Monday, September 7, 2009

Outside It's a Bright Night (Norwich Meetings 8-11 September)

This week in the Rose City and in towns all across The Nutmeg State there will be a lot of tinkering with municipal budgets developed, debated and deliberated upon during the spring that took effect by state statute on 1 July, even though the State of Connecticut had no budget.

Then last week, there it was, a state budget and now our elected local leaders get to disassemble our budgets and make due with even less as almost everyone ended up with less money than had been forecast. What's that tee-shirt say, 'bi-partisan fecklessness happens'? You betcha.

It's against this background of increased financial exigency that our neighbors assemble this week for a variety of meetings that touch on just about every subject and aspect of living in the greatest city in Connecticut.*

Today, if you have the time off from work enjoy it; if you have to work because of the nature of what you do, thank you. And as few of us who can be in this scenario, the better.

Tuesday begins almost literally and figuratively at 8 AM with a meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments Executive Committee in their building in the Norwich Business Park. There's no agenda posted, and I know you know how surprised I am by that, but here's the August meeting minutes. Lots of people talk about 'working together' and 'learning to think regionally' but SCCOG attempts to turn words into deeds.

At 5:30 in the Kelly Middle School Library it's a regular meeting of the Norwich Public Schools Board of Education. This is where their agenda should be, but isn't, and they're coming back after a summer break to some less than sanguine news about test results in connection with No Child Left Behind (just found that; pass it on!) to contemplate on top of the impact the reduction of state funds to the city's budget will have on our schools.

The Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone Committee meets at 6:45 in the Otis Library. The city's website can offer you a copy of their October LAST YEAR meeting minutes and/or this past June's minutes unless you're interested in a July Agenda that may have been from a special meeting (because of the change in location). I seem to do this every meeting preview: here's the state law on postings on municipal websites with what should be there and when. It's not a suggestion, it's the law. Why do both of us know this is not the last time I'll step on this soapbox? We are, if nothing else, around here, consistent.

The Zoning Board of Appeals meets at seven in the downstairs conference room at 23 Union Street. They have a full plate, looking at the agenda which probably has some items that were held over as their August meeting was cancelled. And the City Council at 7:30 holds its first regular meeting of the month with a comparatively light agenda unless, of course, it's your neighborhood getting sewers. I think hearing the discussion on "New Business, Resolution One" (some background here) could prove to be informative especially since I heard a story over the weekend about a new NPU policy that could very negatively impact redeveloping properties in the city (like that's a cakewalk now) and that seemed to take two Aldermen by surprise when they first heard of it.

Wednesday morning at five o'clock as the day begins--sorry! As I was almost saying, Wednesday morning at a quarter to nine, the Rehabilitation Review Committee meets in the downstairs conference room of 23 Union St. There are NO minutes, no agenda and all but one of the members' appointments have expired, otherwise we're swell. And speaking of missing agenda and meeting minutes, at six it's a regular meeting of the Baseball Stadium Authority in Room 210 of City Hall. And there's little else to be said on either of these meetings except it underscores the importance of open and transparent government. And meanwhile only 22% of our registered voters show up on election day and no one knows why or what to do about it. Yeah, amazing, innit?

At seven, across town in the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department, is a regular meeting of the Public Safety Committee who've worked hard with the public safety professionals and volunteers to get us away from a 'who gets the next truck?' mentality but may have a challenge in light of fiscal restraints in providing timely funding to support requests for new equipment. Here's their August meeting minutes (a draft) to give you an idea of the scope and range of their deliberations and concerns.

Thursday afternoon at 5:15 at the Lakeside Pavilion up in Mohegan Park is a regular meeting of the Mohegan Park Improvement and Development Committee, who appear to meet every other month (with a Q in it; NOT). I found the 'empty seat on the committee' under old business of the draft minutes from July utterly fascinating since at the top of this page under Volunteers Wanted, there's a detailed explanation of how the process is supposed to work. Rules, I should always remember, are for people who don't know better.

Later Thursday at six, is a regular meeting of the Board of Directors of the Uncas Health District, in their main office at 401 West Thames Street. They don't have the most up to date meeting schedule or archive of minutes or agenda, or even close which is to me somewhat unfortunate as they are engaged in many worhwhile and valuable activities (more than once going through their website I realized after reading something 'I didn't know that') and I suspect I'm not the only one who needs to get a lot smarter on a valuable, local resource in my community

Friday morning at eight on the steps of City Hall will be a commemoration of attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. I doubt that more than a handful of us, across the country can remember the top five issues we were arguing about in national politics from the night before. My point, in light of the eight years since this cowardly catastrophe, is we owe all those who died, and ourselves who've survived, a bit more civility and courtesy in listening to and interacting with one another on the important issues of the day, (especially today), in which we find ourselves. We're called the United States of America for a reason-- maybe this is the morning when we start acting like it.

This is as good a week as any to be an exclamation and not an explanation.
Everyone, everywhere can use a helping hand, so offer someone one of yours.
-bill kenny
(*at the confluence of the Shetucket, Thames and Yantic Rivers and named Norwich. Your mileage may vary. City's reputation in mirror is larger than it seems. Void where taxed or prohibited by law. No animals were harmed in the framing of this disclaimer. Lou Reed is probably not too pleased with me right now.)

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