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Getting public input on use of federal rescue dollars

The Norwich City Council on Monday appeared ready to approve the first installment — $9.7 million — of the nearly $30 million it is expected to receive through the federal American Rescue Plan over the next two years.

Then Alderman Derell Wilson raised a pertinent question; what does the public think?

City Manager John Salomone and his staff have come up with some solid recommendations for the council, which appears largely on board with the ideas that include completing the Uncas Leap Heritage Park, directing aid to Norwich Human Services to aid residents hurt financially by the pandemic, investing in affordable housing efforts, and promoting downtown and neighborhood revitalization.

But Wilson noted the council and manager have not done much to find out what the public’s priorities may be, both for this first tranche of federal aid and for future allocations.

The council agreed and has delayed a vote until Sept. 7. The city manager said he will schedule a public informational meeting for Aug. 30. But Wilson said he did not see that as sufficient, and he is right. The administration should be charged with finding other creative ways to get public input on these expenditures.

We recognize the need to get money out the door with expedience. The intent of the rescue plan, after all, is to help the nation’s rapid recovery from the pandemic (though new events suggest the crisis has not yet played out). But the benefit of acting quickly must be balanced with the need to hear from the people.

This debate in Norwich is something all our local communities should reflect on as they decide how to use these federal dollars, because it is certainly not just the Norwich public that should be heard from.

 

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 Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser 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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