By Rico Dizon
The Norwalk City Council could be on the verge of eliminating funding to the cash strapped Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Cherie Kelley and the city council are reviewing such options.
Could the Norwalk City Council be on the verge of eliminating funding to the cash strapped Norwalk Chamber of Commerce?
On Tuesday, the Norwalk City Council held a special session to present and discuss impending cutbacks and council initiatives in the city’s 2012-13 budget and possible funding cuts to the Norwalk Chamber were openly discussed for the first time publicly.
Chamber of Commerce funding in jeopardy
Norwalk’s City Chamber of Commerce has gone a long way since being a self sufficient organization in the 70s. The Chamber has now an allocation of $37,000 and for that matter, Councilman Rodarte stressed the importance of checking how the money is being spent and whether the Chamber is helping the City in promoting trade and commerce on annual basis. Councilman Shryock said that the Council’s liaison man in ex-officio capacity can perform and report to the Council the check-and-balance function and findings on the Chamber. “Everything needs to be reviewed at the Chamber,” Shryock said during the debate.
The Council would like to revive the Youth Commission which died a natural death due to lack of enthusiasm and attendance from the youth. In addition it was difficult to get a commitment from the students because their goals and objectives were very limited. The city council staff sees the Teen Alliance Program (TAP) which meets every first Wednesday of the month as the best group to tap into the youth community.
Equipped with very low resources, the Council suggested various approaches in getting valuable inputs from the student population mostly High School juniors and seniors, with the end in view of creating a positive outlook of the youth towards their city. Suggestions ranged from Councilman Marcel Rodarte’s casual lunch with students to Councilman Luigi Vernola’s more formal request through school principals in organizing an assembly of student bodies in their own backyards that will form the focus group in gathering the necessary inputs from the youth.
Councilman Mike Mendez, on the other hand, proposed an evening powwow on a weekend while Councilman Leonard Shryock contributed the idea of putting up website for the Teen Alliance Program.
City Commissioner badges, card policy
The council recommended identification policies for members and officers of different City Commissions are shifted to City ID badge to replace business cards. The plastic IDs would bear the names and specific designations of the city personnel and can wear them whenever appropriately required. Operating on a shoe string budget, travel for City Commissioners is limited and although there could be out-of-town training seminars of some value especially for new Commissioners, these will be taken up on case-to-case basis, the City Council agreed.
The council proposed wide utilization of volunteers to support City functions and events in all department levels as championed by Councilman Luigi Vernola, who recommended it be considered and implemented primarily because it only entails minimal budget allocations. The Council suggested the best place for volunteers, would be the Recreation Department since nearly 1.000 volunteers were used in park programs and events last year. Another source of volunteers especially for security purposes would be the Sheriff Station’s Volunteers on Patrol or VOP, said Councilman Mike Mendez.
Although volunteers are valuable, City Manager Mike Egan reminded the council on weighing carefully between the use of volunteers and the issue of liability. The City Council Staff is studying the idea of developing a volunteer center concept which serves as a City contact which will initially qualify and connect locals calling in for volunteerism to the specific department with volunteer opportunities.
The City’s “Friends” of Historical Heritage have been dwindling in number due to lack of support and clear goals, Egan said.
Mayor Kelley noted that the Recreation Department is working with the “Friends of Hargitt House and the Historical Heritage Commission to coordinate efforts and develop consistency of purpose. In addition, Mayor Kelley felt that “Friends” of Historical Heritage staff should be properly trained on guided tours know-how designed most especially for school children tours. Councilman Shryock suggested the making of CDs for artifacts. For Sister City activities, Councilman Rodarte recommended the possible use of Facebook as an inexpensive tool for cultural exchanges.