Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another Oar in the Water a Long Way from Shore

Someone in conversation a couple of weeks ago characterized me as a cheerleader for Norwich. I think he intended that as a statement of his fact but I'll accept it as a compliment and assume it's a metaphor since I turned in the pom-poms a long time ago.

I use this space on a regular basis to write about people and projects here in my own backyard about which I am passionate in the hopes of provoking you who are acquaintances and my neighbors to become and remain energized and engaged about them as well. Not sure, sometimes, how well that's worked out.

Long before I started to stand on this soapbox at regularly scheduled and published intervals I was suited up and working to be in the game because democracy is a contact sport and we need to not only remember Teddy Roosevelt's admonition about the (wo)man in the arena but to emulate it until it's second nature for each of us.

Years ago I discovered volunteering and serving with other Norwich residents on panels ranging from the Baseball Stadium Authority, the Norwich Schools Building and Technology Committee, the Charter Revision Commission and the Ethics Review Committee was a perfect opportunity to work with and learn from men and women whose politics and beliefs were both exactly like and completely different from my own-often at the same time. What I learned from each of them was to respect their dedication to improving where we all lived and to listen to others and hear both what is said and what is left unsaid.

That's a skill not a science and I'm not as good at it as I want to be, at least not yet. Maybe that's why when I was invited to be a part of the citizens' group examining a way ahead for the Norwich Police Station, I accepted. Maybe it's because I can't keep encouraging you to get involved if I manufacture excuses masquerading as reasons for why I don't. And because I volunteered, I had to tell you because after today, I will never mention this project again (unless Elvis shows up at a meeting on a pony with an extra saddle) because you need to know I have skin in this game.

What I have already learned is that some who want to help sometimes just can't. Because of  legal, business and/or personal relationships, for some who would serve there would (or could) be perceived conflicts of interest, creating distractions none of us need. Opinions and decisions about the police station and the costs and consequences associated with those decisions were so divisive last November that the bitterness and suspicion left in their aftermath lingers, unbidden, like Banquo's Ghost to this day.

We deserve better than that but we must be willing to work for it. I may not be one of the Norwich neighbors listed on a resolution for next Monday night's City Council meeting-and if your name is a better fit you have from now until then to make that happen and good on you. But I'm telling you I've offered my time and talents on this because when we look at situations across this city and say to ourselves "someone should do something about that," I've just remembered I am that someone. And so, too, are you.
-bill kenny

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