Monday, October 5, 2009

(Meetings this week) In This City

Everyone is from somewhere-maybe not the place where you were born, but more often than not where you do most of your living, laughing and loving. To some extent we reinvent our nation every time we go to the polls and have had an almost countless number of American Revolutions since the our first one, and still we are here. This time a month from now, the elections will be history but we have time to make some of our own in the meantime.

We don't always have the nicest democracy but it's certainly the most vital, not just among our elected officials but on the countless numbers of advisories, boards, commissions and committees whose members, our neighbors, help make where we live where we want our families to be.

"And I found that round here, in this city, that I won't disappear."

It's hard work, no matter the size of where you live, to keep things moving and it doesn't make any difference how many helping hands you have, always more are needed and two of them could be yours. So if where you live is like where I live, it gets better when we bare arms and lift one another up to reach for the next star. Try it, you'll like it. In this neck of the woods, Norwich Connecticut, it's a bit quiet as the leaves continue to change and the lawn signs get hurled through our neighbors' windows, but doings, both great and small, continue.

This morning at 8:30 in their office in the Norwich Business Park, it's a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments and I'll mention another meeting they have coming up (because I'll forget it as we get closer), two weeks from today, the 19th at 7:30 at night (yeah, the same night as a Norwich City Council meeting; it's a feast or a famine around here sometimes) on a draft of a Transportation Improvement Program, you could download in a jiffy from here and then skim through (it's a summary rather than a specific plan and satisfies the public hearing requirement) and think about between now and the nineteenth (I take exception to "A. 5" on page six in terms of timeliness, but that's just me, I suspect).

A scant eleven hours later, in City Hall Council chambers at 7:30 it's the first regular meeting of October for the City Council. There's all kinds of business on the agenda, to include appointments to three boards/advisories/committees, a total of twenty-one regular members and three alternates, two dozen in all and all nominees are Democrats or Republicans.

I spent four hours this weekend poring over the City Charter and found not one mention of a nominating, screening or vetting role by either town committee as part of the selection process, letter to the editor last week notwithstanding (nor, by extension, a charter requirement to put political affiliations behind the nominees' names on the resolutions). It's funny how custom and habit trump the actual rules of governance when we so desire. Yeah, hilarious.

Considering there are more unaffiliated voters in Norwich than in the other two parties combined, maybe the next Mayor and City Council can cast a wider net for volunteers since I'm not sure how well the distribution process (a/k/a 'spoils') we've used since 1951 has been working out. And good news! The deadline for the Ethics Commission has been extended, again. Here's the application. And thank you, Rabbi, for walking the walk and talking the talk.

Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 in the Norwich Public Schools Main Office Conference Room (the building used to be called the John Mason School; it's across from the Norwichtown Green) is a regular meeting of the (Kelly Middle) School Building Committee (whose members, per the web site, are all in the Witness Relocation Program. KIDDING!).

They're managing the bond-funded expansion and improvement (enhancement has acquired an unsavory aroma in recent weeks here in Connecticut) of Kelly Middle, and reading their meeting minutes, they're working hard and making steady progress.

The Republican Town Committee meets at 6:30 in Olympic Pizza as opposed to its previously announced location. Thanks to a tip from Dennis B, I now know (almost) that anyone can attend a town committee meeting (though my welcome at one of them might be less than I hoped), and can speak, but you need to be a member of the party in order to vote, which makes complete sense, otherwise why have party memberships (oh yeah, the committee appointments....forgot about that).

On Thursday, there are four meetings and I'm not all that familiar with any of them, to include the City Council forum, sponsored by Bully-Busters at seven o'clock in Teachers' Memorial. We all know a neighbor who is offering to serve on the City Council or on the Board of Education and listen to us yell (usually at them). We should avail ourselves of every opportunity between now and 3 November to hear what they'd like to work on, on behalf of all of us, if we choose them.

As for the other meetings, there's an 8:30 AM meeting in the Norwich Business Park in their building, of the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Council about whom I know pathetically little and for which I apologize. I wonder why no one from Norwich's elected leadership seems to be on the Leadership CEO Council, in light of the employment challenges we face across The Rose City.

At nine o'clock, the Eastern CT Regional Tourism District meets, though the where is more problematic. I thought clicking here might tell me, nope, though the website is very informative. You could call the City Clerk at 860-823-3732 to see if she knows the location, or the minutes or ..... well, you get the picture.

Tthe LEARN Regional Education Service Center meeting of the Board of Directors is at their building in Old Lyme, judging from the June minutes, at 10 AM. Norwich's representative is my daughter's grade school teacher back in the day when there was a William Buckingham School and is dedicated and energetic (and totally committed to improving our children's educational experience. as are her colleagues on the Norwich Board of Education). She just needs to get heavier campaign signs.

And Saturday morning, starting at 10:30 the Democratic slate, or part of it (so far), will sponsor a forum at the Otis Library in the upstairs community room. It's another chance to learn more about the candidates and their positions and goals (and how they hope to achieve those goals). Bring questions, and insist when they answer, just like back in school, they show you how they arrived at their answer and listen actively for words like 'hope', 'assume', 'believe', because NONE of those are anywhere near equal to the word 'plan'.
-bill kenny

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