Thursday, January 15, 2009

What's Mine is Mine, but What's Yours is Negotiable

I'll bring this up again Monday when I'm previewing the weekly municipal meetings in Norwich (count on it, boyo!) but I'm mentioning it now as well because I am in awe of the selfless sacrifice to the community I read about yesterday morning in a story in one of my local newspapers. As an acquaintance once observed while reacting to brazen behavior, "I wish I had your nerve in my tooth." And, believe me, you'll need all of your teeth for this really big smile.

I've talked about it before--2009 is the 350th Anniversary of the Founding of the City of Norwich, a semiseptcentennial if you will (even if you won't). If you're in Southeastern Connecticut during the Fourth of July holiday week, we may be the place to be. Please notice my use of the word may (and, I'm sorry (not really), and btw, isn't the adage actually, 'many hands make light work'?) and not as in the month before June.

Climb into my wayback machine, my Rose City Rosebud. I do so wish we had some warm milk and a couple of cookies-because it's story time. A year ago (22 January 2008) I sat through an information session before a City Council meeting where members of the Semiseptcentennial Committee Power-Pointed the alderman into submission on what they were intending to do and how they were going to pay for it (though not in equal detail, truth be told). There was a slide with $750,000 on it as the 'Budget' and the Committee explained $250,000 would be spent on appearance fees for the ten Tall Ships that would be in the Parade of Sail on 29 June.

The ships would then be moored (docked? parked? I'm not sure of the nautical parlance) in the Harbor and, for another fee, guests could tour them. Yes, I suppose you could point out that when you pay to do something, you are a customer and NOT a guest, but that sounds so crass and this is a story about giving back, so get with the program but hold on to your wallet.

The Power-Point slide on fundraising was not so detailed. This is last January, remember, and the committee reported it had raised $66,000 (of $750,000), or less than 10% of its projected budget. Well, it had sort of raised $66,000, except it hadn't. Because of a pledge made by the previous Council, in the course of three years, the City Council had contributed $60,000 from the City Budget, so the Committee had actually raised....well, not so much ($6,000). No matter--no one on the City Council asked any questions about fund raising, and none of the presenters offered any answers. This is what might be called a Perfect Storm.

Fast forward to this week when, at Tuesday's Sachem Fund meeting, a member of the 350th Semiseptcentennial Committee asked for $120,000 (in other words, twenty times more money than they reported having privately raised a year ago). The agenda for Tuesday's meeting gives NO indication this request was even being presented, so let's hear it for a suspension of the rules, I guess. I'm not sure had I attended the 15 December 2008 (the last Council meeting of the year followed it) informational session, an update on the 350th Anniversary, I'd have been quite so surprised by yesterday's news story. Except, waitamint, the City Manager cancelled that informational session. Surprise!

And now, a week from today, next Thursday afternoon (22 January) at 5:30 in Room 335 of City Hall, there will be a special meeting of the Sachem Fund Board to consider an expedited request for the money, I assume, to cover the, um, private fundraising shortfall. One of the folks on the Fund Board had no problem months ago using it to pay for fireworks for the Fourth of July Harbor observances that had already happened. I wonder how he will decide to vote this time? Lemme see that smile, kid! That's the ticket, c'mon get happy!

The Sachem Fund is an agreement between the City of Norwich and the Mohegan Tribe with each contributing equally, matching dollar for dollar. For purposes of this discussion, the taxpayers of Norwich, who've already ponied up 60K for the opportunity to buy admission to really Tall Ships in late June and early July for their city's 350th Birthday Party, will now get to pony up another 60K for the same party. (Might I note that actual pony rides, for my birthday in April, are a bargain, relatively speaking. I don't know how long a pony can tread water, though.)

Not that I'm suggesting how you could spend next Thursday afternoon, but I know where I'm going to be at 5:30. I'd encourage somebody on the 350th Committee to organize a booth and sell tickets to get into Room 335 just in case that fund raiser where I get charged to paint my own fence doesn't work out as well as everybody hoped. I don't know how many more free parties I can afford, but I have the feeling I'm going to find out. Does anyone know a good dentist?
-bill kenny

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