Sunday, September 20, 2009

Signs & Wonders

We're getting to that season, not just here in God's Little Corner known as the Rose of New England, Norwich, Connecticut, but in your neighborhood, too, where the only space on your front lawn NOT covered by autumn leaves will have a sign urging others to vote for a specific candidate for City Council, Mayor, member of the Board of Education (insert the titles of your town's elected offices here: ____).

Every two years, I'm overcome by a desire to pop a Literacy Volunteer right in the beezer. And don't get me started on the folks in the little wire frame leg business so the sign guys have some place to put the sign. All you had to do was ask me-I could've told you where to stick them. Now that I live in New England, barely but it counts, I find myself wondering what Sam Huntington (nope, this one) would have made of all of this-or Benedict Arnold for that matter. Both are considered Norwich Native Sons, though we're all a little ambivalent about Benny (poor form that changing sides in the midst of a War of Independence and all).

I'm still waiting for debates-between and among the candidates for Mayor (their websites are to your right) as well as among all of those running for City Council (I undercounted by one last week and I apologize, again, for my math) and, how about the Board of Education candidates, come to think of it. When was the last time we heard a debate among those folks?

Don't get me wrong, I fully support the notion advanced a long time that there's no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic Party method to educate third graders (the non carrying of President Obama's remarks to school children in some districts to the contrary), but here in Norwich, the operating budget for the Board of Education is in excess of 50% of the entire City of Norwich's budget.

We had a City Council this year have to make decisions on policemen versus firemen versus building inspectors versus infrastructure repairs versus long-delayed pension contributions, etc, because of the reduced revenue stream and ongoing rise in municipal expenses. The Board of Education had to make decisions that changed, and not to the good, the size of classrooms and course offerings for middle schoolers, among other unhappy choices.

I'd like to hear what those whom we choose as members of the Board of Education think the priorities should be, and learn a bit more about what, if any, ideas for economies and/or enhancements (and how to pay for them) they wish to advocate during their tenure. The first candidate who wants to organize the children for weekend redeemable-can-and-bottle drives to pay for field trips and administrator salary increases, I will applaud unreservedly (using your hands if necessary) knowing he or she will not get a second vote. I was obviously trying to be humorous with that observation, though you may have only gotten the trying part.

But right now, with less than seven weeks until Election Day, there's NOT a debate by anyone, anywhere on the horizon in Norwich and there should be one once a week, at least, everywhere around here (and where you live, too, though that's more your business than my concern) because we (here) have the blessings of choice and need to know as much as we can about the neighbors who have offered their time and talents in our service. Our gratitude for their generosity of spirit will be replaced, sadly, soon enough by anger (immediately) after their election because of their obstinacy and short-sightedness when they dare to NOT see things the same way we do.

I added a website to your right, Voice for Votes (and set it to Norwich, hope you don't mind too much), and it may have to do until we get this debate thing sorted out. It's okay but not ideal. Three of the four mayoral candidates are asked five questions (as I understand it five questions the candidates 'suggested'). Were I to seek office and have this tool in my arsenal, I might have asked myself, 'if you could be any fish in the ocean, which one and why?' (even though that's technically two questions. I like to push the envelope). Actually, some of the questions are quite good but the answers seem to be a bit more glittering and general than suits my taste.

Here's my point (thanks for reading along this far hoping, but no longer believing, I might actually have one): in Norwich, there are already close to one hundred and fifty lawn signs (I've counted) for various candidates seeking office. Bravo and well-done. But let's consider that there are three "for sale" signs for every one political lawn sign. We'll need boxcars of fallen leaves from trees the size of California Redwoods to cover the damage being done to the fabric of our neighborhoods in this city everyday. And I think we'll have to have live debates before anyone has to answer the question: what are you doing to do to stop it?
-bill kenny

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