Monday, September 14, 2009

Rose City Meetings Preview (14-18 September)

Probably true at your house too.
The post-Labor Day routines are firmly in place now. If they're still at home, the kids are doing that going to school thing pretty much on auto-pilot. You're back on a regular schedule at work-not a lot of need to ask for time off for the upcoming holiday weekend since Columbus Day is a whole month (!) away and perhaps in your neighborhood, too, the fall election season is starting to pick up the pace a bit.

Meanwhile back within 'many hands make light work' except in The Netherlands where it's 'Maybe Hans might Verk' this week ahead in municipal meetings in Norwich, we have two today that are actually three.

At five, in Room 209 of City Hall it's the Volunteer Firefighters' Relief Fund Committee and there's no need to look for a meeting agenda or minutes of previous meetings on the city's website as they're not there. See? That didn't hurt much. And it's just a start-maybe each of us can write a list of state laws we find burdensome or unnecessary and just stop following them? To be honest, around here it looks like some of us already have that list.

At 5:30 in Room 319 of City Hall is a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Norwich State Hospital Site Development. Technically, all of their meetings are 'special' even when they're regular (this gets complicated and suffice it to say it has to do with who was notified when of what, and leave it at that). I only mention it because, technically, since it is a special meeting ONLY those items on the agenda can be discussed-not there's a lot of tangents and meanderings in room 319 (it's a pretty small room, after all).

Neither the agenda nor any of the August meeting minutes are on the city's website. Both are available by dropping a note to, who shares them with me and will, I'm sure, share with you as well. This former mental hospital site, straddling both Norwich and Preston, regardless of whether Norwich buys its section or not, is and will be important in the coming years, and I'm impressed with the energy and industry with which these community volunteers are going about their researching.

The third event on Monday is NOT, technically a meeting, it's called the "United for Victory" Campaign Kick-off (to coincide, sort of, with the Patriot's season-opener) at seven at the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department, and featuring a meet and greet with the candidates endorsed by the Norwich Democratic Party, for Mayor, City Council and Board of Education (Based on the age of the content of the site. it's too bad we're not electing a Webmaster).

Also invited are the region's representatives to Hartford, State Representative Melissa Olson and State Senator Edith Prague (I have no idea why her photo is looking off screen instead of onto the content, unless it's a portent we should be heeding). Hartford as you may or may not know is where we keep the state government locked up in a great big beautiful building with a golden dome, and, based on their most recent budget, with very little oxygen.

Much like last Saturday's Republican Party together across town, it's a chance to kick the tires, a little bit (NOT literally, I think) of our neighbors who have offered to run for office. If they're kind enough to offer, we should be gracious enough to listen to them.
I'm looking forward to the next phase of this fall's local election, which should be, shortly an announced schedule of debates between and among all those seeking office (and cannot come soon or often enough to suit me).

Tuesday is jammed. Starting off the late afternoon is a regular meeting of the Public Parking Commission, at 5:15 in the Buckingham Memorial building, almost across from the Post Office. It would appear they didn't meet in August (I was about to make a 'it was too hard to park' joke and thought better of it, but only just). Here's their July meeting minutes

At five thirty in the Latham Science Center, Room 609, is a regular meeting of the Norwich Free Academy Board of Trustees. NFA is the high school for a number of Eastern Connecticut towns and communities, Norwich included, and, especially at budget time for many residents and local board of education and elected leaders, it's often viewed as The Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla. That "Yes, We Have No Bananas" is reported to be their fight song doesn't help.

At six, in Room 319 of City Hall, is a regular meeting of the Personnel and Pension Board. In light of the continuing disquiet in the world's financial markets, and the role these volunteers play in the lives of so many of Norwich's previous, current and potential employees, we are fortunate they approach their task with the devotion and diligence they do. Here's their meeting agenda and I have selfish reasons to hope for a positive update of item B, section III, though I've heard 'that ship has sailed' (a very bad 350th joke? Perhaps).

At seven o'clock a large number of eyes and minds could be in Council Chambers of City Hall (relocated from its regular meeting site) for a regular meeting of the Commission on the City Plan. The interest is precipitated by two items (you can read more here) but I'm only comfortable talking about one of them: a development project, Byron Brook, that started over three years ago and was vetted as something to which it now bears little resemblance in its most recent incarnation, which disquiets a not inconsiderable number of residents.

There's neither an agenda for Tuesday's meeting nor minutes from August's posted on the City's website. Lots of people think they are going to attend in order to voice their concerns about Byron Brook-few of those people are actually on the Commission. The rest in attendance may be surprised and perhaps disappointed. The meeting agenda is the road map and I assume will be available, per Connecticut state statute, at the meeting itself. Happy motoring

Also at seven, 'at a location to be determined' (there's a phrase that doesn't sound reassuring), is a regular meeting of the Downtown Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. No, there are no minutes of their previous meeting(s), nor an agenda, on the city's website and some of us, attempting to frequent businesses in the Chelsea district during the early evening hours might even suggest there's not much of a downtown, but that may be more unkind an observation than is called for.

There's a pair of early morning meetings on Wednesday. The first, at 8:30, in their building in the Norwich Business (more or less) Park, is a regular meeting of the full council of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Government. I didn't find any agenda or minutes of previous meetings, but I'm dealing with their absence relatively well.

At nine, in the Dime Bank's Community Room (the bank is on Salem Turnpike (Route 82), is a regular meeting of the Norwich School Readiness Council (Children First). And if you hear the strains of bouzouki music and smell the aroma of Dorchester cheese, that's because seeking any agenda or meeting minutes is, well, pointless and a deliberate waste of your time.

There are but a few immutables in the universe, and I suppose the Children First website is now on that list. Perhaps the candidate for City Council who mentions his affiliation with it at every occasion will take the lead on repairing the years of neglect an important communication tool is suffering after his organization seems to have forgotten all about it.

There are two meetings of note Thursday, and the first one makes me smile-actually, it's the government structure surrounding it that provokes the grin. At five the Historic District Commission meets in Room 210 of City Hall-but go back to the link and scroll down to below the ordnance that created the commission and note when the city's website says the meetings are....the third Tuesday of every month. This is probably their first meeting since June, whose draft minutes are right here, because why meet in the summer time unless you're at the beach or in the mountains. Did you notice when June 18 was? That's right, a Thursday-- just like every meeting of the Historic District has been for the entire year. So much for Tuesday, which is a great name for a power pop band, doncha think?

Capping the week and also meeting at five o'clock is a regular meeting of the Ice Rink Authority in their conference room over in their facility on New London Turnpike. Guess what's not on the municipal website? You're getting very good at this-I guess that's from all the practice, sadly.

We're under sixty days until Election Day here in Norwich, and I suspect, where you live, too. Around here, we have an embarrassment of riches with four people seeking the office of Mayor, and twelve people from three separate parties (six from theDemocratic Party, three members of the Republican Party and three nominees from the Norwich for Change Party) for six seats on the Norwich City Council. Only a certain number of alderpersons can be from the same party though that's of only academic interest to two of the parties involved.

I hope where you live you have the luxuries of choice as well, and find a chance to thank all those seeking office (even the ones you won't be voting for) for sharing their time and talents. We are, someone once suggested to me, the Crown of Creation not only because of who we are, but because of what we do--no other species on Earth can remake, or break, the world. It all starts locally, and it begins with each of us.
-bill kenny

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