Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's NOT Progress when NOTHING Changes

Tomorrow and Thursday are the equivalent of the Super Bowl weekends for local politics here in The Rose City. Except it's kind of a Super Bowl where the East Squeegum Mugwamps take on the Waverley Whatchamacallits. Everything has a lingering previously-owned aroma to it and you cannot shake the sense of having seen the movie before, just with a different cast.

The Republicans, who seem to be in shorter numbers on this side of the Connecticut River than elsewhere in the state, will hold their party caucus and nominating meeting Wednesday evening in City Hall. There are in this election year, six Council seats, one Mayoral vacancy and nine seats on the Board of Education up for grabs; all but the Mayor's chair is a two year term.

There are currently two Republicans on the City Council. One, who returned via special election in April, will be (by all accounts) his party's nominee for Mayor-unlike four years ago when the Republicans endorsed the same person the Democrats had selected. The other incumbent Republican alderman is seeking a second term. And that, unless Divine Providence intervenes, will be it for the Grand Old Party and the Norwich City Council. That could be awkward.

In the case of the GOP, it may really be ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten’ (Be careful, some consider that a definition of insanity). Because of the minority representation provisions within CT's elections laws, the next seven-person City Council may have no more than five from one party, so the Republicans have left themselves no room for error or loss. In light of their previous history and voter turnout, that's a very brave thing to do.

There are, as I mentioned, nine seats on the Board of Education (it's hard for me to think of local school board philosophy or policy as 'that's Republican' or 'this is Democratic') and the same minority representation requirements in this case allocate three seats to the Republicans who, may have, I've read found a (fourth) candidate (and a great person as well).

I registered as a Democrat after years as an unaffiliated voter mainly for the free pudding on campfire nights. Sadly, because of a tree shortage, campfire nights were discontinued almost immediately afterwards, but the damage is done and no amount of pudding will persuade me from remaining a registered Democrat, though neither I, nor the Democratic Party (large or small) seem to derive any benefit from our mutual association.

The Democratic Town Committee will have a candidate's forum at six o'clock Thursday evening in Council chambers at City Hall between the two current aldermen who seek the party's Mayoral endorsement. It's hard for me to understand how the DTC could have two people seeking the same office for much of this year (now in its seventh month) and never get around to holding so much as a single candidate forum until the night of the nominations. How does the expression go, 'it takes two to tango.' What dance is it when you dance alone?

We, the registered Democrats in Norwich, can finally start being in the 21st Century, albeit late, by making a choice in selecting as our voice someone who is NOT politics as usual and who would like us to consider, contrary to how we've functioned around here for decades it seems, that sometimes ideas are what drive public dialogue and not the public personalities espousing them.

I've lived here almost eighteen years and have long tired of explanations for toxic stasis that include expressions like 'we need community input' or 'we should build consensus at the grass-roots', as all of those are code for 'here's how we roll in Norwich; you need wait your turn.'

Back in the Clinton era when Yuppies in Humvees roamed the earth and all of America bloomed with new money festooned from cell phone towers--we never really reached spring here in Norwich. Yeah, absentee landlords could afford to put new plywood over the broken windows in the derelict buildings they owned downtown, but that's not exactly the Gilded Era. All across Eastern Connecticut, populations grew, personal wealth expanded, disposable income increased and none of that happened here.

The same politics that failed Norwich since the end of World War II continued to fail us as we entered the Technology Age and sat in the dunce's corner of the Global Village. We discovered the only difference between a rut and grave is the depth of our habits and around here our habits are traditions and that's not how you meet and greet the future.

If you care about Norwich, and you needn't be a registered Democrat to attend the candidate's forum at six o'clock, you should be in council chambers Thursday night and hear for yourself why all of us need to stop reading about our city's history and start making some for ourselves and our children. Together we can build a better Norwich and you can be there when we start.

-bill kenny

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