People prefer problems that are familiar to solutions which are not. If you doubt that, look at the current churn and burn of discussions about the not yet adopted Norwich budget. I have to bet many of the people who voted for a seismic shift in the political composition of both the City Council and the Board of Education last November are the same ones who’ve been insisting on further reviews on proposed economies.
You don’t need read a newspaper to know people everywhere are struggling to make ends meet. From small business owners, through single parent households to towns and cities trying to create budgets that deliver value for the citizens’ tax dollars without bankrupting the very people in whose name government was formed, no one is immune. Attendance and discussions (if not actual arguments) at public meetings and budget hearings this year prove that.
We all know how often in our own households we turn over every dollar before we spend it. That’s why so many insisted those whom we elect could not continue to have us live beyond our means. While we may agree we philosophically that can do anything, as a practical matter we cannot do everything.
The devil is in the detail and difference. Exactly which parts of not everything should we do and how should we pay for them? Everyone has an idea but we’ve reached a point in the process where only the members of the City Council have the final decision.
Those seven men and women who are our Norwich City Council aren't an abstraction. You know them, they are our neighbors and they are those whom we chose from a pretty big field of choices six months ago (that adage about time flying comes to mind). It was Tip O'Neill who observed that 'all politics is local' and when you look at our local level, there's not a lot of ideological differences that get in the way of each of them trying to do a good job in Council Chambers.
The Mayor, sometimes with and other times despite the City Council, is working to define community and economic development goals of the City, while the City Manager refines that vision into a plan of action and holds accountable the municipal departments to achieve those goals. All the elected and appointed officials work with agencies and volunteers towards and for a greater good and a more hopeful city. But it can no longer be a discussion about style over substance. It’s now time to decide.
How often have we pitted teachers against policemen, human services versus road repair? Too often. And what changed? Nothing and now that has to stop. We have more wants than wallet. The City Council must decide what we can and will afford and what we must do without. We, no matter how we voted in November, must support the spending and investment decisions made by those whom we have chosen.
Talk is cheap; good government certainly isn’t.