Monday, August 24, 2009

If There's a Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Lots to talk about this week in Norwich, in terms of public meetings and civic engagement and that's a good thing, because the more we talk to one another about taking control of "our city" the easier it becomes for each of us to realize all of us are in this together, wherever that happens to be--starting locally, turning regionally, becoming state-wide and finally nationally and internationally. I've lived here for over seventeen years and have finally realized that Donne's Bell tolls for more than just me or my neighborhood or my city. We have a Hollyhock Island in Norwich, but that's not really the one I am thinking about, and neither should you.

This week's review/preview of Norwich municipal meetings is brought to you by the letter "Z" and the numbers 1103, which just happens to be Election Day. (Those Sesame Street people were geniuses, I tell you!). And parody aside, it's NOT too early to start looking around, wherever, you live and becoming familiar with the men and women who are volunteering their time and talents as selectmen (persons?), burgesses (I'm not sure what that is and if it there's also a cheeseburgess with an order of fries), members of a board of education or planning and development (and a hundred or so others, depending on where you live). We fall in love with the glittering generality of 'them' so often when we speak of our national government and/or state leaders, but it's real easy in our local communities--the people in charge are our neighbors and they need our help to better help all of us. I'll leave the soapbox where it is, as I suspect I'll be returning to it in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, and I hate to start with a buzz-kill, but the Redevelopment Agency's regular meeting is cancelled this month. But if you'd like to get your fix of ideas and hopes for redevelopment you might wish to drop by Room 319 of City at 5:30 this afternoon for a special meeting of the (Norwich) State Hospital Site Development Committee.

The most recent minutes of their meetings aren't on the municipal website, but as I mentioned the last time, drop me a note and I'll send them and the agenda to you because I'm just a swell guy (such a lie) or more exactly because I got them from Robert Mills who will share them with you, as well ( I hope the city clerk's office starts to catch up soon on the back log of postings for the agencies, boards and committees across the city-it makes it easier to stay up on what's going on especially for the two members of the committee (who hold elected office), who've been absent from two meetings (so far there have only been four). Just reading the local newspapers' accounts may not be enough to stay current on trends and decisions.

Tuesday afternoon at four is a regular meeting of the Building Code Board of Appeals at 23 Union Street, whose absence of current meeting minutes and agenda as posted on the municipal website, unless you consider March to be current, underscores my point about managing public knowledge by rationing meeting information. Not a good idea, legally or morally, I think.

Later Tuesday afternoon, at five, is a regular meeting of the Harbor Management Commission. I can see the heavy equipment on the waterfront as I drive through downtown and it looks like the construction is getting done. I just wish it were far enough along so the fence blocking the Heritage Walkway could be removed. That's been a long time in coming.

At six Tuesday night, across town (at 16 Golden Street) in the Norwich Public Utilities building is/are (I think) a pair of meetings, the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners regular meeting followed by a regular meeting of the Sewer Authority.

Also at six on Tuesday evening is an Investment Meeting of the Personnel & Pension Board in Room 319 of City Hall. And if you've done nothing more than watch the machinations and gyrations of the world of international finance and stock market exchanges in recent weeks and months, it's easy to imagine the impact those shifts can have on the funds and lives of city employees, current and now retired, whose futures are tied to prudent and judicious investment and management of those invested funds.

You can spend all day Wednesday in meetings (unless you have my kind of luck) beginning with a one o'clock regular meeting of the executive committee of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region whom I tend to think of them as an uber-Chamber of Commerce and regional advocacy organization which would, in all honesty, please none of its individual members (though I would get a perverse amount of pleasure from their displeasure).

Wednesday afternoon at four, just off Route 2A in Preston, at what I always call the 'space age garage' (unless one of the buses cuts me off and then I have other words that turn the windshield of my car blue) is a regular meeting of the Southeast Area Transit District (SEAT) which has a great mission statement that its board of directors should read more often to one another, perhaps during the hours waiting for connecting buses to other points of interest in the SEAT service area.

