Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advice Isn't the Only Thing that Begins with "A"

Advice can often be like a summer rain shower during your vacation. While you appreciate the necessity of it, concede its importance and understand its benefits, you wonder about the timing and duration while hoping it's actually intended for someone else, somewhere else. It's easy to offer and sometimes hard to accept.

We listen to it with difficulty, with reluctance or with resentment. Sometimes we listen to it the way a dog hears: not paying attention as mumbling and murmuring goes on and then someone says our name and we look up. It's at that point when I wonder where the rubber squeak toy in my mouth came from, but your mileage may vary.

Last Monday evening, at a session before the City Council's regular (and first meeting since the election) the aldermen and women had an information meeting with the Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC), the City Council's designated development agency.

When you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride. As one of a handful of citizen-residents who attended the informational meeting, I'm glad I remained seated and kept my arms and head inside because the presentation by Bob Mills, NCDC's Executive Director, covered not just the topic du jour, an update on the economic development initiatives for downtown the voters funded two years ago, but a larger and longer view of possible paths ahead and suggestions on how the Council might decide on which route to choose.

From where I sit at Council meetings, and I attend a reasonable number of them, I see a City Council whose composition is very similar to its predecessor, populated by neighbors with the best of intentions but who continue to struggle at times to craft a system that will engage the greatest number of people and agencies whose time and talents can benefit the city as a whole and the Chelsea District especially.

I have a copy of the NCDC Strategic and Action Plan 2013-2015 and would encourage you to get one on line or stop into their offices at 77 Main Street and review a copy of your own to see what areas of concern and concentration the City Council's action agency sees as opportunities and challenges. Then consider a modest suggestion as if you were a member of the City Council.

Two City Councils and one mayor ago, the Administration, Planning and Economic Development (APED) Sub-Committee was dissolved (not without strenuous and eloquent objections). APED had been an effort  by an even earlier City Council to build consensus and facilitate collaboration (both short and long term) among the various volunteer committees in concert with the professional municipal departments.

It fell into disuse, suggested some, because everyone had a piece of the responsibility for development but no one had any authority or accountability to do any development. The Council now has an agency to execute a strategic plan and through APED or something like it, the accountable municipal partner to coordinate a more holistic and competent effort to transform Norwich. Talking about change is NOT change, it's just talk. We should be talked out by now. Money doesn't talk, it swears. Isn't it time we listened and started doing?
-bill kenny

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