Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sure Was a Good Idea

Mondays are when I preview municipal meetings in Norwich, CT (where I live) and I'm gonna cheat a little as I want to talk today about one item at one meeting this coming week even though I'll mention it, I'm sure (=positive) tomorrow as well. And if you sense a touch of anger in my tone today, yeah, you're right but some of that will evaporate this fall as the weather cools off and two of the disappointments disappear.

The City Council meets at 7:30 tomorrow night to consider a raft of resolutions and ordinances and as fate and the calendar would have it, perhaps serving as close to a capstone for this City Council will be consideration of an ordinance on a topic that was of great interest and import during the last Council election, ethics or as I like to think of it, the behavior and morality of my government.

I was on the Ethics Review Committee, as an alternate member (none of us ever really figured out as an alternate to what, exactly, and that was probably a good thing) with some very talented and patient (in putting up with me) residents who worked as hard as we could to produce a code of behavior for elected and appointed city leaders, those who work for the city and for those doing business with Norwich. I mention that as a sort-of disclaimer because I don't want anyone to think I am speaking for anybody on that committee, except myself. Okay?

We submitted our final report in March of 2008 (yes, sixteen months ago) to this City Council all of whose members (with the exception of Mr. Nystrom) ran and were elected on basically three issues: zoning, ethics and charter revision. Almost immediately after being sworn in, the footrace to see how quickly retreats could be made from promises on all three issues started. It took this City Council until last September to even hold a workshop on the report that was supposed to include the City's Corporation Counsel and the Director of Human Resources with their impressions, but 'the word' failed to get passed correctly and Council folks for the most part, showed up empty-handed and unprepared to do anything, unless NOT doing anything was the object of the exercise.

Meanwhile, on the other two legs of the three-legged campaign stool: to my knowledge and recollection there has NEVER been a discussion on zoning responsibilities in Council chambers and some of us managed to neatly finesse the rest of us (and the will of the voters), in putting the kibosh on charter reform and revision.

Thus, by default if nothing else, ethics reform could become the legacy achievement of this City Council, elected with so much hope in November of 2007. I've looked at Ordinance three, which is the ethics reform, and maybe it doesn't quite meet my ideas of what we recommended all that time ago, but it's a sight more than the City of Norwich has now and is certainly better than no action at all.

This being an election year, and three of the aldermen on this City Council being announced candidates for the Office of Mayor (Mr. Bettencourt, Mr. Nystrom and Mr. Zarnetske), there way be concerns expressed about suspicious behavior, and maybe even a contagious smile or infectious laugh (or two). If striving for open and ethical government at all levels is political, I say "bravo!" Might I suggest, if anyone on this City Council doesn't feel an imperative to keep a long-overdue campaign promise, and do the right thing, then that activity and lack of it, is far more suspicious (perhaps even 'shameful' to borrow a word from a previous Council meeting) and truly deserving of approbation and scorn.

I hope I can be forgiven for applauding the efforts of Larry, Sarah, Lois, Shiela, Tamara, Michael, Jerry, Chuck, Joe, Chris, Charles A, and Bob D, my former colleagues on the Ethics Review Committee, and hoping they are physically or spiritually present in Council chambers tomorrow night. Thank you for all of your efforts to help make our government and city a better place for all of us, albeit a little later than we might have wished.
-bill kenny

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