Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Skip the Electric Fire

Around these parts, unless I've been tuned to the frequencies just above the police calls, it's been one of the more quiet election seasons in recent memory. If I didn't know better, I'd assume we have rivers of flowing honey and can't decide if we need more bowls or boats to best enjoy it.

Of course, all I have to do is look at the forest of "For Sale" signs across the city and often, more sobering, the number of private properties foreclosed or abandoned in place, especially where you don't expect to see them, to know otherwise. Walking to last Monday's City Council meeting, just from Chelsea Parade to Little Plains Park along the street where, they say, the neon lights are bright, I counted three darkened properties, reminding me no neighborhood is immune to the Hard Times in the Land of Plenty many of us face.

I haven't lived in Norwich my whole life (yet), but for the decades I have, we've been engaged just about non-stop in ever more frantic discussions about economic development usually centered on single-bullet conspiracies that will magically return us to the golden days of downtown Thursday nights where there were so many shoppers, the sidewalks overflowed and swarms of local merchants thanked their lucky stars for storefronts in Franklin Square and Main Street.

We're about a year into the first phase of the current Norwich Downtown Redevelopment effort whose history marked the first time I'd ever seen as many separate and different agencies and volunteer panels work towards and from a shared agenda. That effort began in a few months after the last Mayor and Council elections and when you turn the calendar page, what's staring us in the face on the first Tuesday after the first Monday, on November 8th? Elections for City Council as well as the Board of Education.

Like you, perhaps, I still have some homework to do to be ready to vote. And we get a chance to get up-close and personal with those seeking to be the next City Council tonight at seven in the Slater Museum on the campus of Norwich Free Academy.

Yeah, I know you're busy-we're all busy, to include the friends and neighbors who have offered to serve on the Council. Some are incumbents, others familiar faces (though they've been called other body parts) and some are new to politics. All would agree that weather is something to talk about-making Norwich a community in which our children can live and work in when they grow up requires planning and doing.

We owe Mark Bettencourt, Tucker Braddock, Richard Caron, Pete Desaulniers, Deb Hinchey, Charles Jackiewicz, John John, Susan Meisenheimer, Sofee Noblick, Laurie Popovich and Ron Ward our thanks for the generosity of their candidacies.

But much more than that, we owe them and ourselves, an opportunity to hear their vision of who we are, this Rose of New England. Not just their assessment of where we are now but where we should next go and how we should get there. It's said campaigns are poetry and governing is prose. Tonight we are lyrical and practical.

We should admire and applaud the eloquence and the elegance of those seeking our votes but listen critically as each explains the mechanics behind the ideas and the ideals. Pay attention as if your life here depends on tonight, because in large part, it does.

Meaning well and doing well are two different things and while everyone seeking your vote is, beyond a doubt, a good person, he or she may not be a good choice for City Council. It's up to you and me to make that determination.

For the last few weeks, you could send in your questions for candidates to tonight's debate moderator but if you haven't yet, bring them along because you'll probably have an opportunity before or afterwards to speak with the candidates and don't leave until you've gotten your questions answered.

It takes, on average, two months for a buyer to make a decision about choosing a car. You should be able take more than two hours to start to decide who to entrust with the responsibility for the next part of our journey as a city. We can make a difference or we can be the difference. I go forwards, you go backwards; somewhere we will meet. The choice is yours, the time is now.
-bill kenny

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