Monday, June 8, 2009

Jetzt Wird's Ernst

Sometimes I have to borrow from someone else's language to capture the flavor of where we are and what we're doing (or not doing) and that's how it is this time around when I look at the municipal meetings this week in Norwich.

With the legislative and executive branches of the state government unable to agree on a budget, across the state, there's not much maneuvering room left for municipalities who, by their own charters have to have budgets in place REAL SOON as opposed to the state, that can, if it so desires (and this year it may not have any choice) work on enabling (the Federal government calls them continuing) resolutions. Good session in Hartford and applause all around, really.

We almost, but not quite, had a law banning open cans of beer and bottles of liquor in our automobiles (here's a great piece of trivia: Connecticut ranks 7th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of auto accidents (37%) involving alcohol. I'd prefer we talked about a high percentage of our children going on to college or home ownership statistics, but this will have to do, I guess), but tradition was stronger than concerns for safety. Besides, and ignore my cynicism, it's a law that, like the cell phones in cars law, most of us would have ignored anyway and let's face it, there's more law than the police can effectively enforce now, that's why we have 'speed limits enforced by aircraft' (I love that sign; I only wish it said dirigible instead of aircraft. Bet we'd slow down if we thought the Hindenburg was shadowing us).

Anyway, without a state budget, our cities and towns could end up like that news clip, which is why the Norwich City Council is holding a special meeting tonight starting at seven, as noted here, to approve "A" budget, if not "THE" budget. The City Council will consider adapting and modifying the City Manager's proposed 2009-2010 budget (Here's the Cliff Note's version; it's a lot shorter ) and the alderpersons have their work cut out for them. As you can see by the agenda, there's citizen's comment BEFORE and AFTER the Council has done its job. If you speak before the council deliberates in the hopes of influencing them, remember 'blessed are the brief for they shall be invited back.' Please don't BE unhappy as we've had a boxcar of opportunities to speak publicly on the budget and if you chose not to, thanks for the silence.

There's tons of other stuff going on this week to include a pair of Board of Education meetings on Tuesday, a Policy Committee meeting at 3:30 in the Central Office and a regular monthly Board meeting at 5:30 in Kelly Middle School. Of course, as always seems to be the case, when you seek minutes of previous Board of Education meetings (we're having a special on March it seems), or those of their subcommittees you'll more easily find the Holy Grail being fought over by Carmen San Diego and Waldo as NONE of that information is ever extant on the Norwich's Board of Education website. Accountability can be such a drag. "I used to be disgusted. Now I try to be amused."

Also Tuesday, but more likely at seven at night than as listed on the city's website as seven in the morning is a regular meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals. I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating (I hope) when you look at the number of 'citizen committees' we have in Norwich, it's heartening to see how much involvement there is. I'm not sure why that same sense of 'I'll roll up my sleeves and lend a hand' spirit doesn't seem to carry over to voting, but we have quite a few helping hands doing what they can to make local government work.

Wednesday morning at a quarter of nine next door to City Hall, at 23 Union Street, in their 2nd floor conference room is a regular meeting of the Rehabilitation Review Committee, whose last regular meeting may have been in February, or not, as neither the minutes nor agenda are close to current in postings on the city's website.

Wednesday evening at six there's a meeting of the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority who, if May's meeting minutes are an accurate indicator, may be close to being contacted by the Guinness people for speed in which meetings are conducted. Out of curiosity, while I'm pleased the UCONN vs. Pitt baseball game 'had a good response', I'd be happier if I knew how many folks had been in the stands. Senator Dodd Stadium is about to no longer be the home of Eastern League baseball, but is still going to cost money to maintain and I think all of us in Norwich already know who the source of last recourse for funding is. So the more events that generate fans in the stands, the better.

Also Wednesday, at 7 PM, at American Ambulance, is a regular meeting of the Public Safety Sub-Committee of the City Council. They have some quality of life issues they get involved in that are sticky, to say the least. Take a look at May's meeting minutes on sharing the streets with mini-bikes. I think a lot of us see things every day and say to ourselves, or one another, 'somebody ought to call a cop.' And a lot of times, folks do, but in some situations, it's not a law enforcement concern or, even, a public safety issue, so much as it's a manner of how you're bringing up your children. When we don't teach responsibility and cooperation, and sometimes we don't, we risk raising children who grow into the same thoughtless adults their parents are accused of being. Yeah, it takes a village to raise a child-but it takes parents to do most of the heavy lifting. You've got to be carefully taught.

So be careful this week, but not too careful, okay? Yes, there's 350th Anniversary events all around you this week, so enjoy them but try to find the time to own a piece of your own city government and make some history of your own.
-bill kenny

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