Sitting in City Council chambers last Monday night as they discussed money and metrics for continuing their relationship with the Norwich Community Development Corporation, NCDC, I thought about how the road to a well-known warm place is paved with the best of intentions.
That adage not only explains all the folks in chambers that night wearing short-sleeve shirts but why our Public Works Department has to devote so much time to fixing potholes. For many years, in that delightful tongue-in-cheek style I've elevated to High Art, I used to suggest to anyone who'd listen (and many who refused) that NCDC was held in the same regard as The Illuminati and perceived by many as being responsible for about the same number of ills in the world. In recent weeks as discussions about its continued funding deteriorated into anonymous, on-line barbed innuendo and personal invective, I started to realize just how small a small town often is.
I'm dangerously close to being that guy who, if you could buy me for what I'm worth but sell me for what I think I'm worth, you could live forever off the profit. And guess what? I'm not alone, far from it.
Norwich, this city that we purport to so love, has been on a downward glide slope for a long time probably since the mill operators went south in search of cheap labor in that first decade after World War Two ended. And aside from running in circles, and then changing the direction of the circles, we're not doing very much about it.
I don't pretend to be the City Historian-my family and I arrived here in 1991, not 1891- but I think the same attributes and characteristics that made Norwich such an attraction across the region since its founding are still extant. It is we, who live here, who have changed and maybe not always for the better but we can be.
Harry Truman once noted 'It's amazing how much you can get done when you don't care who gets the credit.' All the people on the City Council and Board of Education, the municipal department directors and the men and women who work for the city and those serving as volunteers on the dozens of agencies and committees this city has-are all trying to do good things for all of us.
And that includes the talented professionals at Norwich Community Development Corporation, which, by the way was created and is comprised of our friends and neighbors as well as elected leadership and local business people, not some off-shore faceless operation with no name and no number to trace.
Norwich needs a multi-faceted, one-stop shop that specializes in everything as contradictory as that reads. From writing a business plan to applying for a construction remediation loan through using social media to build customer traffic to knowing how to file a permit, and in what municipal office.
Last Monday night, the City Council seemed to realize it has a valuable resource and ally to assist in the efforts to revitalize and repurpose our city and to take the first, somewhat halting steps to articulating a vision of what needs to be done and providing direction and political will to do it. That first step is the hardest but after we learn to walk, running will be a breeze.