I was a child in Central Jersey, a short pants, romance, learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed, try to be a success child, when construction on Route 287 began. I grew up and older, if not wiser, went to college, to Greenland, to Germany and eventually a decade and a half later, I came back to the United States and became a thorn in The Rose of New England. Much of my family still lives in New Jersey and after a handful of visits in a number of years, I was stunned to discover on one trip to see them that Route 287 was in fact, finally finished. All the little pieces had been tied together and the various strands woven into one highway. I may have actually stopped the car on the shoulder and gotten out to touch the road.
We're on the verge of a similar epiphany here in Norwich. I've taken to calling it the Samuel Beckett Regional Intermodal Transportation Center because everything eventually gets a name, and for about a decade and a half, this project has seemed right out of Waiting for Godot. Except, it's here now and no matter how we feel about its existence, cost, value, purpose or function, those discussions have already been had.
The one we still need to have, and all the other wrangling kept us from it, almost by design, is where do we go from here. The adage, "Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan," comes to mind and yet as a city and region, we remain stuck in second gear. Is this just more Accidental Excellence-when something goes right, we don't know how it happened (or don't believe it happened), so we can't do it again? Or is this more of the One Big Swing mentality we insist upon here, despite all evidence to the contrary that it doesn't work?
Remember when the Heritage Center was going to be the start of the return of downtown Norwich? Then that was followed by the construction of the Mercantile Exchange, the development of Artspace, the rehabilitation of the Otis Library, and resuscitation of the Wauregan Hotel, in no especial order (I'm sure, I've left some initiatives out for which I apologize). And now here we are again, in the waiting mode.
We've forgotten that if nothing happens, then nothing happens and if you have failed to plan, you've planned to fail. Sins of omission and commission are sins-sorry, not my rule; check with the Guy upstairs. There's a toast some of us know better than others, 'Next Year, Jerusalem." Implicit in that hope is a means of achieving the goal, to include having a map and a route and milestones to mark your progress.
The Mayor and City Council (or most of them, to be precise) are working with a small group of agencies who are the heavy lifters for development to create a plan with clearly defined goals and the means of achieving them. The Council, Mayor and City Manager are also wrestling with the next budget at a time when austerity has replaced prosperity and all of them could probably use a break but they won't get one. And when we sit on our hands at public meetings, assuming we show up at all, we've picked a side in the outside versus inside debate, a debate that none of us can win. Somehow, they (and we) need to have every aspect of who we are and where we are going laid out before all of us at the same time, so that we can work on the whole and not continue pell-mell and piecemeal.
"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!"