The Dangerous Buildings Board of Review meets at 5:30 at 23 Union Street. Their regular meeting agenda has all the informative elegance of Esperanto haiku but they are deeply engaged in a variety of projects across the city-most easily appreciated by reviewing their meeting minutes, in this case, from July. Its members also comprise both the 21 West Thames Street Advisory Committee and the 751 North Main Street Advisory Committee which seem to be what we used to call in the Air Force 'tiger teams', though none of us looked like William Blake, or Robert, for that matter.

At seven at the Golf Course is a regular meeting of the Golf Course Authority. There aren't any minutes more recent than May posted to the municipal website, and the agenda is nowhere to be found either, but if it helps, according to the information posted, either the members themselves, or their appointments all expired back in January.

Thursday morning at eight is a meeting of the Norwich Community Development Board of Directors-you can have copies of their previous meeting minutes and their meeting agenda by dropping Bob Mills a note at Don't look for either the agenda or minutes on the City of Norwich website, where one of them is required by public law to be, because there's no listing at all of NCDC and when you go to the NCDC website well, they're trying. Yes, I know, 'Rome wasn't built in a day', but I get confused if we're talking about Tony or Jim. Humor aside (so that's what was!) I'd anticipate hearing more, and a lot more, about the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center coming to a Hollyhock Island (I've waited FOR YEARS to do this) nearest you.

Later Thursday morning, at 9:30 in the Industrial Park, is a regular meeting of the CT Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative-you pass them on the right hand side when you head to Dodd Stadium for a Defenders' game. Their website doesn't really help me understand a lot about what they do and how (nice photo of the building surrounded by snow, by the way; very cooling thought this time of year), and is probably worth more than another visit to try to get smarter.

Speaking of morning, if the city's website is to be believed (perhaps my brother, Adam, could serve as their legal counsel), the Southeastern Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority Executive Committee will meet at two in the morning. (says two out of three mentions on the website; the miracle of democracy!) They may be part of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority who prefer to sleep-in, I'm not sure and it's still too dark to sort that out.

At seven o'clock Thursday night somewhere inside of Norwich City Hall is a regular meeting of the Democratic Town Committee, whose website, last updated some forty-nine months ago, suggests a good bet might be Room 335. Anyone can attend, but you have to be a registered member of the Democratic Party to vote on anything, perhaps on a motion to update their website (Overdue for anyone lacking a WABAC machine, which appears to be a political philosophy very much in vogue and not just around here.)

It's a full week here in The Rose City, so you have an opportunity to help, make us bloom by being a part of what goes on around you. And if you don't live here, you're not off the hook because you have volunteers and helping hands where you are who'll always appreciate some more help, so roll up a sleeve and pull on an oar. The sea is so great and my boat is so small.
-bill kenny


John said...

Doesn't it seem that all these unposted meeting minutes and outdated Websites--of legally organized committees that purportedly serve and represent the people of Norwich--are both symptom and cause of the apathy and negativity in Norwich?

Aren't there legal requirements about these things?

At a minimum, isn't posting and updating part of someone's job description? And I mean someone with a paying job, i.e., being paid by the taxpayers?

Not angry, just wondering why things in Norwich are as they are...and hoping to help change them...

John-Manuel Andriote
Candidate for City Council
Norwich For Change Party

dweeb said...

Excellent points, all!

CT Public Law 08-3 mandated the posting of all municipal meeting minutes to websites (the requirmeent for agenda has been inherent for years in CT Legislation).

Some towns across Connecticut, claiming 'unfunded State mandates' simply took their websites down and went dark and have remained so.

The office of our Norwich City Clerk has worked to persuade the volunteers on the advisories, boards, commissions and committees to share their notes in an expedited manner. Progress is being made but there's a ways still to go.

And you're right: when the general public cannot readily and easily see into the workings of local government people give up, give in, disengage, become disheartened and disenfranchised....
Exactly what we DON'T need if we are, together, going to rebuild Norwich.

It's hard to know how machinery operates if you've never seen a copy of the manual and the meeting minutes and agenda are all part of that process.

I'm hopeful, come Election Day, we'll have people such as yourself able to effect meaningful change in how we do business in Norwich at all levels and in all aspects.

And 'thank you' to you (and all other candidates) for offering to share your time and talents for the good of your neighbors.