Monday, May 16, 2016

It Never Seems to Get Old

We Nutmeggers (don't ask me; that's what Connecticuters were called when I got here) sort of have a state budget, just passed late last week and late at night (or early in the morning) which means all the cities and towns across the state who have to wait for precise dollar amounts from the folks in Hartford sort of know the answers now. 

Not necessarily a case where knowledge is power but more often 'confusion from stern to bow.'. Here in Norwich, our City Council elected last November because it promised to say "no" a lot more often than its predecessors (in my opinion) is still mulling budget figures and has on its agenda tonight a resolution to have one more public hearing on the final budget proposal whose numbers were helped, irony of ironies, by a compromise on a proposal from the Democratic Governor on property taxes for motor vehicles. 

The more things change, the more they remain the same it's said (though less often done). Here are some observations I authored years ago that seem, perhaps only to me, to be as fresh as today's headlines.You be the judge. 

In the last couple of weeks around here, we've seen the part about small town life I've never been especially fond of, the small people. You know who I mean. The ones who don't have a dream of their own anymore so they enjoy stepping on those of other people, questioning their motives and motivations, abilities and aptitudes and their courage and competencies.

Across the pages of our local newspapers, we've had folks, on-line anonymous assassins offering pellets of poison and arch advice to those struggling to help fix problems they didn't create. And right now, in terms of 20/20 hindsight, it's a target-rich environment for all those who not only know everything but know everything better.

As you may have noticed, we're in quite a pickle with our municipal budget. Not intending to dazzle you with my mad math skills, let's just say it appears our wants and appetites have grown geometrically but our means and abilities to pay have only increased arithmetically.

In that gap between the desire and the deliverable is where we are, and no one seems very happy about it to include the City Manager, the City Council and at every public hearing on the budget so far, nearly every one of those who will have to pay for all of it, the residents.

It's probably a trick of my memory (and yours as well), but every year it seems we are told 'this year's budget will be very challenging' or 'economic conditions aren't right' for some big, new initiative for public education, public safety or economic development.

We're counselled "when things pick up" we can have a discussion about restoring foreign languages to schools, adding an additional firefighter or maybe paving another street that's slowly turning into a wilderness trail. Never a word about pony rides. 

We weren't doing all that well when times were good. We did not need a Not So Great Depression (or market correction or other, more obscene name for the last half a decade) experts are telling us we are slowing climbing out of to fall so far behind in our lives that giving up or giving in seem like the only two options.

Everyone knows a neighbor who's lost a house or who packed and left suddenly. You know we didn't get into this mess overnight and we're not going to get out of it without working very hard. And you think you're working hard, and you are but we still have a long way to go. We can plan our work and work our plan or pray for a simple solution and whine when it doesn't happen. But we can't keep doing both because we really suck at that and the constant practice isn't helping.

If talking about a better tomorrow made it happen, we'd be there already because we love to yak. Ideas? Please! We have them by the bushel but are we willing to offer them aloud and work to make them real? I go to a lot of meetings and rarely hear any idea except "don't."

"Don't" is not a great way to live your life, but it's an especially lousy way to run a city. And when we add a heaping helping of 'if only' to create a hypothetical situation so bizarre it's painful I start to believe if my mother had married a Kennedy, I'd be living in the White House, but she didn't so I'm not and that's why I didn't wish her a Happy Mother's Day last Sunday because she ruined my life. And if you doubt that, just ask me. It certainly beats accepting that responsibility myself.
-bill kenny

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