Times are tough all over. Money drives every discussion and the easiest way to end anyone's argument about an initiative, idea or ideal is to ask 'and how will you pay for this?' The silence is deafening.
But here's the thing, especially as work begins on a city budget many fear we cannot afford while our State stares into the maw of massive deficit: we must assume there's not going to a lot of help making ends meet so can we afford to spend the money required to operate Norwich?
How about: Can we afford not to?
In years past we've had extended and extensive discussions in Council chambers and voting booths, on expansion and modernization of Kelly Middle School, the revitalization of Chelsea, construction of a regional intermodal transportation center and a half-dozen other projects. The discussions have been good though some might argue some of the decisions less so. Fair enough.
We can all agree we want to enhance and enlarge the municipal revenue stream by expanding private sector investment in Norwich but if we don't recapitalize our infrastructure, reinvest in our public safety and readdress decades of make-do funding for our public schools, whom do we hope to attract to Norwich and what will we have left of Norwich for ourselves?
No one wants to pay more taxes, none of us like what we're paying now. But all of us want the services we currently have to remain exactly as they are, and maybe even get a little more. And each of us has an opinion on where (else) in the budget savings can be realized.
The only people who can get us out of this mess are already here. We are all we can count on and that's perfect, because we are all we need; but we have to be willing to take risks to achieve rewards. And we need to remember there are NO silver bullets. Rome wasn't built in a day and even Marcus Aurelius found the real estate market soft when trying to lease the upper floors of the Coliseum.
There are as many reasons to NOT invest in ourselves as there are residents, but there are over 40,000 reasons why we must spend our own money on our own city. Each of us is worth every penny of the current city budget as well as the one that will be developed by the City Manager and the various department directors. Soon enough the men and women of the City Council, the neighbors we elected to make tough decisions like budget expenditures, will need every informed idea and constructive suggestion we can offer.
If we are worth saving, we'll have to reinvent every aspect of how we do business. The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the habit.