Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Translucence, Transparency and City Hall

The only constant in the world is change-a truism that happens to be true. And as many of us read last Tuesday in the newspaper, change is the order of the day here in Norwich as the City Council and its City Manager parted company, seemingly suddenly when viewed from a public perspective though reports later in the week suggested not so much.

I smiled reading the headline on the initial report and its use of the word “abruptly,” as in recent years resigning gradually seems to have fallen out of favor. Of course, what’s never out of style is having an opinion on the goings on which are going on. From a distance an informed and an unformed opinion look very much alike and in some areas, the latter is often mistaken for policy while the former is often kept to oneself.

We, the residents and more especially the registered voters, get to offer our opinion on the performance of our elected officials on a regularly scheduled basis. You might know them better as elections but they really are performance reviews. Sidebar for those who push “term limits:” a visit to the polls accomplishes the same thing and think of all the paperwork we save.

Of course, here in Norwich we seem to have apathy issues as our voter participation for most elections never seems to reach even 25%. In a city with tens of thousands of registered voters but such a low turnout, we run the risk of the voice of the people being no more than a whisper when the totals are tallied.  Energized engagement in meaningful elections is, quite frankly a topic for another time.

In the meantime, the social contract between us, the electorate, and those whom we’ve elected, is in full force whether a representative was elected by one or one hundred thousand votes. The nature of our democracy is such that I’m always grateful for volunteers who offer their time and talents in service to our community even when (perhaps most especially when) they make decisions which disquiet and discomfit me. I strive to remember that while I am entitled to my opinion, no one else should have to be.

In the words of Jackson Browne, “when we come to the place where the road and the sky collide” change is always the consequence and happiness and/or unhappiness while always valuable doesn’t actually add any value to the process of governance which continues even as the persons and positions shift. 

No one enters the same river twice as both s/he and the river change. Norwich 2015 is very different in many ways from our city a decade ago but hopefully well on the way to where we’d like ourselves to be in 2025 and beyond.  We cannot and will not solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s skills and tools. As Rick Warren notes, “we are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
-bill kenny

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