Someone suggested the best thing about City Manager Alan Bergren's proposed budget Monday night was that it wasn't worse. Reminds me of the expression 'better a horrible end, than horrors without end.' Point in fact, the proposed budget isn't horrible and it's an end, but rather,the beginning of the budget process.
It marks a beginning of the discussions that we, the residents and citizens of Norwich, will have with one another, with our municipal department heads and our elected officials as together we craft a document by which we determine the volume and quantity of municipal services, from public education and public safety to trash removal and road resurfacing and everything in between, and what we are willing to pay for these goods and services. The city budget is a compact we make with one another, and for one another.
Monday night wasn't a preview or a rehearsal, but a combination of both with elements of neither. It's okay to have a reaction to what was offered Monday night-but, again, remember it's a start. There are lots of stops along this journey, and it gains speed quickly beginning tomorrow night in Room 335, the old court room, in City Hall. Sit down front because with the cathedral ceiling, unless there's a microphone and speakers, if you are beyond the front row of seats, you won't hear anything and you need to hear everything.
Beginning at 7:30 and going in half hour increments are Departmental Hearings, where municipal Department Heads review their budget submissions and answer questions from the alderpersons about the particulars of their requests. Tomorrow night, we'll hear from Corporation Counsel and legal, the Otis Library, Recreation Department, Public Works and Public Utilities. If you haven't already had an opportunity to review the proposed budget, it's on-line and worth your time and attention. But while it tells us what things cost-only we can decide what they are worth.
Our first opportunity to comment on the record is this coming Monday night, at 7:30 in City Council Chambers. We should each come prepared to speak as well as willing to listen to others when they speak because that's how reasonable people develop solutions, not by scapegoating and searching for the guilty. Many of us have never in our lifetimes been faced with the conditions our families, city, state and nation are confronting right now, but as a people, we were here sixty-seven years ago.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told a United States mired in The Great Depression, "Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen... government... is faced by serious curtailment of income...the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.
"Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment. Yet ...(c)ompared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. This Nation asks for action, and action now...It can be helped by insistence that the Federal, State, and local governments act on the demand that their cost be drastically reduced. (I)t can never be helped merely by talking about it. We must act and act quickly."
Anger may be a natural reaction but it is an emotion we can no longer afford-we must act wisely and well, for ourselves, our children and our city.