. Letting the public watch progress (or the lack of progress) is one of the surest ways we have to encourage improved performance. 

  3. By measuring how well (or poorly) each program is doing, based on the performance standards we have set. Only by insisting on a regular, rigorous review of every program can we ensure the public's treasure is being spent wisely. This review should be done not once a year, but once a week – and those weekly results should be made available to everyone, so that we can all judge progress. Let's publish a weekly email blast to everyone who has signed up to receive it, reporting on the performance results of every program or service run by our city.

  4. By putting every program through a "triage." Those programs that are doing well – that meet or exceed the performance standards we have mutually set – we allow to continue. Those programs that do not work and are addressing lower-priority goals should be eliminated. Those programs which address higher-priority objectives but are not meeting the performance standards previously set need to be focused on and improved.

Setting standards, measuring and publishing results, and making difficult choices are what government leaders are elected and paid to do. 

Building Better Economic Development

During my time in public service, I have learned some hard lessons. One of the most difficult has been what it takes to grow jobs and stimulate economic development. I believe for too long we have focused more on the kinds of buildings we are trying to build than the kinds of jobs we are trying to create. Norwalk does not need to become the "Big Box Capital of America."  "It is time to put shovels in the ground" may be a good slogan, but it is a poor economic plan. 

The economy of the 21st century will be led by small, growth oriented businesses and entrepreneurs. More and more these "job creators" are young, diverse and eager to run to market with the next "great idea." We need to adopt economic-development programs that encourage growth-oriented opportunities and the expansion of local businesses.

Building a Better Government

Working hand in hand with a better process, we need to invest the resources to build a better, more transparent government. Modernizing the way we communicate about government meetings will enable more citizen participation, better decision making and cost savings. We should not be trying to run a 21st-century city with 20th-century tools and policies.

Not only must we incorporate technology in the way government communicates with the people of our city (for example, making meeting agendas and backup materials available by download or via email updates), but we must reform the process by which we establish the $300 million operating budget. We spend the vast majority of the eight-month budget cycle arguing about the five percent of the budget we cut, rather than the 95 percent of the budget we keep. The vast majority of the $300 million operating budget is spent without any discussion about whether a particular program works, whether it is worth the cost, whether other programs may achieve the same results at a lower cost, and even whether Norwalk should be providing that service or program in the first place. 

Building Better Schools

Education provides the building blocks for everything we hope to achieve. I am the product of public education and I know I would not be where I am today without the opportunities a public education gave me. It shaped who I am today. And it took me on a path from a shy, poor kid in a small town to one of the owners of a nationally recognized, multi-million dollar law firm located on Park Avenue in New York.  

We cannot scrimp on public education. We have to make hard choices about how we use the taxpayers' dollars. We need to reform the yearly battle which pits our schools against everything else. The debacle we faced in 2012 with the unexpected deficit must be addressed and I will not relent on my quest to find out what happened, why it happened and what we can do to ensure nothing like that ever happens again. 

But the sins of the adults who have to be held accountable for the events of last year should not be borne by our children. 

We need to invest in our schools because an education remains the single best avenue to preserve a healthy middle class and help those living in poverty climb up the ladder to the middle class. We need to focus with laser-like intensity on closing the achievement gap and the digital divide. We need to make sure our teachers are STEM literate ("Science,Technology, Engineering and Math") and incorporate STEM learning in every subject. And we need to make sure our schools are safe environments for all our kids. 

Building a Better Community

Twenty-two years ago, my wife and I drove into town. By the time we reached the Town Green on East Avenue, we knew we were home. 

The wealth and beauty of our city cannot be calculated on some balance sheet or listed in some inventory. Norwalk's wealth comes from its people, its diversity, its harbor, its rivers, its open spaces, its culture and its history. Many simply do not appreciate the special place in which we live. I challenge you to name another city in America which has a working harbor, a vibrant downtown business district, diverse suburbs, an active mass transit and highway system and a rich history dating back before the United States was a nation. There may be such a place, but I have not found it yet.

Because Norwalk is unique, we all share an obligation to be good stewards, so our children and our children's children have the opportunity to grow to love this place. That means we must work to preserve and expand open spaces, to preserve our historic heritage, to build more public amenities and to work to allow the fabric of our neighborhoods and city to grow.

Thank you for visiting this website and for taking to time to read what I have written. It has not been "vetted" or "polled" or "market tested." I wrote it because I believe it. 

A lot of people have asked me "why?"  Why I am doing this?  Why do I want to be Mayor?  Why I think I can do something when so many good men and women have tried and failed? 

Here's my answer: I love Norwalk. I believe in it. And I believe we can do better. I believe we can build a better Norwalk. But we have to do the hard way – brick-by-brick, block-by-block, child-by-child.

Matt Miklave