By Jeffery Kurz
Heidi Boyd said something the other day that invites discussion. Boyd is a longtime member of Meriden’s Neighborhood Rehabilitation Board. During a recent meeting with the City Council, she was among three board members frustrated by a lack of attention. Their task is to help with trash and blighted properties in the city, to help keep properties up to code, but no one’s listening.
“And I hate to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway, being an election year, we probably will get some action finally,” she said, as quoted in Christian Metzger’s recent Record-Journal story.
Right away you understand she has a point. Politicians do seem to have their ears more finely attuned when Election Day is nearing. It’s tempting to view such points with cynicism — as in, politicians just want to get re-elected — but why is that a bad thing? We should be grateful for a system that allows constituents to check in with their representatives, in a most influential way, on a regular basis — in this case every couple of years for municipal elections. That’s not a long time, really. You could argue it’s too short a time, as in two years barely gives you a chance to get going.
The first part of Boyd’s comment ought also to be included here: “We feel as though what we’re doing is important,” she said. “They want the city to look nice and, and we’re giving them ways to improve it so hopefully they will listen.”
Other details portray an anemic situation. Though Mayor Kevin Scarpati named two members of the board they’re not making meetings. That means just three of five members are involved, and if just one can’t make a meeting it gets canceled because there’s no quorum.
Meriden is riding a good wave. Federal pandemic relief money is providing a significant boost and there’s progress with flood mitigation, central to the city’s future, and other interests. They’re going to build a new senior center — on a spot where there’s been an empty building for a long time.
But when a municipal board is about to give up it’s not a good sign. Rick Macri, board chair, summed it up, saying board members were “frustrated with the lack of action and follow-through that’s been taken by the city on issues and concerns that are raised in our meeting … These items are generally focused on making Meriden neighborhoods safer and more attractive to residents, property owners, and new businesses.”
Many items await attention for months, he said, even when there’s follow through with requests. “The people on the board work hard,” Macri said, “they’re committed to improving the neighborhoods throughout Meriden. Unfortunately, they’re beginning to feel like their time may be better spent elsewhere.”
The council took action, making a motion to put a councilor on the board. A council liaison should make a big difference, and councilors were listening. “I believe we have not been taking our blight issues more seriously,” said Councilor Ray R. Ouellet. Councilor Bruce Fontanella talked about getting the committee involved in a neighborhood preservation program.
That’s progress, and if an election year is helping it’s not a reason for regret. Be glad to have a system with such incentives.
Reach Jeffery Kurz at email@example.com.