Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Relentless optimist that I am, I hope this Norwich City Council election is about expanding the opportunities for all to participate in municipal decision-making as valuable and valued members of the community. Six days until the election and well-meaning people (who should know better) insist on defining a small town council election as 'us vs them'; as if Marc Bunnell were producing "Survivor: Norwich". I'm not convinced being voted off 'the island' is such a bad thing, but then as I'm often told, I'm "not from here". But, I am here, now.
Norwich voters should make this election about who we are and who we are to become. This election will help define what our city is and what we wish it to be.
For city council candidates (and all of us), win or lose, the sun will come up next Wednesday-but it will shine brighter if we all do what we know we must when we vote Tuesday.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I'm wondering, based on the survey, if established churches will set up drive-throughs and take-out windows. Would you like fries with that Act of Contrition? Supersize those Hail Marys?
Amen on a sesame seed bun with Hallelujah Honey Barbecue Sauce.
PS: At last night's Norwich City Council meeting, the decision was made to move back to City Hall a meeting projected for the Rose City Senior Center (because room size, accessibility and connectivity concerns couldn't be resolved satisfactorily off-site).
Almost parenthetical was an observation by one of the alderpersons that, because of the date of the next meeting of the Commission on the City Plan (who must review and recommend the zoning change to be discussed on 19 November), the City Council, acting as the Zoning Board of Appeals, will, as I understood it, not be able to take any action on the zoning request that precipitated the meeting scehduled for the 19th.
I think this means next Tuesday's elections for City Council could be a referendum on how citizens in Norwich want to manage economic development and smart growth. Or not.
(I'm not from here, and don't always see what's in front of me, despite my eyeglasses).
Monday, October 29, 2007
Have you ever been, or watched an American in a foreign country? From the way many of us behave, it seems we Americans think people in other country are deaf and stupid so we SPEAK ENGLISH VERY LOUD and S-L-O-W-L-Y. News Flash: They can hear us fine. They just don't understand us. Can you blame them?
As persnickety as we are, might we also be the only species on the block who can appreciate who we are and where we are? I have a hard time imagining a dog, purebred or pound puppy, admiring a sunset. Or encountering a box turtle who enjoys cloud watching.
We are capable of many emotions, some perhaps not very admirable (I can't imagine wolves shunning one of their own because 'his den isn't from around here' but they haven't gotten to that on Animal Planet yet) and others so profound you have to assume it's what helps define us.
Yes, we behave crazily sometimes, but that insanity is a component of our humanity just as much as our thumbs and an appreciation for Goethe are all part of the package.
Maybe that's why we seem so fragile and are best handled with care.
I suppose this morning in Boston they'd elect Mike Lowell mayor and possibly Manny or Big Papi to the governor's mansion. Ten days ago in New York, some wanted to elevate Joe Torre to sainthood for his service to the House of Steinbrenner that, at times, has resembled the House of Usher (and EAP is not a Baltimore Ravens fan, fwiw). And many who cheered A-Rod all season are now jeering him-change just one consonant and watch what happens.
A hero/heroine makes a difference everyday while a celebrity makes a headline every week.
After awhile the twain does meet and we lose twack of which witch is which.
Wait until that Mischa Barton for President movement catches fire.
Except in California. They deserve a break.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The Norwich City Council, less than ten days away from a possible "Extreme Makeover" on Election Day, 6 November, is holding a special meeting tomorrow night at 7:30 to return to a previous meeting's discussion and decide (perhaps) on long-term (actually, five years with the first three guaranteed) extended support for the Norwich Community Development Corporation which serves as the agency for economic development in the city of Norwich. Except when it doesn't.
I had thought the Mayor of Norwich, by charter, was 'a catalyst' for economic development or maybe I was thinking of the Redevelopment Agency, or Rose City Renaissance or APED, or the aforementioned NCDC or three or four other well-meaning organizations. Or all of them.
Something about 'too many cooks' and what they do to a broth comes to mind.
Ironically, we actually have some wonderful places to dine in downtown Norwich.
We just don't seem to have the foot traffic for those businesses to flourish at the level and degree that rewards their hard work and effort. Maybe if we can get everyone who owns (or thinks they own) a piece of the responsibility for economic development (forgot all about the City Council! DOH!) to dine just once a week at the establishments we already have in downtown, those businesses could breathe a little easier.
To be honest, we can't always count on crowds of citizens coming to City Council meetings (the 'other' big item on the agenda is relocating the Council meeting of 19 November which will be about the partitioning of a traditional residential zone into a commercial retail district (because we don't have enough national pharmacies and coffee shops in Norwich)) to propel downtown development, but unless and until we have better ideas, or more elaborate PowerPoint presentations of old ideas (and you can bet the one being prepared for the 19 November Council meeting will be a humdinger), we'll have our current level of success or lack of.
What I find confusing about the proposed venue for the 19 November meeting is that it is actually smaller and less equipped than the current Council chmabers to host the large number of residents this meeting is expected to attract (suggest destroying a neighborhood that has existed for close to three generations and people will turn out; we're funny that way).
Meanwhile, the City of Norwich owns a 6,600 seat stadium, home of a Double A baseball team, that would seem to have the space and accommodations to be the ideal venue for just such a hearing.
And having that many people show up at Dodd Stadium might gladden the heart of one of the ball team's biggest fans who is also the attorney whose client's proposal for commercial redevelopment in a residential neighborhood is the reason for the special Council meeting in the first place. He, working in cooperation with NCDC, helped build the ballpark.
"And we go round and round and round in The Circle Game."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Here in Norwich CT, a "Dominos" pizza place and a "Curves" fitness center peacefully coexist under one roof. If there is a God, s/he must be amused. We have come as close as we may to a perpetual motion device....one place puts the pounds on your belly and your thighs and backside and the other part helps take it off. And so turns the Great Mandala.
Driving this afternoon to visit "the mall" in Waterford, though not the Waterford known for the crystal but rather for its Speedbowl, passed, on Route 12, another 'strange bedfellows' pairing of businesses: a personal injury attorney sharing the building with a chiropractic service.
A couple more pairings like this and I anticipate we'll soon see the Four Horsemen dismount and open up their own "Apocalyptic Discount Outlet Store", where 'everything must go! No offer refused!'
Walking into the mall I passed TPTG, The Post-Teen Goth.
You know the type even if you don't actually 'see' him anymore:
Hair sort of spiky, but only because during the week he has to comb it down for that job, probably in the audit department of some large corporate operation;
the jeans with the holes/tears at the knees, that are sold that way (remember how loud it would get at your house when you came home after playing with a hole in your chinos or dungarees? Your mom would carry on like they were the last pair of pants on earth even if they were older than your kid brother. She couldn't understand how you could do this to her, again.);
and, of course, the Pale Rider long coat.
Has anyone else, aside from Clint Eastwood, ever worn one of those and pulled it off? I have to concede he also made that poncho in "The Good, Bad and the Ugly" work and not even Ugly Betty has come close on that one. (Of course, Clint had spurs while Betty has braces.)
TPTG lives in his parents' partially finished basement and sleeps on a pullout couch.
He has a couple of posters scotch-taped to the concrete walls (Mom doesn't want him ruining the wood paneling she and his Dad have started to put up when they have a few extra dollars); more than likely one of the posters is of Ozzy, post 'Sabs, while the other is of Killswitch or one of the other shriek-bands whose vocalists all sound like fingernails on a chalkboard who lament long and loud at how horrible their lives are. And from where they're yelling, they probably are.
That NONE of his heroes live in anything approaching the style that he does, has never crossed TPTG's mind or he'd be shrieking louder and longer than they are and then ordering a rifle scope via the Internet.
I'm by myself on a Saturday afternoon because my daughter, home from college for the weekend, is attending, with my wife, the marriage of someone they both worked with back when I had more hair than scalp on my head and the Norwichtown Mall had more stores than mall-walkers (and it has less than a half dozen of the latter-you do the math).
I had a bit more candy earlier, those 'Starburst' chews sneak up on you, than my type II diabetes is comfortable with so I need to walk off the sugar rush, and it's pouring outside.
Indoor malls of America, unless they're located in Norwich, CT, are like village greens where everyone you know, or would like to know (and a few you'd rather not know) all meet.
I've often wondered if it would make more sense to move most of the apparatus that is the municipal government of Norwich, the departments and service agencies, etal, into the Norwichtown Mall, as there's literally acres of space. Acknowledge the inevitable and get it out of the way. Then we can stop the"Search for the Guilty" part of the problem-solving exercise and proceed directly to the "Solutions" portion of our program. And we could then offer meaningful rehab activities for those suffering from TPTG and other maladies of our age.
Friday, October 26, 2007
I talk to myself. I have probably done this since I was old enough to start forming words (forming thoughts is a bit trickier; I'm still working on that). Not sure exactly why, maybe it's the only way I've ever found to make my point (aside from here, of course).
Please understand, I'm not thinking about a conversation I have had or am going to have. I am talking out loud, and taking all the parts in the conversation, complete with the accents and intonations of those with whom I am (nearly) speaking.
I'm not even aware I do this until I look up behind the wheel in traffic, and realize there's someone in another vehicle staring at me with wide eyes and a wary heart. I can't very well roll down my window and, in the three point five seconds I have until the signal changes and we all drive away, explain that I am not crazy and it's not what it looks like and even if it is, I'm not crazy-or did I already mention that I'm not crazy? And off they go....Damn!
But now, I have my face saver or should I say ear ring(er)?
When CT passed that "hands free while driving" cell phone law that nobody pays any attention to (we only obey the laws we like. Helps explain the increases in ethical improprieties and sexual peccadilloes) my son got me a blue tooth earpiece. You know the device I mean: it looks a check mark that a left handed person might make if we didn't make them use the one right-handed people use.
I always feel it makes me look like a walk-on in one of the Star Trek TV shows, just not sure which one (and I never rate a speaking part-maybe that's one of the reasons I talk to myself?).
I am not a big fan of these things since they feel and look goofy and I need so little help in either of those departments to start with.
Most of the time, I can't figure out how to answer the phone when I have the thing in my ear, or, conversely, how to hang up when I'm done. Compounding the problem may be that I often forget to turn the earpiece or the phone on, or can't find one or the other (or both). You can't use the earpiece with a toaster oven or a Palm Pilot and you can yell 'HELLO!' at the satellite radio receiver all day but the cell phone will continue to ring. (You do not need to ask how I would know this, okay?)
I just found the earpiece which I had mislaid so long ago I didn't even realize what it was or what it did when I first saw it (my Christopher Columbus impersonation).
As it turns out, I found it at work ('see,' I said to my wife, 'I told you I hadn't lost it.' ).
It's (probably) not charged since that soft blue glow they have while working doesn't come on no matter how often or hard I push the little silver gizmo (all the while saying (out loud, of course), 'don't die, Tinkerbell, don't die!') which is just as well since I'm pretty sure I left the cell phone at home in the living room (perhaps). I'm thinking it's uncharged rather than broken because when could I have broken it? I didn't know where it was.
But now, it doesn't need to be charged, ever.
I just used it and it was perfect for my new purpose. I put it in my right ear as I set off on a quick walk from my office to where I needed to be for a meeting that wasn't (they called to tell me it was cancelled but I didn't answer my cell phone when they rang). Sure enough, from the glances passers-by were giving me, I was (obviously) talking aloud to myself but.......this time, no one was staring because, ta-da!, with the Star Trek blue tooth doo-dad in my ear, they thought I was on the phone. Now I look like the other six billion here on the ant farm.
Beam me up, Scotty, or if you can, take everybody else and leave me here.
PS: Just noticed sometimes there's an advert on the top of the page-a moment ago it was for a product to help people "loose (sic) weight". Somewhere, a Literacy Volunteer weeps......
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Because of various medical maladies, I have to watch what I eat and drink, while mourning the absence of that of which I can no longer consume, and strive to 'hit 10K everyday.'
That is, I make a conscious effort to log ten thousand steps on a daily basis; ideally at a brisk walk (three separate sets of knee surgery have made 'brisk walk' feel like a wind sprint).
I go about this every single day with a grim and joyless determination that would be the envy of all my friends, if I had any.
As summer and its cruel cousin, the Indian one, fades into fall heading into, inexorably, winter, the degree of difficulty for comfortable outdoor walking escalates (the enjoyment went eons ago) and, like many, I head for the Great Indoors. The irony of climbing three sets of stairs to use a stair-climbing machine in the fitness center is not lost on me, but up the stairs I head. The universe's mocking laughter is audible even over the maximum volume of old guy rock and roll playing on my mp3.
Lately, I've been at the fitness center when a treadmill (though they're not called that anymore, are they?) is available. I almost said 'free'. Have you priced these things for home use? Let's hear it for fitness centers. No, seriously, I can wait for a machine. Take your time. I'm not going anywhere, especially after I get on the thing.
I have inordinate respect for, and total fear of, nearly all technology and machinery. I'm not convinced, even after 55 years of life here on the ant farm, that there isn't a conspiracy out to get me despite my being the nicest person on Earth since the Other Perfect Guy was around.
This morning it all converged and almost killed me.
As I started on the thirty minute treadmill workout, the battery in the mp3 player, gamer that it was, finally gave out. That I know all of the music by heart so that I actually NEVER need to hear any of it again is not the point. I had a serious problem, but everything is relative, even though I don't have an aunt or uncle in this state (so much for City Council for them, too).
A problem, I'm told, is really an opportunity to excel. Perhaps for self-help gurus.
Not Mrs. Kenny's oldest son. (Mom has asked I stop calling myself 'Mrs. Kenny's favorite son.' Something about truth in advertising with a threat of cease and desist orders.)
Turns out, the dearth of music wasn't 'serious' at all.
Lurching forward on the treadmill, vainly imitating a normal strider, struggling with a suddenly-dead audio device on my upper left arm, I lost sight of what the treadmill was about, mischievous little ba$tard that it is.
I was in a 'cardio' workout which has something to do with elevating the heart rate (having crummy batteries in my mp3 player was doing a decent job, by the way.) I was suddenly having a very hard time simply staying on the treadmill. I looked down to see an "HR" display of 164, and numbers heading North.
Every step was hard to take and getting harder by the footfall.
That's when I realized there are 'speed' and 'incline' controls on these machines. It wasn't the speed, alone, that was killing me, it was the incline, 13.2 something or others. What am I, a mountain goat?
Because I haven't paid any attention to any of these controls until this moment, I have no idea how they work or how to regain command of the treadmill. Flashing before my eyes is a silent, black and white grainy film clip of me as I lose the fight with both gravity and an incline of 17 point somethings and am whipped away by the ever treading mills of the machine to be flung into the wall ten feet behind the machine, all at a speed approaching sonic. Leaving a blood-soaked smear some four feet up, I slowly slide down, ending up as a pile of sweat-soaked gym clothes, mixed with what looks like hairy strawberry ice cream with toes, until closing time.
The person working out on the next machine in a moment of kindness and humanity I know someday they'll regret, recognizing a 'serious problem' when they saw it, reached over and saved my life. How would you like to have that on your conscience?
It's enough to make you climb twenty or more flights on the stairmaster and make like Gilbert O'Sullivan, leaving me alone again, naturally.
Some absentees probably had notes from their moms and that's fine. Others are part of 21st Century America and its new motto, 'we never close', working other than nine-to-five (Hello, Dolly (Parton)!) jobs. (More than) a few stayed home for the World Series (with the Red Sox).
[About that.....Forum started at 7 PM with the game closer to nine. I guess they feared one or the other ball club might try to steal a march and start early. Based on the final score, I'm still not sure the Rockies realized there was a game last night at all.]
You know how on cookie boxes there's a disclaimer about 'this package is sold by weight and not by volume. Some settling of contents may occur during shipping'? I have a pretty good idea which six people I'm going to vote for but was surprised at how some of the 'contents' of candidates have shifted since I saw them last. I was at times a little unsettled myself at observations offered by those soliciting my vote.
One incumbent intimated to residents of a neighborhood unhappy about a possible zoning change that they should make nice and get a grip on their feelings (and attitudes) when they speak to the City Council (who will make the ultimate decision). He seems to think disrespect is okay when it flows down. At first, I thought 'veiled threat' but then concluded I must have been daydreaming about Vail, Colorado, even though there was no snow and I don't ski.
Still don't know where the goggles and the gloves came from.
Another candidate, speaking about the same issue (an issue that hadn't actually come up in the previous two hours of the forum) remembered from July a "similar situation" to the current zoning unhappiness except his version of those events had to have happened in a parallel universe because many in the room last night were also in Council chambers that night and their memories are starkly different from his.
For both of those alderpersons (and the third incumbent who signed on as a sponsor), I can't help but wonder why the resolution you sponsored (signatures show dates in August) permitting this zoning change, wasn't alluded to at all during the 'development showcase' in September held in Council Chambers that featured all of you on the City Council, the Mayor, the City department directors and many of the local developers working on projects across Norwich. Maybe in all of the excitement of the moment, everyone in the front of the room just forgot about it. Perhaps you, too, were daydreaming about skiing in Vail, or perhaps Sugarloaf?
I'll mull over the notes I've taken from all the conversations those seeking office have had with those of us doing the hiring and see where that leads me. I do appreciate the choices and am grateful for the time and talent each candidate has to bring to the job of Norwich City Council.
I think the stipend for a member of Council is $100 a month? People wearing orange jump suits, making license plates, are getting nearly the same. Of course, City Council members get to go home at night .... unless we've built a pharmacy or a coffee shop across the street from their house (cheer up! here's $1.19, your share of the tax receipts!).
If you're a voter in Norwich, or anywhere (for that matter), find those who fit your vision and make your decision. Please don't NOT vote, okay? If you choose NOT to decide, you still have made a choice.
As we used to say in New Jersey (and they probably still do), 'vote early and often.'
Democracy is a contact sport and staying on the bench isn't getting into the game.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
We have confused notoriety and celebrity with fame. How else to explain the disproportionate portioning of attention to the Jerry Springer Show or the actions of media panda bears like Paris Hilton (panda bears are a much better symbol of the USA than the bald eagle. They have little to no purpose except to cause us to wrinkle our noses in amusement and say 'awwww.') in comparison to the efforts of a uniformed nineteen year-old in our military standing in the open door of a helicopter gunship over Baghdad or, back home, a teacher working with an immigrant youngster in a reading class at Norwich's Bishop School.
The neatest thing about all-news TV and radio and 'news' websites is EVERYTHING becomes equally important. After all, it ALL shows up with BIG graphics and dramatic music (thank you, Faux Gnus... Motto: "Cheerleaders instead of news readers! Yay, us!"). After awhile, MEGO (my eyes glaze over) and the electronic trance becomes just so much static and hum.
For many of us, it's vital to know Clay Aiken got into a punch-up with someone on an airplane or that Britney Spears is no longer on speaking terms with her undergarments. Why we think it's important is a little tricky, though.
MORE Americans can tell you who the three finalists on American Idol were than can name the Senate Majority Leader or the Speaker of the House....Not only because our fellow citizens don't know, but because they have little idea how to evaluate information in terms of relative importance and applicability to their own lives. (Say "Pelosi" and many will say 'oh yeah, I've heard that name'; they just don't have a context to place it in.)
Probably just me-but in July I boycotted ALL of the Live Green Save the Planet (for dessert) posturing because I just can't get behind badly-played albeit sincerely-intentioned live music requiring MORE electricity to power amps and lights than all the deceased children in Darfur could have used had they all been able to grow up and go to Harvard.
Assuming (of course) their nomadic tribes had moved to where there was food (Please buy the Darfur benefit CD so Avril Lavigne can feel good about ruining John Lennon's "Imagine" for a generation who has NO idea who Lennon is). WAITAMINIT! Maybe Lennon was sitting along side of Clay on the plane. Or giving bamboo leaves made from plastic dog food to the pandas while Ellen wept!?
"Imagine there's no real news.
We know that you can't tell.
A Paris from a George Bush-
If the world has gone to hell.
Imagine all the I-Pods
Blaring out electric trance,
You may think that I'm a cynic-but so what, I can dance."
Licensed from Yoko Ono's "The Dream Is Over" Foundation.
I'm on the Back Nine with OJ right now, looking for the real killers.
Between the lines, it's clear all you really need to know about the candidate is that he's NOT from here (and the letter writer most certainly is). "You may look like we do, and talk like we do-but you know what it is? You're not one of us."- Peter Gabriel (who, for the record, is ALSO not from here)
I don't know what to think when nativists make place of birth a litmus test, probably because I'm not from here, either. I have lived here for 16 years (my neighbors might add "only?" and I can understand why) so if I'm an interloper who thinks we should be more concerned with IDEAs and less so with whomever is having them (and their politics, place of birth, or hair or eye color), I hope I can be forgiven though I'm NOT seeking forgiveness.
It seems to me, the NKIN (New Kid In Norwich), the letter writer should withhold an endorsement of the candidate's parents, since they were responsible for his not being born here. Watching for all these years as homegrown, well-intentioned folks try their hand at City Council, I'm not sure why "being from here" is a virtue, trumping any and all discussion of all others. It sure doesn't seem to be much of an advantage, at least to those who live here now.
Perhaps all of us, everywhere, should start to wear labels, affixed to our shirts or blouses, like the first graders have, "I ride the #6 bus." Especially since, around here, it seems so many of us are waiting for a bus, or something, to show up and rescue us from a city we've created both by our actions and inactions.
Again, maybe the NKIN talking, we need all the help we can get. I, for one, welcome all hands to the wheel as we struggle to reinvent Norwich for ourselves and our children.
-TOB Kenny ('the other Bill')
Monday, October 22, 2007
Into all of this comes Dumbledore....reminding me mostly of the uproar about Murphy Brown, VP Dan Quayle and our ability as voters to confuse sizzle with steak. As if we didn't have enough folks already going to the barricades on every side of the issue in connection with Harry Potter, we can now add this.
As a middle-aged, married guy, I get awkward with discussions about, or with, real people and their sexuality. My need to NOT know is greater than anyone's need to tell me. Not sure why I would want to borrow trouble and get in a discussion on the sexual orientation or preference of an imaginary person. Dumbledore is make-believe, right?
Sometimes I get him confused with the Vice President of the USA, who is real, as I understand it, but quite often is in an "undisclosed location."
Imaginary people have disquieted me since my invisible childhood friend, "Marty", stopped talking to my evil twin, Skippy. In the lifetime since that happened, it doesn't look like it's been a cakewalk for anybody else, either.
Perhaps Dumbledore could help OJ look for the 'real killers' or assist Lindsay in drying out.
Now, even less-than-real people get 15 minutes of fame.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
She has suggested, that, at times it feels a lot longer than thirty years, but I suspect (hope) that's because she's German and the Germans use the metric system of measurement. That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.
I met her on Christmas night the year before we married and actually knew the moment I saw her I would marry her.
May well be the last time in my life I've been right-but certainly picked a good moment for it.
I am married to her for these thirty years for a thousand reasons-- and for all the same reasons I married her thirty years ago. Why she ever agreed to marry me is one of the great, unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century, but I am beyond grateful for how it has worked out.
Growing up, I couldn't imagine myself married-and based on the relationships I had (in terms of length and intensity), neither could anyone else.
And now, I cannot think of myself unless it's as a husband and a father.
Anytime I've paused on the Human Highway to feel sorry for myself (I do spend a lot of time in the breakdown lane, come to think of it), I marvel at the remarkable good fortune I have had to be in love with, and loved by, another person who loves me, despite myself.
I've tried to calculate the number of twists and turns in each of our lives that had to happen for she and I to meet and marry. Talk about the Bridge Over San Luis Rey.
It has been a marvelous thirty years, and it seems like only yesterday to me.
I can only hope tomorrow will be as wonderful as every day has been until we get there.
Friday, October 19, 2007
We spend more to incarcerate people than we do to educate them in the elementary school system.
In CT, building and filling jails is a growth industry, and the state will actually pay municipalities for siting a prison within their boundaries.
Instead of complementing the universe opened through applied technology for education, we leave our children alone with a machine, the personal computer, more fraught with peril than the TV our parents were blamed for plopping us in front of.
And then we 'wonder and worry about the kids.'
Heck, that black and white one-eyed monster had neither the sex nor murder cacading from it that the flat screen monitor with the DSL hookup or T-3 line brings to our kids 24/7.
This is the Brave New World, Pilgrim, so put on a brave new world face.
We're very good at starting projects in Norwich, and announcing, simultaneously, that 'we've turned the corner.' (In the last decade and a half, by my reckoning, we've turned the corner so often, we've squared the block-at least twice.)
The Wauregan certainly seems like a nice building.
And for what it cost to rehabilitate, I suppose it should.
Nicely painted walls, beautifully polished floors, extremely well-lit ballroom (site of the forum) with, literally, every incandescent light in the room on. I don't think there's air-conditioning in the ballroom as the forum organizer turned on a large fan BEFORE the session started (I'll spare all of us the 'hot air' joke, because I'm just a great guy) and the ten folks seeking six Council seats huddled together on a slightly too-small stage as we, ranging from the curious to/through the easily bemused, sat in equally uncomfortable chairs staring at them.
Maybe just me--I don't think there was anyone in the audience there accidentally so it's a safe bet we know who you are, and why you're on stage. The candidates only have a few moments to speak to very complicated issues so don't waste what little time there is on a personal history that is, at best, tangential to the task at hand. I don't care if you were born here or left here by the dingos.
We're all 'from here' now and if we want to our little non-profit corporation, Norwich Inc., to be successful, we need to set about planning our work and working our plan.
I've read where Abraham Lincoln, at some point, stayed in The Wauregan Hotel but I didn't feel his spirit wandering the ballroom yesterday, despite the earnest company at the front of the room.
What I found interesting was the idea some candidates advanced that an elected Zoning Board of Appeals might be an attractive alternative to the current charter-mandated City Council as ZBA.
We are fortunate this year in Norwich in that we have ten people seeking one of six seats on the City Council. But as has been the case in recent years, we continue to have exactly nine people for the nine seats on the Board of Education.
I bring this up because I'm not really sure I understand where the folks who will volunteer to run for the ZBA are supposed to be or what will motivate them to seek this position.
From what I heard last night, no one has extended the thought process that far so the conclusion, assuming we ever have one, will be a surprise (hopefully, pleasant but perhaps not so) in a city of about 37,000 souls who often are more pessimistic than they should be, having decided the joy of pessimism is that you can only be surprised, and never disappointed.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Don't get me wrong.
I understood the context in which she cried.
My question: why is this piffle anywhere near a "news" program?
Did OJ Simpson call in sick?
We've got Lindsay, Paris, Britney and who knows how many others, all calling shotgun in the media clown car known as AADDT, American Attention Deficit Disorder Theater. Nobody gets it like we do-and there's no cure for it, it seems.
Now we've added Ellen DeGeneres to the roster.
Did anyone else think it was a slow newsday?
I mean, there's still a war in Iraq, right?
We've still got helpless and hapless (not to mention) hopeless people in Darfur, Mogadishu, Kirkuk and other cities around the globe, at least when I last checked.
Do we not have 42.8 million Americans with NO health insurance or skyrocketing oil prices crippling our standard of living and threatening the global invisible poor with silent extinction?
