A veterinarian on sabbatical, Dr. Merrell has worked on many famous racing Thoroughbreds. This job consumed his days, nights and weekends for 20 years. Now, heís taking a break to run for mayor. Merrell went through the Rowayton public schools and Brien McMahon High School. He then went on to the University of Florida in Ocala where, in 1984, he received his DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine).
His mother, Merlyn Merrell spent 41 years working in the Norwalk public school system. His father, an engineer, worked on the first Lunar Orbiting Photographic Satellite which was developed here in Norwalk.
NP: Please give us a few sentences on your background and qualifications for the office of mayor.
Merrell: Of the three candidates, Iím the only one who is actually from Norwalk. The Republican was born and raised in Stamford. The Democrat is from Detroit. Your family makes you who you are; mine was bright and well educated. I went through the public school system in Rowayton and to Brien McMahon High School. I am more educated of the candidates with a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine.
NP: What is your motivation for running?
Merrell:I want to reform the property tax laws in Norwalk and the State of Connecticut. California has Proposition 13, which limits the amount homes can be taxed. And in Massachusetts, they have Proposition 2-1/2, also limiting real estate taxes. Here, they can make up any number they want to in City Hall; itís not conscionable to tax people out of their homes. Taxation is an extortion scheme.
NP: Education in Norwalk: what of the following areas need improvement and/or expansion?
- Job training?
- College prep?
- Stay in school and after-school programs?
Merrell:Mentoring programs are good, also apprenticeship programs, with real job experience.
Merrell:With so many mothers working, we need to look at a statewide program. Start them earlier. It should be an optional program.
Merrell:We need to teach them good sportsmanship Ė donít give kids the dream of becoming Michael Jordan.
NP: The healthcare issue, how does this huge national problem impact on Norwalk and what would you do to improve healthcare in Norwalk?
Merrell:It was a mistake, putting it in the hands of insurance companies. Thereís no competition. Socialized medicine is a totally failed system.
NP: With so many buildings going up, the antiquated infrastructure is definitely an issue. What are your plans for improving roads, storm sewers and sewer lines?
They built a new sewage treatment plant. In 10 years, they never switched it over to a manual system. When they did, the whole system broke down. We need to bring in outside people to evaluate the whole system.
About roads, Iím talking with engineers at the DoT. We need an on-ramp from Martin Luther King Boulevard directly to the Turnpike. Itís only four-tenths of a mile. So the trucks can stay off Route 136.
I wouldnít consider myself an expert on storm drains. We need to bring in an expert to analyze the situation. Some areas have no drainage.
George Orwell talked about ďdouble-speak.Ē The budgeting is a matter of priorities. Spending on the education budget has grown from $61 million in 1998-1999 to 104 million in 2000-2001, and in 2006-2007, itís up to $142 million, and the superintendent is scaring parents, saying they have to cut programs. If you ran a business the way the school system is run, youíd be indicted. False statements are typical of how they do things.
In 2005, police and fire departments were at $30 million. They ran up $35 million. When they talk about cuts, thereís never been a cut. Itís a matter of prioritizing.
NP: If elected what would you do differently from your predecessor?
Merrell:The City is a big ship that doesnít have a captain. With the council, no one is individually accountable. Iíd be like Harry Truman, and the buck will stop with me. Weíve got to put the taxpayer first for the first time in 30 years. Iíll be the first candidate in 30 years to represent the school children to make sure they get their moneyís worth. Itís amazing how many people of various social-economic groups move out of Norwalk to escape the school system.
NP: Do you have plans for reducing the crime rate in Norwalk?
Merrell:Yes, I know how a police department is supposed to be run. Police officers are not supposed to be traffic cops. Itís a problem, the AFL-CIO has taken over the police department. Their (policemenís) focus is to sit on construction sites and get overtime. Officers who are making $60,000 are collecting up to $90,000 with overtime. Thatís what happens when the AFL-CIO runs the department.
NP: What is your take on the changing face of Norwalk as it becomes home to many small and mid-size corporations?
Merrell: Itís a bad trend. We used to have Remmington-Rand, our taxes have run real corporations out of Norwalk and the state. No one realized how important Nash Engineering was. My dad worked for Perkin-Elmer. None of these jobs are available to the middle-class anymore. The industrial base, not government service, is the gateway for the middle class. Our Secretary of State said that only 4% of Connecticut businesses employ more than 50 people. Thatís pathetic.
NP: The vision thingóhow would you like to see Norwalk in 10 years?
Merrell:Iíd like to see a Norwalk that respects the best peopleóour grandmothers and our World War II veteranónot running them out of their homes. My goal is to make sure that when someone buys a home in Norwalk, they can keep it for the rest of their lives. The AFL-CIO-sponsored re-evaluation train wreck arrives in 2008, and thatís why Iím running for mayor.
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