Wednesday, May 5, 2010

More of the Same Means Less for All

From the not exactly news department: All across the USA people are struggling to make ends meet-from small business owners, through single parent households to towns and cities trying to create budgets that deliver value for tax money without bankrupting the very people in whose name governments were formed. The discussions, and attendance at public meetings and budget hearings this year in Norwich, is larger than I can recall in the last decade or so.

Cynics might suggest that with so many oxen being gored, the turnout by those impacted would have to increase. Okay, maybe, but I think it's more than just self-interest-and I think, as silly as this may sound to you, there's a line we can draw from the election of President Barack Obama through the coming out (if you will) of Tea Party Patriots to our present moment of grandmothers, social workers and volunteer firefighters all asking their elected leaders to measure one more time before cutting a budget line item because we've finally realized democracy is a contact sport and have decided to get off the bench and suit up.

We all know how tight times are-and how often in our own households we turn over every dollar at least twice before we spend it. More and more of us are insisting those whom we elect, at all levels of government, not continue to live beyond our means. We have, it seems to me, informally agreed that while we can do anything, we cannot do everything. The most interesting development in all of this may be the abandonment of our search for the guilty, which has never done anyone any good, and instead, a resolve to fix the problem.

Obama's "Yes We Can" campaign theme and the tenets of those Taxed Enough Already share as a core belief that we, the people, do know best. This year, in Norwich (as an example), we've had more alternative spending and investment strategies and ideas, and more civilized dialogue and discussion on our municipal budget in citizen meetings than shouting of slogans and waving of lawn signs.

The seven men and women who are the Norwich City Council aren't an abstraction--they are our neighbors and they are those whom we selected from a very large field of choices six months ago (that adage about time flying comes to mind). It was Tip O'Neill who observed that 'all politics is local' and when you look at our local level, there's not a lot of ideological baggage that gets in the way of each of them trying to do a good job in Council Chambers.

The Mayor, with input and suggestions of the City Council, is working to define community and economic development goals of the City, while the City Manager refines that vision into a plan of action and holds accountable the municipal departments to achieve those goals. All elected and appointed officials work with a variety of agencies and volunteers, across the entire political spectrum, for a greater good and a more hopeful city. But it's not just style over substance.

We've wasted years pitting teachers against policemen or human services versus road repair in what we thought was a zero-sum game. It wasn't and we need to stop now. We have more wants than wallet; we need to decide what we can and will afford and support the spending and investment decisions made by those whom we have chosen to serve in leadership positions.
The posturing and finger-pointing have got to end and today's as good a day as any.
-bill kenny

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