Monday, June 29, 2009

Let the (Three) River(s) Run

We here in The Rose of New England, Norwich, Connecticut, are running out of days to celebrate the Semiseptcentennial which is a good thing for those of us whose tongues have tripped over that word every time we've tried to say it and a bad thing for those who've been able to learn "a little something" about the city from before we were here. For me and my family, Norwich did three hundred and thirty-three years without us and, from what I've caught up in recent weeks, did just fine.

As George Santayana admonished, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it" and I think one of the things I've come to enjoy about the 350th anniversary is, in looking at the past, I've become more confident about future, despite how grim the present is at so many levels.
If you're in the area, you can witness (and better appreciate) how far we've come by using this project created by a positive force at every City Council, Keith R, to gauge our progress. As so many have told me so often over the years, I'm NOT from here-but I'm from here NOW.

We spend a lot of time in this neck of the woods talking about days gone by, forgetting that there's almost thirty-eight thousand of us here in the now, who, by our efforts on a daily and repeated basis, form a bridge from yesterday to tomorrow. Through everything we do and everything we don't do (commission and omission-Sister Mary Jean would be proud I've remembered those for all these decades), we add or subtract from our city. I wasn't born here and I'm not especially comfortable at the growing probability that I'll die here, but that's pretty much out of my hands so all I can do is my best for everyday that remains. And that goes for you, wherever it is you live.

Each of us is in a formalized environment with financial, emotional, organizational structures and strictures. We function in a form with a President, a Governor, a Mayor or a leader with a title of some sort and there are subordinate bodies and functionaries in a descending order to deliver good and services to us, the citizenry and residents. But there's also an informal association of significant others, our neighbors and friends, perhaps in a neighborhood watch, or a bowling league, or a group of volunteer firemen, or who coach a kid's soccer team or host scout meetings.

Where we live is the sum of all those activities-not just our bond rating and our reserve to debt ratio. What we are is defined and refined by who we are. Yes, it's important we have trash pick-up, but it's just as important that we keep an eye on our neighbor's house when they go away for a long weekend. We have a municipal apparatus for the 'big things' but we need to have engaged and energized citizens for all the things in between. So when I talk about this, or any, week's municipal meetings, it's the celebration of the volunteers who give of themselves to make where we all live a better place that should be paramount.

Here in Norwich, for 350 years, and now now a little more, we've been getting done that which we must do in order to build a city from which we can do those things we want to do (maybe not as successfully as we always can, but we can try again and differently the next time).

"Silver cities rise,
The morning lights
The streets that meet them,
And sirens call them on
With a song."

This is a very light week for formal meetings, though that shouldn't stop you, if there's something you feel strongly about, from organizing friends to develop solutions to those challenges you see around you.

Tuesday night at six in the conference room in their building at 10 Golden Street is a public hearing by the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners/Sewer Authority. You'll find the agenda for both meetings here, with a small suggestion for clarification. Both meetings were originally scheduled for last Tuesday the 23rd, and moved to this Tuesday. Technically, that makes them special, NOT regular meetings (because each City Clerk is required by state law to have a full year's listing of meetings before the new calendar year begins). We have trouble grasping this difference which is why some of us look at our governance agencies with a jaundiced eye.

Wednesday at seven in Room 210 of City Hall is a meeting of the Republican Town Committee. Room 210 is kind of snug as I recall from my years on the Baseball Stadium Authority, barely able to accommodate all of us and two or three folks from the baseball team. If one of the two major political parties in the city can hold its regular meeting in there, how many people can we be talking about? I think anyone can attend, it's in a public building after all, but you have to be a member of the RTC to take part in the meeting, which seems only fair.

And Thursday at seven in the conference room (probably in the basement) of 23 Union Street is a regular meeting (possibly) of the Inlands Wetlands, Water Courses and Conservation Commission, though there's NO agenda posted for the 2 July meeting (Wednesday starts the seventh month already!) and the appointments of all but one member, and alternate member, have expired. I hope the City Council might find the time at an upcoming meeting to make current ALL the appointments on advisories, boards, commissions and committees of those who would wish those appointments to be validated.

And it'd be nice if the chairpersons would do their best to inform the City Council about appointments and their status (it takes two, or more). And there's always vacancies, so if you're willing to help you might want to visit here and fill out one of these (though I did, about sixteen months ago and never heard another word....soon enough we'll have to fix the form, so maybe after that I'll re-apply).

We have a proud past in Norwich, as do you in your town. A past that shouldn't make us wonder what's happened as we worry about the why of today but rather challenges each of us to add to that tradition and build upon it, for our children and their children and all the children of those who will, one day and someday, live among us and for themselves and their families.
"We, the great and small,
Stand on a star
And blaze a trail of desire
Through the dark'ning dawn."
-bill kenny

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