Monday, February 16, 2009

Sing this all together (see what happens)

I'm wondering if we might not have better and (or?) more productive meetings, from the local municipal level right through to hearings in the Senate or House chambers if we staged them as musicals. If we were Singing the Dolphin Through, perhaps our actions would make more sense, or then again, perhaps not-but they'd be more entertaining. At least here in The Rose of New England, Norwich, CT , where we, on more occasions than we'd like to admit, seem more like a cast party from a Gilbert and Sullivan production.

On tap for tonight at 6:30 in the DAV room of the Buckingham Memorial (near the Otis Library) will be an effort to resuscitate the Greater Norwich Veterans Council. I heard it about in an email from State Representative Christopher Coutu and imagine if you need more information, you can contact him. Our international adventures in recent years are producing Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers and Marines who are returning to CivLife with very different needs for reintegration than any generation since Vietnam. If you are a veteran or have an interest in how we treat those who serve in our defense, this could be worth your attention be it for you, a family member or your city.

Tuesday night at seven is a meeting on the Commission of the City Plan that among other topics looks like the next chapter in the discussion on the Bentley Avenue "Sober House" that started out below the neighbors' radar (but didn't stay there) as well a request to start the bonding process to buy the 'old' Simon Ford property (and take it from the tax rolls) to build a new police station we don't have the money to construct (yet. But that Powerball investment could pay off at any time. Gluck auf!)

I'm still trying to understand why, at their last meeting, the City Council went into Executive Session to talk about this property purchase. As I understand the rules for Executive Session, everyone has long known this is the #1 site for the new police station and that we can bond up to 800K without going to a referendum (and we sure aren't planning on doing that, are we?). So, with all the elements already known, why the secrecy of Executive Session? There is no other location and 800K is all the money we have. I'm assuming we did out of force of habit. As I read the CCP agenda there is NO provision for public comment except during public hearings and there are NO public hearings listed.

Also Tuesday at seven (which is a theme), it would appear there's a meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (all of whose members are, I assume, in the Witness Relocation Program because they're not listed on the city's website) perhaps in the Otis Library and perhaps not because aren't any recent meeting minutes or agendas. Helps explain some of the questions I've always had about goings on, and lack thereof, in "Down City."

At seven (there's a surprise, right?) in room 206 of City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board, whose efforts, in light of the continuing economic turbulence, are, I'm sure, appreciated by those whose investments and pensions those efforts protect (btw, minutes of your meetings on the city's website would not only be nice, it's also the law).

The City Council meeting, normally on Monday has been rescheduled for (wait for it) Tuesday at seven because of the President's Day holiday and starts with an informational session at 6:30 on an item that shows up as resolution five on the agenda. I mentioned earlier the purchase of property for a new police station. On the council's meeting agenda as a Petition and Communication #1 is a different approach to policing from the "Community Committee" (I googled "Ferris By the River" and came up with zilch).

Oh yeah, quick critique: the draft minutes of the 2 February City Council meeting are superb!! The rendering of remarks delivered by two aldermen, under a suspension of the rules early in the meeting, is one of the finest editing jobs I've ever encountered. Not one scintilla of cloying self-pity or feigned injury in getting caught red-handed by the local newspaper (which was really what both speakers were all about), clearly evident to anyone watching the council meeting, remains in the draft at all. A casual reader would conclude we had just another night in the Rose City Circus.

At 8:30 Wednesday morning it's a meeting of the Southeastern CT Regional Council of Governments, whose agenda isn't posted, but whose minutes from special meetings with Senator Dodd and Representative Courtney are. "Regionalization" and "Sharing Resources" are the 2009 fiscal buzzwords--and these folks have been walking the walk while the rest of us have been learning the talk for a long time. Sorry we took so long to get here, and thanks for waiting.

Also Wednesday morning at nine o'clock (okay, a different Wednesday and a different o'clock), in the meeting room of the Dime Bank at 290 Salem Turnpike is a meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First). I guess the name encompasses both the agenda and the accomplishments, but it would be nice to have some specifics, though none are presented. I am quite taken at a listing of past and future contributors; I'm not sure how they know what they know, but I hope their confidence is contagious.

Thursday, at 5 in Room 210 of City Hall is a regular meeting of the Historic District Commission. I know the members are our neighbors, but wouldn't it be cool, just a little bit, if they held their meetings in costume, sort of as an homage to the Semiseptcentennial (without the Tall Ships, of course), complete with powdered wigs? Just a thought as you review the draft minutes of their 22 January meeting.

Later Thursday, at 6 in their conference room at the Ice Rink is a regular meeting of the Ice Arena Authority. Perhaps due to global warming, neither minutes of previous meetings nor a copy of this meeting's agenda are on the city's website. Were those polar bears I just saw drinking a soda? One of them was smiling!?! Good Lord, did he eat Bill Cosby? (The line between the South Pole and South Park grows ever thinner, as I well know.)

And coincidence being the way it is, the chairperson of the Norwich Ethics Review Committee which turned in its final report to the City Council eleven months ago, and sat with the alderpersons in September in a workshop that accomplished nothing, has been tireless in pressing the City Council to do something about this report. Meanwhile, we've all spent recent weeks reading local newspapers as the 350th Anniversary looked less and less like a civic celebration and more like well, I don't know what, but it's rather messy and hard to pronounce. Perceptions of reality are reality, a professional porcine wrestler once told me and I believe him.

That being the case, perhaps because of, or maybe despite that, Thursday night at seven the City Manager and the City Council will hold a workshop, seemingly with one another in room 335 of City Hall (the big room with the lousy acoustics where no one on the Sachem Fund Board last month could hear any of Lottie Scott's misgivings. How will Claire B. be able to hear anyone sing her 'Happy Birthday'? ) for a discussion of the Ethics Report. Congratulations Mr. Larry G on never giving up.

I'm sure whoever attends from the Ethics Review Committee will be helping a grateful (if admittedly reluctantly grateful) Council. To me, in light of the effort made by the Ethics Review Committee already, this workshop is like deciding because you need to lose weight, I should take up jogging (and you look marvelous, really you do). "Sun turnin' 'round with graceful motion.We're setting off with soft explosion. Bound for a star with fiery oceans. It's so very lonely, you're a hundred light years from home."
-bill kenny

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