And into all of this we roll a TV personality who has a problem with an animal adoption agency that reduces her to tears, while thousands of on-line looners pick sides?
I'd ask 'are we crazy?'-but I already know the answer.
I'm just trying to figure out how to change the question.
Send us all to our 'time out corner' for the next twenty minutes.
Suspect we'll be cutting a deal for Dylan and Platinum Mastercard any day now.
"Wherever your boot heels may wander....Mastercard."
Yoko Ono leasing the likeness of John Lennon for American Express:
"Imagine you've no billfold/And no spending green
No way to pay for dinner/or the snacks in between.
Imagine empty wallets....It's enough to make you cry
But with our branded plastic/You can always buy..."
Meanwhile, we can accept things in the abstract that in the reality of here and now wouldn't work. I watch it happen here in Norwich all the time. Everyone wants to see his/her property taxes lowered, but no one wants "the character of their neighborhood to be destroyed" or "allow a commercial overlay zone to create an opportunity" to build a Starbucks next to our houses (pick one or sometimes, more than one).
We agree someone should take one for the team--YOU go first.
We all want to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.
We've bought in on a mantra that "government is nothing more than a rapacious appetite combined with an over active alimentary canal" (Thanks,Great Communicator!).
We want our taxes to go down but we want everything we have and we also want it to cost less and work better and don't tell us it cannot be done, or we will not vote for you. Ever.
At the national level we've invested billions to build armed forces that are brilliant in fighting conventional militaries (the Iraq army evaporated under staggering body blows within days of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom), but there are no conventional militarys left.
Now we know how the British Empire felt squaring off against farmers hiding behind rocks at Concord and Lexington. We think of Ethan Allen not only as a great furniture retailer but as a
Green Mountain boy--suspect the Brits used the words traitor and brigand.
And the shifting of the "world order" has been complicated by our lack of agility in reordering our priorities. In a decade's time, if we're not careful (and we're not), we'll spend all of our money on social security, healthcare, armament and debt service. There's just no money for anything else.
Schools? Do our children look like they have a sense of history now?
Take a look at the text messages they send you on your phone--not exactly English and if Mickey D's didn't have pictures of the menu items on the cash register, they'd have no idea how to make change for a dollar....
Infrastructure? We don't need no stinking infrastructure! Sure the roads have potholes, the sewer system is antiquated and don't even think about power lines through my backyard (oh that's okay, I don't live in Fairfield County where such needs are great but possibilities remote).
The last thing the USA needed as we entered the 21st Century was a Global War On Terrorism-we cannot afford it and we cannot afford to NOT have it. I smile (actually grimace) when I read about concerns voiced by many well-meaning people on the money 'spent on the GWOT we could use elsewhere'. What did Albert Einstein say about matter being neither created or destroyed? (He never saw Pimp My Ride, I guess.)
And that's where the abstract meets the real...we can pretend that money would have gone into pick something, or more than one something, makes no difference "if not for the GWOT", but we wouldn't have done it. Last year's candidate for a CT Senate seat always talked about what we could be buying in the USA with the billion dollars a day we were spending in Iraq, as if that might have ever happened....
Americans bought in on James Turner's Manifest Destiny, but we've stopped reading it--good thing, since it looks like someone's putting the chairs on the table and turning on the houselights. What'd the bartender just say? Something about you don't have to go home, but you do have to go. Where is Joseph Heller and Yossarian now at Closing Time?
Almost works, except I fear we've lost our way.
"We came on a ship they called the Mayflower/We came on a ship that touched the moon. We came in the age's most uncertain hour and we sing an American tune."
Maybe we can get Paul Simon a gas card endorsement. Heck, people are still gonna drive, right?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Aside from elevating one another's blood pressure what are we hoping to accomplish in Norwich to grow our commercial tax base?
That's actually a Zen riddle, of sorts, because, as it is right now, we're doing absolutely nothing.
People prefer a problem that's familiar to a solution that is not.
We in Norwich continue to be less than thrilled at developers with requests for zoning applications that create 'spot zoning' (and we are NOT without real reasons for this unhappiness).
We are angry our charter doesn't allow our City Council, when serving as the Zoning Board of Appeals, to offer or collect community comment beyond the night of a zoning hearing, and we like being angry about this as well.
But, instead of a concerted effort to reassess how we accomplish economic development and community zoning (process and product) (and we have a Commission on the City Plan who've shouted themselves hoarse in trying to accomplish just this), we point fingers at one another. The problem with all that finger-pointing is three fingers on the hand point back at ourselves.
Choose a path to encourage smart growth (= let the Commission on the City Plan advise the City Council? Sounds good to me.) Make it transparent and equitable and then apply it.
