When we were kids growing up our mother had to referee a lot of niggling fights that invariably had one or the other of us squirts saying 'that's mine!' as if a statement of possession settled everything or anything. Mom would always half-smile and tell us, 'close your eyes. Everything you see right now is yours.'
I was reminded about the magic of ownership this past Monday night as the City Manager offered his 2013-2014 City Budget. If you judge his budget by how many people are left mumbling and grumbling about it, I'd suggest the City Manager has quite a hit on his hands with very few others trying to claim credit for any of his proposals. And maybe that's as it should be.
Let's face it. It has been no fun in recent years to put together a municipal budget anywhere across this country and most especially here in Norwich. When a decade or so ago times were good across the United States they were 'not so much' right here in The Rose City. And when times got hard, they got hard-er here. And stayed there. And as any property owner will tell you, it's been no day at the beach as a resident whose taxes pay for budgets that provide us with the goods and services we require as citizens.
I'm the first one to concede it's never eaten as hot as it's served (unless you were planning on taking a tour of the White House, in which case bring your own napkin). As a city we are at the very start of the public portion of the budget process. What began Monday night as 'the City Manager's budget' after members of the City Council receive public input (and, perhaps some criticism) along with department head briefings on funding requests, the budget then becomes 'the City Council's budget.'
Of course, all along it's been, and remains, our budget -- one we pay for and one we have to live with (or leave because of).
You'll have your own opinion on where expenditures need to be expanded or where additional economies need to be imposed-it's the nature of our democracy that there be give and take and informed discussion. Informed being the critical word. Everyone is entitled to her/his own opinion, but NOT to their own facts.
But starting tomorrow night, you can acquire and expand your own facts as the first installment of departmental hearings takes place, in Room 335 of City Hall and (I'm sure) on public access television. If you pay for or use a municipal service, you owe it to yourself and we owe it to one another to have a copy of the City Manager's proposal, available in City Hall and on line, as well as open ears and a mind to match, for the most important discussion and decision made every year by the men and women we elect to the City Council.
The seven people in the front of Council Chambers deserve to be voted on by far more than 13% of all registered voters and they need to hear from each of us on what we want next year's budget to look like. You can see a golden opportunity or a bureaucratic morass, but close your eyes because what you see then is your chance to change things if you decide to stay home and stay silent.