Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quod Via Es Nos Praecessi?

Saturday's meeting of Team Norwich at the Central Fire House was front page news, above the fold, in this paper the following day. Readers' comments suggest a tutorial may be in order. Let's look back to move forward, shall we?

"Team Norwich" is an alliance created by the office of the Mayor involving many of the advisories, boards, commissions and committees charged with various aspects of economic development, all working in collaboration with members of the City Council, the City Manager and the Executive Director of the Norwich Community Development Corporation to assist the Mayor in the execution of his charter-mandated (Chapter V, Section 2) mission, economic development of the City of Norwich.

The first meetings were early in January of last year, on Saturdays, and moved to Wednesdays in the spring when more detailed attention was devoted to crafting three specific bonding proposals for targeted sectors of economic development by the voters this past November.

A desire to accomplish the original vision of a city-wide holistic economic development document with the greatest possible resident/elector participation in every aspect from definition, through milestone determination, selection of partners to the timelines of execution, has brought the meetings back to Saturday mornings, twice a month.

They have, and will have, a moderator to keep the communication channels open and the information and exchange of ideas flowing. Sometimes, as happened last Saturday, it's a little like shepherding cats, but with egos checked at the door and ideas, not personalities, being the prized commodity, people got along sometimes despite themselves.

The next Team Norwich meeting is Saturday, 5 March from nine until 1030, but the location, instead of the Central Fire House, will be the meeting room in the offices of NCDC at 77 Main Street. If you are waiting for an invitation, that was it. Feel free to sit alongside of me, all the way in the back so we can best see the room and enjoy the ride. Do NOT tell me you didn't know about the meeting, or its purpose, or the membership in the room, or any of the one hundred and fifty two thousand excuses masquerading as reasons you will try to offer me. I will have none of it.

Offering your opinion in a dogmatic tone of voice doesn't make your observation a fact, nor does parroting someone else's opinion. But if someone isn't paying attention, they can get confused. And when that happens, we all pay too steep a price as we have to step back and correct mis and dis information and begin again. We don't do the 'paying attention' part real well around here and practice doesn't seem to be helping.

Anatole France was correct, 'if fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing' but I'm more concerned we remember Daniel Patrick Moynihan's observation that 'everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.'
In every communication model, both the sender and the receiver have responsibilities, often simultaneously. When I don't understand or 'get' something, I have to accept that I bear a share of that responsibility and alter my behavior so that we can better succeed. For me to simply blame you, solves nothing and fixes even less, leaving us broken and bent on the side of the road, angry as to how we got here.

I've never understood where the 'for me to look good, you (someone else) need to look bad' mindset comes from or what anyone gains from using it. That's the thinking and the behavior that got us into the mess we're in. If you think seagull management, offering flyover comments about an online news story on an event you did not attend is helping, you really need a new dictionary.

Ignorance is when you don't know something; arrogance is when you're proud of your ignorance. We need a whole lot less of both-that we needed it thirty years ago doesn't make it any less important that we start today. We can do this-not only because we all know we can, but because we all know we must. The fork in the road is approaching-there's the signpost with the age-old question. Why don't you choose for all of us and see how it feels?
-bill kenny

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