Monday, August 3, 2009

There's a Reason TV is all reruns....

If you think local voter turnout figures are often disquieting (in Norwich, for the 2007 municipal elections, a skosh over twenty percent of all voters showed up and at a special election in April of this year, less than four and a half percent did), make it a point to invest some time in the course of a week and attend some of the local meetings going on in your town.

This is a good week to do that as most of the TV is repeats and what isn't is almost all universally awful (sorry Elissa B; I, too, wish L & O: CI had its own station but it doesn't) and what you'll discover as you visit with friends and neighbors volunteering to serve on an amazing assortment of panels and advisories and boards, is that almost no one ever shows up to witness how these volunteers make our towns better places.

That's as true for Board of of Dangerous Buildings meetings as it is for Historic District Commission meetings (neither of which meets this week, by the way; I was just saying by way of example), so seeing the admiration and approval in our eyes is certainly NOT why people help out in making where we live a better place.

This week in Norwich is a relatively quiet week, though that's not a reflection on any improvement in the cable TV schedule and actually starts this afternoon at 5:30 with a "Special Meeting, Norwich State Hospital Property Site Committee" in Room 335 of City Hall, listed as a Norwich Community Development Corporation function (which is sort of funny, since NCDC's meetings NEVER have an agenda on the city's website; perhaps this is a the start of something good? Let's hope so). It looks like a serious and extensive agenda and we all know there's a lot to do and not much time to get it done so after we're through appluading those who've ponied up to help, let's see if we can give them a hand as well. My recollections of who is now on this committee leads me to try to reorder my schedule in order to check this one out-perhaps I'll see you there.

Tonight at 7:30 (the agenda on the website says 7:00; it's wrong) is the regular City Council meeting, with, in my opinion, a little something for everyone. There are two bonding proposals, one for improvements at the Golf Course, where the fees and dues will pay for the bond and the costs of bonding and another for five million dollars more in infrastructure improvement for roads and bridges (sort of like the referendum we approved two years ago, for the same amount of money, but this time without having everyone vote).

Public Hearing #6 is "An Ordinance Amending the Code of Ethics for the City of Norwich" an initiative created by the previous City Council that I feared would end with this one, so my appreciation for what I hope will be unanimous approval of proposals, perhaps not quite as far-reaching as we on the Ethics Review Committee had in mind, but much better than what is in place now. And as an alternate member but full-time head noise generator on the Ethics Review Committee, my thanks to all those with whom I served for their generosity and talent: Charles A, Chris C, John C, Robert D, Joe E, Larry G, Sheila H, Michael J, Sarah K, Gerry M, Tamara L, Chuck N and Lois S.

Someone (else) must be reading the same listings of membership rolls of advisories, authorities, boards and commissions that I do, because we're almost (though not quite) caught up after tonight's Council meeting in refreshing the appointments of citizens on those agencies. And, by the way, if you wanted to help out and be a member where there's a vacancy, there's a way to do that as well and you wouldn't need to hang out at 307 Main Street waiting for a visit so you could offer to help.

You know how we talk about thinking globally while acting foolishly (well, I do)? The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, in the Norwich Business Park, actually tries to do what they can to get the individual towns to think and work within a larger context. It can't be the easiest project in the world, but I can imagine some of the successes could be very rewarding. There's a public meeting of their Executive Committee on Tuesday morning at 8:30 and before you get all excited about the mention of the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center on their agenda, bear in mind, this is a project for New London where they have real, rather than notional, rail and ferry assists, and not the somewhat more hotly contested project aimed at Hollyhock Island in Norwich.

Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 is a meeting of the School Building Committee at the Norwich Public Schools Central Office at 90 Town Street (I know that because it's listed in the newspaper). I am unable to locate minutes of previous meetings or the agenda for Wednesday's meeting on either the City of Norwich or the Norwich Public School's websites. As a kid, I didn't enjoy "Keep Away" when my winter cap was in play--imagine how much less I enjoy it now when elected officials play it with public information on a project we bonded millions of dollars to pay for.

Also Wednesday at seven in Room 210 of City Hall is a meeting of the Republican Town Committee, though since they picked candidates two weeks ago, I don't know what they'd be doing except maybe making sure everyone is still here. I know you can attend even if you're not a Republican-you can only watch and not speak, which is a rule folks try on me all the time (this belly button says I am, too, a human so I can take part in the race, so there!).

Thursday evening at seven in the basement conference room at 23 Union Street is a regular meeting of the Inlands Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission whose July meeting minutes are here, but whose August agenda is nowhere to be found, though the disclaimer in red and bold on posted agenda changes did give me cause to pause.

And that, for this week, is all there is until next week-though that shouldn't stop you from taking an interest in your neighborhood, where ever that is and pitching in to pick up trash and maybe help neaten up that park you pass on your way to and from the market. Not all assistance needs to be in the form of official committee work. I don't think we had a Boston Tea Party Advisory ('I think the third fellow needs more feathers!') or a Declaration of Independence Cooperative Writing Committee ('alienable? or inalienable? Who has a dictionary?). We are part or everything we do and everything we don't do-our choice.

-bill kenny

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