New London forum is the right idea

For a city like New London that has weathered decades of putting up with old infrastructure while it waited for its ship to come in, change takes getting used to. The longer you wait for something to happen, perhaps the less prepared you are when it does.

The suggestion that the city sell some of its old-fashioned buildings took a leap of logic in the minds of many. The rumor persists that the administrative proposal to move City Hall operations to another site (true) means giving up City Hall (false).

The best solution for correcting that mistaken impression is also the best way to hear suggestions that might improve the ones on the table. New London had experience with face-changing public works in the 1960s and '70s that might have been done differently if they factored in what people valued in their city. So we were glad to hear City Council President Don Venditto say he will soon announce a date for a public forum on the consolidation of city offices. He made his announcement this week after a repeat appearance of concerned citizens at a council meeting.

An iconic building like City Hall that traces its history to a prosperous time of civic pride in New London does indeed deserve to be spruced up and kept in use. No one is suggesting otherwise. Topics that could use more airing are when, how and how expensive.

Once people feel assured that City Hall is not going away, the attention should be on whether renting is better than owning, fiscally and logistically. Then other questions need scrutiny. We expect both councilors and members of the public to think carefully about accessibility, convenience, security, what can be expected from the lease with the landlord and whether the building meets the needs. In other words, the same questions an individual would ask before renting an apartment.

This is a multifaceted issue, and a successful public forum informs in two directions: from the presenters to the audience and from the public back to their elected and appointed officials. A strong presentation will probably answer many of the questions people bring with them. But officials must also be ready to listen to opinions. There's wisdom there.  

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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