Thursday, December 27, 2007

a small step but a large stride

You missed a heckuva meeting last night. Really.
I know, you had other things to do-personal engagements, family obligations, business expectations. And, quite frankly, who holds a meeting on the day after Christmas anyway? People who only have until 17 March of this rapidly approaching new year to present to the City Council of Norwich a proposal for a Code of Ethics, that's who.

Cynicism is pretty much a part and parcel of governance in this country, as you've probably noticed (I know you are, rags; but what what am I?). We, the Salt of the Earth, forget about how often a prayer is said for us, 'the stay at home voter, dull-eyed though a strange beauty shows'--or how often we endure a 'passing parade of grey-suited grafters, a choice of cancer or polio.' And we forget: if not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Since May, eleven regular and three alternate members of the Norwich Ethics Review Committee, just plain folks (in my case, as an alternate, more homely than plain) have met once a month to try and define what we, the people, should insist upon as the behavior and public morality of those we elect and appoint to work, and those whom they hire, on our behalf.
This ain't like Sam Phillips at Sun Records offering his definition of rock and roll, "I know it when I hear it." And yet, in a way, it has to reflect that kind of aesthetic.

There's been a little too much, 'you get along by going along' across municipal governments, not just in SE Connecticut for a very long time. It's one thing to say 'we demand you stop.' It's another to define what is and what is NOT acceptable for public officials and employees (and to make sure everyone knows what the rules are). It's an all-out effort to make sure that those who have been winking at questionable behavior now realize it's being looked at with eyes wide-open.

Rabbi Charles, Alderman Chris, ex-Alderman John, Dr. Bob, Joe, ex-Alderman Larry, Shiela, Michael, Sarah, Tamara, Jerry, not the Chuck and Lois (and me) waded through more words than wisdom (at times) as we tried on a variety of ideas and proposals to create a document we think (=hope) starts a road map of where we need to go, based on the souvenirs of where we've been.

We're not at Gramma's house yet. We're at the rest stop on the interstate before we get to her exit.(You know, where you comb your hair and straighten your shirt (and wonder how that pb&j stain got on the sleeve in the first place.)) We're at the 'neaten up and defuzzy' part where different folks take different sections and read them aloud to themselves and one another to see if what we wrote makes sense when exposed to daylight. There'll be some managing of the white space and realignment, because when you have 14 people drawing a picture blind-folded, and you must only have one canvas and one frame, you have to make allowances for where the different parts of the picture all have to be and where they currently are.

Should we feel good about what we've accomplished? You betcha-and so, too, should you.

Too often, too many expect venal behavior from those in government and are happy when human failings are disclosed, especially if they've been hidden and then disclosed. If "Gotcha!" is ever included in the Olympics, the medal podium will have to be huge. We didn't find a cure for an illness, unless you count pessimism as a malady of the human spirit and we haven't eliminated it but we've made it harder to have. We stopped waiting for 'somebody to fix the problem' and took a stab at the solution ourselves. We aren't heroes-but we are your neighbors.
And Norwich is a bit shinier today because of what we've done. Small victories add up.
"I am only one-but I am one. I cannot do anything, but I can do something."
Don't make a difference---be the difference.
If not now, then when? If not us, then who?
-bill kenny

No comments: