Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tomorrow Begins Today

We're not alone in Connecticut, or in New London County, in looking down a very long road on a rough ride whose end is not known to us. I suspect across the nation, more of us wake up every day in a less than pleasant reality than we care to admit. It's what we do after we wipe the sleep from our eyes, recognize we are awake and begin the day that matters. 

We in Norwich find ourselves in a precarious position, and the use of precarious may actually be close to the understatement of the year. Unless one or more of us wins the Power Ball during the early months of the new fiscal year and donates the money to the General Fund, and I'll let you go first with that (my mom raised crazy children but NOT stupid ones), the turmoil and tears of May and June's budget hearings will look like a picnic at Disney World when it's time for that drill again.

Straight up: fiscally, we cannot afford to stay where we are and do as we have done. We know we cannot go back and we are afraid of the unknown in going forward. We'd like to believe in ourselves, but we've been disappointed so often that we spend more time in searching for the guilty than in trying to fix the problems we face. 

One of the bond proposals on the November ballot wants to invest our tax money in basic improvements, such as road resurfacing and sidewalk construction, in the Business Park. It's not inexpensive but it's the considered opinion of people who market business park campuses that it will improve the attractiveness of the park, help keep the businesses currently there in place and stimulate interest from outside businesses seeking to relocate, all of which will enhance tax payments and utility revenues for all of us. 

Another referendum question on downtown renewal bundles a variety of stimulus programs to improve both brick and mortar as well as increase and enhance the people and programs based in downtown Norwich. All of which will, in turn, stimulate growth and increase visitor and neighbor foot traffic to a district many of us regard with an emotional fondness that has little basis within the stark reality with which so much of the Chelsea District currently struggles. 

So many of us are so angry at all the 'dead ends' and 'false starts' and 'blind alleys' we've been down in our search for a silver bullet solution that will cure our ills, fill our General Fund, repopulate our downtown and make Norwich a leading city in Eastern Connecticut again. Unfortunately Professor Peabody has been having problems with the WABAC machine and not even Sherman can repair it. 

The only way for is to move forward. A lot of hard work and good thought went into each of the proposals, and their proponents would be the first ones to admit there's twice as much more hard work beyond each of them that still needs to be done. 

To attract new shops and residents to live above those stores in downtown without having a better plan for traffic flow and parking, without figuring out how to keep the streets and sidewalks clean, without including the harbor which is on the downtown's doorstep as part of the overall district improvement is not only foolish, but suicidal. No one will move to Chelsea because of a commercial rental assistance program that creates one island of improvement when what's needed is an archipelago of progress. 

Drawing new businesses to our enhanced business park when there's nowhere for their employees to live and nothing for them to do or where their neighborhood schools lack the resources to benefit their children will not work either. Piecemeal is not an option. Holistic, long term incremental improvement is our way forward. November's bonding referendum questions are a start not a goal-a beginning and not an end. Unless we have both the will and the wallet to believe and invest in ourselves, we will forfeit the opportunity to improve Norwich for ourselves, our children and their children. It's time to listen to the color of our dreams.
-bill kenny

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