If it needs to be tweaked, work on it (and with it) to repair it. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Stop confusing 'busy' with 'productive.' We NEVER have time to get things right the first time, but we always make time to do them over.
Community zoning and economic growth aren't just about property and opportunity-they are about people's lives and increasing the quality of them. It's hard to imagine a greater 'good' for government, at any level, or a greater need for it than right now.
More than a little confused by 'only'. I don't know how many is the 'right' number of responses since, to me, it's very much uncharted waters. As an example: my spouse and I are married thirty years later this week. I believe mine was the 'only' proposal of marriage tendered. In this case, "one" was the correct number (and, wrote Harry Nilsson and sang Three Dog Night, 'it's the loneliest number that you'll ever do.')
I'd hope all of us in Norwich, especially the talented volunteers who serve on the Hospital Advisory Board, are looking at quality and not getting disturbed or distracted about quantity.
So often we see everything as a race, or a zero-sum game.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Except, there are nine seats on the Board and there are nine candidates running.
In essence, if you were nominated by your party, you're in.
Why spend money for lawn signs to encourage people to vote for a foregone conclusion, a pre-ordained outcome? And if you must, how about: "Go, Gravity! Don't Fight It!" or "Darkness. Not just for night time anymore" and/or other blinding glimpses of the obvious.
The Board of Education has, almost by default, as its primary job the cost containment and management (on behalf of Norwich taxpayers) of the education budget--a HUGE investment or expenditure (depending on which side of the budget issue you are standing).
And as a taxpayer, I appreciate the care and caution the Board members show when it comes to my money. And yet, in this instance at least two of them seem to have so little regard for their OWN money in terms of buying signs to speed the inevitable that I have to hope, more so than believe, that this year they will still maintain a wary eye in watching the education budget in a city where actual growth, in terms of an expanded grand list is getting more difficult to maintain. My trouble, ultimately, is that hope is NOT a plan.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
New signs insisting on the right to do with their property what they wish, possibly from those who've sold options to developers, angry at 'the select few' (as their sign says) who insist this commercial endeavor be turned away.
Another sign boasts about the increase in tax revenues and the additional (service) jobs a new mini-sprawl, I meant mini-mall, will bring to Norwich (even though the pharmacy hailed as 'new' will be the existing one from across town.)
Jobs, much like Einstein's matter, can neither be created nor destroyed, at least in development models. If we take six inches from the front of the blanket and put it on the back, the blanket is NOT a foot longer. Let's hope we do NOT need a thirty seven minute powerpoint slide show Monday night at Norwich City Hall for that to be understood.
Everyone's signs ignore, or seem to, our inability to look ahead and plan accordingly.
When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.
Right now, most of us think any movement, even the circles in which we are turning, is the same thing as direction. Most don't know the difference between smart growth and economic development (all ducks ARE birds but not all birds are ducks) and until we learn that, we're fated to waste a lot of time thinking we're having a contest between 'property rights' and 'NIMBY'.
It's not really what it's about.
Meanwhile, those whose agenda is not and will NEVER be that of advancement and enhancement of Norwich's economic basis will prosper while residents remain reactive instead of proactive.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Was disappointed the forum moderator, advised BEFORE the forum's start about the prohibition suggested by corporation counsel on comment, noted that he still intended to ask all candidates about the project (and damn the consequences?).
Big Flick: When the process of governance is structured so that the members, and potential members, of the City Council cannot speak to and with the people whose votes they seek on an issue of importance to all of us (the Council, by City Charter, also serves as the Zoning Board of Appeals), then the process is BROKEN and needs to be repaired-not patched and not worked around.
That a local newspaper reporter would, regardless of consequences, still attempt to solicit (some might say 'provoke') comments that could disqualify members of Council from participating in this decision after the next Council is seated is, and should be, shameful for the reporter, his newspaper that hosted the forum and this blog (for that matter) and for all of us in Norwich.
Half-full or half-empty: I counted close to seventy people at Thursday night's forum (don't know how many were friends, spouses or parole officers of the candidates) which, in light of turnout at other foums in the past is heartening, I guess. Except, Norwich is a city of close to 37,000 residents-leading me to wonder where everyone else was/is.
Was that new episode of "Ugly Betty" really that important you had to stay home and watch it?
Shape of things to come: Turnout in recent elections, to include hotly contested Congressional races rarely exceeds 25% of all registered voters. And yet the callers to local radio shows on a daily basis overwhelm the switchboards as they offer insight and insist on their right to be heard (and heeded, I suspect). It takes a lot more energy to be a light than a horn a mechanic once told me. Perhaps call-in radio programs need to develop a test to make sure callers have actually voted in elections before they get to voice their opinions.
Democracy is a contact sport and you cannot win if you do not play.