Wednesday, February 17, 2016

All of Our Guests Ask Me the Same Questions

Time flies when you’re having fun, I’m told so either we’ve had a lot of fun in these parts since last November’s elections or the cliché isn’t as true as it’s cracked up to be.

In case you missed it (but how?) we’ve swapped out most of our City Council, and have hired a new City Manager, but I’d bet you to dollars to donuts (now that’s a cliché for the ages) that we’re about to have pretty much the same old discussions about the usual topics in our annual municipal budget we’ve had since before there were clichés.

If I had a dollar for every year someone on a City Council has used the phrase ‘this has been a very tough budget year, I could take us all out for ice cream and have enough change leftover for that pony ride for my birthday. I don’t think any of us expect to NOT hear it said again this time around. And I’m sure it’s true.

I’ve lived here for almost a quarter of a century, feels even longer to me since I hadn’t intended to stay, but I’ve heard a lot of the stories about the ‘back in the day’ Norwich, when there was a downtown, when there were neighborhood schools and when the city was a magnet that attracted people from beyond our city limits.

And now, it’s hard times in the land of plenty and an almost wistful resignation and pessimism from so many I meet. I think we use that pessimism as a cushion to soften the shock and disappointment when a good idea ends up dying on the vine because we wanted hope to be just as good as a plan though we certainly knew better.

And as the professionals who run our city departments huddle with the City Manager and the elected leadership to craft the next municipal budget, we are pretty much where we always seem to be and have been in years past for too long and too often.  

When I listen to people at meetings and read comments online in the papers, too many of us focus on what we could lose instead of what we can gain. That wasn’t the mindset that built the Thermos factory in Laurel Hill or created the Ponemah Mills, so what happened?

It’s not a fear of a specific failure that keeps us from doing the things we know we must do to make a Norwich our children will want to live in. It is instead, a fear we have of doing anything that keeps us from doing something. We are in a rut that will end us because the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

This is the year to talk to our elected leaders but also listen to one another when we speak about what is important for ourselves and our families. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “hell is other people.” He couldn’t possibly have meant us because we are Norwich.
-bill kenny

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