Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kick out the Smiles, Bring back the Jams

What brought you to the polls last November? If, like me, you live in Norwich, perhaps it was a desire for something close to tabla rasa in terms of starting over with the membership of the Norwich City Council. The people seeking re-election were all good people, but even good people can disagree about the way ahead and for some of them, and ALL of me, how they had read the City Charter in terms of the division of responsibilities between a Mayor and a City Manager became a critical issue.

I had a bit of an insight into the City Charter having been on the last Charter Revision Commission with some very bright and well-intentioned residents (I often thought I was on as some kind of a practical joke that no one else got, except sometimes I think they did) and a lot of good things came out of months of hearings, reviews and research. I don't think anyone on the Commission had any illusion that we were to be the 'final' commission or that our suggestions would be the last word for all time on the City Charter. Events since the adoption of most of those recommendations, at a special election in March 2001, have shown the truth of that belief.

All of that gets us to this past Monday night where three of our current City Council members went on record to ask their colleagues to consider the hire of a professional consultant to review the entire city charter and make recommendations for changes. Thank you, Messrs Bettencourt, Coutu and Zarnetske for following through on a promise and premise advanced during the election campaign.

I'm hoping there will be unanimous support by the entire Norwich City Council for this idea and I am confident that there will be. I have no pre-conceived notions on what a consultant may suggest, or NOT suggest. I've discovered that I don't know what I don't know and suspect sometimes those (at all levels of government and society) who yell the loudest, know the least. I feel chastened if you thought of me as you read that sentence, and will strive to not only be better but to do better.

Meanwhile, government, if it's to effectively and fairly serve the people for whose benefit it was created, should, on a regular basis, be evaluated for how it does business and where/how/if improvements can, and should, be made. Remember: the Constitution was designed to be amended, not the Ten Commandments. The City Charter is, in effect, the operating manual for the city of Norwich, and as conditions evolve and change occurs, the manual may need to be examined and refined and revised.

We, or at least I, in Norwich insisted on change when we (I) chose those whom we (I) elected to City Council this past November. Those seeking office promised us (me) during that campaign to reach across party lines and old habits and customs and work together for the benefit of all. I left the voting booth in November with more hope than I'd had very possibly since the birth of my children (deal with God and promise of a better tomorrow and all that New Dad stuff).
I've watched this City Council carefully since they were seated in early December and my optimism, thanks to initiatives like this one, continues to grow.
Accomplishing an impartial analysis of the City Charter is a critical first step in accelerating and speeding the changes and improvements we (I) supported in November.
Now if we could just do something about these pesky parentheses, (), see?-life would be a dream, sha-boom, sha-boom.
-bill kenny

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