Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First there is a Mountain then there is no mountain

If a tree falls in a forest and members of the Norwich City Council, Board of Education and Board of Directors of the Norwich Free Academy hear it make a sound, can they tell anyone about it? Not nearly as whimsical a question as it may sound-especially since there's too many home fires burning and not enough trees.

A week ago yesterday, except for the tree falling in the forest part, there was a meeting with members of the Norwich City Council, to include the Mayor and the City Manager, the Board of Education to include the Superintendent of Schools and the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees to include their Superintendent/Head of School. What was the meeting about? Well, it was about ninety minutes--thank you, ladies and gentlemen-you've been a lovely audience, please remember to tip your waitresses.

Kidding aside (seriously, that was kidding ), it's really hard to know what went on in a meeting with publicly elected officials and members of a school accepting public funds for tuition expenses because the meeting was closed to the public-now that's what I call funny! You'd think the public's business should, would and must be conducted in public. But as we learned last Tuesday, not exactly. For the nearly two decades I've lived in The Rose City, there's been an abundance of special arrangements, unspoken understandings and private agreements. I cannot be the only one weary of all this 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more' way of doing business. But the hits just keep on coming.

Decades of getting along by going along with the self-anointed who know best has worked out so well that many of us can't spell economic development, much less find examples of it in Norwich. To review: our taxes have gone up, usually at a rate in excess of the cost of living, while municipal services have been rationed and curtailed. Downtown Norwich has 'turned the corner' so often on the way to prosperity, businesses there must be suffering from rhetorical vertigo. And yet, we cling to our old ways, like it was the good old days.

Not sure why last Tuesday's discussions on something fundamental, intrinsic and critically important to any positive possibility of improving every aspect of the quality of life in Southeastern Connecticut, the education of our next generation of adults, is deemed to best be handled as a 'behind closed doors' project. This kind of pseudo secrecy (you can't see the play even though your taxes paid for the tickets) is exactly the approach that has gotten us up the proverbial creek without a paddle here in the Brave New World of the Global Village and can mean nothing more but another variant of an Epic Fail.

Norwich needs to stop doing business the way we have always done business-it gets us nothing and leads us nowhere. And if those whom we've selected to lead us are incapable, or unwilling, to abandon the business as usual approach, the time to seek out new voices and make new choices has already arrived. Maybe we could hold a public meeting to discuss that prospect-who should be in charge of the invitations and who'll be climbing the mountains?
-bill kenny

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