Friday, February 22, 2008

"Two Men Say They're Jesus/One of Them Must be Wrong"

How do you disagree and not be disagreeable? In my house, my wife and I rarely go to bed angry at each other. We're both insomniacs. Actually, as I've been forced to concede in the course of thirty years of marriage, she knows everything and she knows everything better. ;-)
The only thing I know is not to argue with her since I always wind up in the deep end of the pool without a swim vest. Kidding aside, the two of us, as is so often the case for people in a partnership, have so much more in common than what separates us, agreement is easier to achieve and happens almost without thinking (which, she has suggested, is right up my alley. Yes, dear). Actually this is usually how situations are, regardless of the nature, or size, of the partnership when the relationship is healthy.

I mention this because I attended a meeting of most, though not all, members of the Norwich City Council last night as they attempted, within what they see as the limitations of the Freedom of Information Act, to develop a coherent strategy and operating philosophy to share with their sole employee, the City Manager, on how he should develop the next Norwich City Budget. "They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast." Don't know how things are where you live, but during the 'go-go' years of the late Nineties, when everyone was making and taking money home in wheelbarrows, it was a bit slower here in The Rose of New England. As one person phrased it, in another context, 'the rising tide of prosperity has not lifted all boats.' We have a marina and people say God has no sense of irony.....

As a matter of fact, the marina could soon have an eighteen-story Hilton hotel as well (as Paris learned Every Picture Tells a Story and eighteen would sure be a bunch, huh?), because as the lady running the Norwich Semiseptennial explained last month while outlining a proposed 750K budget for the event, "Norwich and the two casinos (Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods) are three major regional tourist attractions." Yeah. You know how everyone is suddenly so 'green'? Good news as many hotel guests will get a bird's eye view of how metal oxidizes while staring at the junkyard. They’ll come like moths to a flame drawn by another magnet-like regional attraction. Poor choice of descriptives, perhaps? Does the Sierra Club offer a Michelin Guide? I smell two stars.....

Back at the not-quite-a-council meeting, it opened with six of the seven members present but with one explaining, angrily (I thought), that he was only here because he wasn't feeling well and would've otherwise been out of town while adding, though no one had asked, that another absent council member had a previously scheduled family event (I think he meant the event was previously scheduled and not necessarily the family but you can get just about anything on line these days). He complained about a letter that he didn't support and accused unnamed members on the City Council, in drafting it, of a lack of teamwork, which he found especially galling he noted, because 'that's what everybody talked about during the election.' Then, having expressed his opinion to everyone, he left, before they could reciprocate.

Actually I recall discussions last election about defining powers and responsibilities, about ethical behavior and the need for open communications, about a desire to examine the city's charter and restoring faith in local government, as well as about teamwork (which sounded last night when first raised as a call for 'groupthink' which is partially responsible for how we all got here, imho). I'm not sure seeking a better way to do the people's business ISN'T an example of teamwork, but I'm wrong so often, why not now?

I appreciated the attempt at a consensus, which I saw as the meeting's primary goal and result. For too long, too many have seen city government as something done to us and not for us. If the purpose of all attendees last night (to include the audience) was to frame the context and criteria for the next budget, regardless of the number of signatures on a letter, the meeting was a success.
Someone in Norwich should speak and act for those who live here-that's why I voted for the members of the City Council I did. I thank them, together with the City Manager and his staff, for beginning a difficult discussion whose repercussions and impact will touch every resident.
"
The work force is disgusted, downs tools and walks. Innocence is injured, experience just talks."
-bill kenny

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