Saturday, January 24, 2009

Similar to how sausage is made

An advantage to life in a small town is the proximity to the mechanism and levers of local government. In a city the size of Norwich, Connecticut, about 36,000, I know a goodly number of the people on the primary bodies of governance and policy, like the City Council and the Board of Education as well as many who are part of of the forty-two Advisories, Boards, Commissions and Committees in Norwich (that includes the now-defunct Ethics Review Committee, who turned in their recommendations in mid-March, and have waited for the City Council to outline specific concerns its members have since then. Godot will be here before those concerns are shared. Take your time, Aldermen, November elections will be here soon enough. I, truth be told, never actually put the broom back in the cupboard, so there's no extra effort).

In our state legislative chambers, you read of a decision that, as you examine the issue, makes close to no sense. Suddenly, our neighbors-- the ones we elected to speak and act for us in "Big Town"-- become 'them' and 'those guys' and often something even less kind as a descriptive. That's why I try to attend at least one 'not so splashy a deal' meeting every week in Norwich, so I can appreciate the process and all the people who use it to create progress even as our city's leaders talk about 'The Big Picture.'

Excellent example this week was the Thursday Sachem Fund Board meeting. The Sachem Fund is a partnership between the City of Norwich and the Mohegan Tribe to create a funding resource for targeted initiatives across a spectrum of community, artistic and economic areas in Norwich. I'm pretty sure nobody else has a fund like this. It's a unique and pretty nifty arrangement for getting big things done in small ways.

Thursday's meeting was 'special' (= not regularly scheduled) because the Semiseptcentennial Committee had requested money for their ongoing efforts to celebrate the Rose City's 350th Anniversary (which is now 135 days from beginning, by the way). You can check out one of the local paper's accounts here, as well as the other one (but this one becomes a pay for play item in a couple of days) and it was illuminating and instructive to watch people who meant well try to do well, as they see it and within the parameters of their own rules and requirements.

Money makes the world go round (and that's money with an 'm') and it's what's needed (in large amounts) if Norwich Harbor is to be filled with Tall Ships this summer so that the Rose City can be filled with visitors. Getting the process to generate an appropriate product can be problematic. And while we struggle with the size and scope of a challenge, despite efforts to the contrary, often we succeed in only changing its shape. "While money doesn't talk, it swears."
-bill kenny

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