Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Safety in Numbers

I was on the Charter Revision Committee at the turn of the last century (that really does make us sound a lot older than some of us are), actually from the waning months of 1999 through the near summer of 2000. 

One of the things that fascinated me at that time, having (only) lived here for less than a decade, was how we chose to concentrate on the concerns we shared rather than the differences and distinctions each of us brought to the table. 

Admittedly we had the good fortune of having remarkable talented people, present story-teller excepted, with exceptional people serving in leadership positions and making sure we remained focused on the challenges we had been asked to examine and on the solutions we worked to propose to the City Council who had appointed us.

We had committee members from East Great Plains, Norwichtown, Taftville, and Greenville and a number of other places as well, as I recall (memories get a little hazy as you move along life’s highway), many of whom knew one another from other involvements and interactions around the city.

As not only The New Guy but also someone who had lived 5,000 miles away for a decade and a half, I was intrigued by how an abstraction, the City of Norwich, always took precedence and priority over the localized issues of the individual villages that constitute the city. I was also very proud to call “neighbors” people who could place a deserved emphasis on the greater good.

We recognized as a group at that time that our actions, and especially our inactions — sins, if you’re so inclined, of both commission and omission — jeopardized our chances of continuing our progress as a city, or of having any progress in the first place. It seems to me, at least, that we recognize this fact less and less often as our politics become more personal and petulant.

We lose sight too often that there's no confederacy of dunces keeping us, as a city, from becoming and remaining successful; we do it to ourselves, and we need to stop beating up one another for short-term (and short-sighted) gains in order to reap long-term benefits for all of us.

A previous Mayor, now the City Council President Pro Tempore, initiated Saturday meetings very early in his term, held in fire houses throughout the city on a variety of topics, but nearly as often with no fixed agenda at all. They were an opportunity for all of us, whatever our neighborhood or village, to remind each other ‘there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The meetings came to be called One City Forums and the number of residents who participated ebb and flowed with the seasons, but everyone who attended I believe felt their voices had been heard. I had always hoped the meetings were a roadmap to where we were going, not a souvenir postcard of where we once were.
-bill kenny

No comments: