Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wish you were here....

When you reduce society to its smallest component, it's just you and me, literally. That's all we are, just us and others who come along and join us, either philosophically, metaphysically or geographically. I always smile when people tell me I'm not from here as if I didn't know that-what they don't seem to get is I'm from here now.

Maybe like you in your local newspapers, I've been reading a lot of letters and comments on news stories where folks invoke 'them' as the source of unhappiness and problems. 'They' don't get 'us.' 'They' are out of touch, or set in their ways or need to go home in November. Great stuff except 'they' started out as 'we' as in 'we the people, in order to form a more perfect union...' (Lemme know when you've had enough, okay? I can quote this stuff all day-I'm that good).

Here's a newsflash, sunshine. No one can do anything to you that you do not give them the power to do. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. Don't read the newspapers, listen to the radio or watch TV and WHATEVER YOU DO, don't go to public meetings of your local government because you might just find out what's going on and then what would happen?

You might have to do something. Maybe tell a neighbor, maybe bring a friend to the next meeting-maybe have to offer an informed observation on how you feel about a particular issue. Or you can keep your head down, get lost in the shuffle while shuffling along with the lost and never once risk being on the 'wrong side' of an issue by taking a stand.

Norwich has close to three dozen advisories, boards, commissions and committees and a lot of the volunteers on each and every one might be considered a 'them' by somebody, but started out as an 'us' long before that. I've worked with some pretty amazing people on the different panels I volunteered to serve on-people who were my neighbors, though we didn't know each other. We had far more in common, most especially a desire to make where we live a better place to live, than the opinions and beliefs that separated us and we worked to not only make a difference but to be the difference.

The neighbors who serve on the City Council and the Board of Education have had some rough days and maybe some second thoughts about ways to give back to their community. The same is true for the volunteers who work to keep alive their piece of the promise that all of us see in Norwich. For decades we've been plagued by a simple truth: when you don't know where you're going, any road will get your there. For all the years I've been a thorn in the The Rose of New England, all we've talked about is having a plan to enhance municipal revenue so that sexy stuff, like The Rose Garden, the Harbor District or the Otis Library along with the less exotic but as important infrastructure issues like pothole patching and sewer repair all have enough funding.

We watched those on the City Council work with the City Manager to create a budget where shared sacrifice became the watchword. Some people feared it was the end of our city-but it wasn't. However, it may prove to have been the beginning of the end. Economists say the recession technically ended in June of 2009-cold comfort and change for those whose homes continue to disappear under the wave of foreclosures and local businesses struggle to stay afloat as the sea of red ink grows deeper. None of this bodes well for the next City budget, or the one after that, or the one after that.

Will passage of the three bond issues on the November ballot end all of our worries? Far from it. But they are a first, halting, step to acknowledging that we are tired of talking and ready for doing. Action, like the decades of inaction we find ourselves in, is habit-forming. The more often you're willing to think beyond yourself and place your family and your neighborhood into a larger context, the easier the next time becomes. Many are upset about what's not in the proposals-fire away and suggest fixes. Don't sit there with your arms folded, your eyes closed and hearts hardened. We need every oar in the water and put your back into it. Aren't you truly tired of watching and waiting-or have you forgotten what you were waiting for?
-bill kenny

No comments: