Saturday, January 15, 2011

Um, Do That Again

When I saw the story in one and then the other local newspaper yesterday morning I thought it was a premature April Fool's joke or an homage of some kind to Orson Welle's War of the Worlds (without the war or the worlds). I'll let you enjoy the journalistic endeavors and then proceed. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

The Surgeon General says smoking while reading blogs may be injurious to the tobacco companies' financial so the smoking lamp is now extinguished. Too bad the same can't be said for an idea whose time has come. Sadly, that time was probably two or more decades ago. No matter, Starbuck, Tuesday night in Norwich, Connecticut City Council chambers, with my apologies to Yogi, it'll be deja vu all over again redux. Check out item ten under new business.

The proposal under discussion seems to defy basic arithmetic principles in that the resolution seeks bonding authority of $800,000 (any more would require voter approval; lucky that worked out, huh?) for property purchase and repair but at least one point three million dollars is projected to be required as a minimum to get the facility to comply with occupancy codes. Unless this becomes another special arrangement where "the rules" are only for those who don't know better.

So much for the promise of new thinking by those who campaigned during the fall 2009 Council and Mayor election cycle. Go through the Norwich Bulletin archives for the first week in April 2009 and read the account of the presentation in City Council chambers by a member of the-then YMCA on the financial and physical plant shortcomings of the facility and the programs operating in it. By the end of that month, the lights went out and since then radio silence. I could claim I remember it vividly, but I cheated and took notes.

The YMCA failed because its economic model didn't and couldn't work. The programs most used by the community were those that either made too little money or hemorrhaged cash. Those that did make money, didn't make nearly enough to cover operating costs much less generate enough profit to allow for needed infrastructure and material upgrades.

Some twenty-one months later what has changed-aside from the possibility of a nice payday for the bank holding the paper on the foreclosed building? Just about nothing but we can always hope, but HOPE IS NOT A PLAN. Jiminy Cricket would be so proud of us-too bad there aren't enough stars in the sky for our elected leadership to hang all their wishes upon.

And we've done this before, on this very same building, in December of 2009 when we were treated to a presentation that insisted we could take six inches from the back of the blanket and put it onto the front and the blanket would be an entire foot longer. Except for the part where it wouldn't be, but try not to think about that, okay?

Since April 2009, when the YMCA closed its doors, the city has had to make "the hardest budget decisions in decades" for two consecutive years. Unless the Publisher's Clearing House van is going to double park at the City Comptroller's office and unload ALL of those million dollar checks, the budget this City Council and City Manager is about to start on will make those previous two look like cotillion tea dances.

This is called context (we seem to prefer its cousin, pretext): Norwich has closed schools, delayed infrastructure maintenance (and deferred any pretense of system upgrades), watched our roads and sidewalks crumble into dust and despair, failed to slow (to say NOTHING of arrest and reverse) the exodus of families and small businesses from our neighborhoods and our grand list and furloughed an ever growing number of city employees. But now we can afford to "invest" an indeterminate amount of money into the former YMCA? Sell my clothes, this must be heaven.

Make time Tuesday night to attend the City Council meeting and remind those in the front of the room that we really are watching what they do and are here to hold them accountable for their actions. I don't know about you but I'm tired of a steady diet of trite platitudes, wishful thinking and a Sunday go to meetin' bun.
-bill kenny

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