Friday, March 23, 2012

No Dogs in Derby!

I was very sad about the decision last night, made by the Derby Board of Aldermen, to ban dogs from our Greenway, but I commend alderman Gerckens for sticking to his guns and casting the dissenting vote.

Hey, I'm not worried about the dogs - they'll get their exercise one way or the other.

I'm not worried about the people who own dogs - they'll find a place to take their dogs - in fact, it looks like there is a dog park on the horizon very soon.

I'm WORRIED about the fact that the majority of Derby's citizens love dogs and have dogs, yet we can't all get together to find a way to share the Greenway. This is not the Board of Aldermen's fault - they are reacting to the problem with the only tools they possess ... ordinances.

And I hear you muttering under your breath that there is too much attention being paid to this issue of dog poop. NOT! This issue is just an example of how difficult it is to get everyone to do the right thing, to enforce laws that we shouldn't need in the first place, and in general work together as a community should. I'm not just picking on Derby either - this problem is universal.

Do we have to put cameras up at every traffic light to keep people from running red lights and endangering our lives? Is our inner compass somehow so skewed that a lot of us just don't care about how are actions affect the rest of the world?

Friday, March 16, 2012

How Education Works

I reported to my first bingo duty last night at St Mary/St Michael's school in Derby. I'm a volunteer there to support my 2 grandchildren who attend this fabulous school.

I'm always blown away every time I go to the school to pick up the girls or attend to some chore. They have found the answer to what a school needs to be to get results.

First of all, everyone at the school, whatever their involvement, cares about these children very much.

Second of all, there is learning going on there. There is obvious discipline, focus on the task at hand, and a strong core of educational ability in those who are teaching.

And what I notice most is that the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all involved in the school!

I was a little concerned last night because it was my first bingo experience and I didn't know everyone that well but they made me feel so welcome! Thank you Patsy Gerckens, Michelle Iacuone, Cindy Clark, Linda Coppola, and everyone else involved. Your school rocks!!

PS, I caught our Alderman, Art Gerckens, mopping up afterwards - doing his part. Nice to see.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Readiness for Disagreement

I said to a friend, just the other day, "Clearly Derby is a real hard sell - I'm wondering if people are interested in local government or not".

My friend answered (and I am paraphrasing him): It's not that people aren't interested in local government, it's that they don't think anyone will ever agree to anything so what's the point in wasting one's time. The people of Derby, like in many small towns, are a contentious bunch. They would rather argue about who is right than work together.

That got my attention. While the readiness for disagreement is obvious, I'm not so sure that we prefer to argue rather than move ahead and accomplish something.

Is it maybe that our arguers have a louder voice than the rest of us? Are they turning us off to a sense of community? Or have we discarded our dreams for a better tomorrow and the contentious are just filling the void with their conflicting viewpoints?

I'm thinking that the Cleary Derby experiment needs to go a little deeper. What's going on out there?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where did that Budget Come From?!?

Time to learn about the birds and the bees dear citizens. Where do City Budgets come from anyway? Each city and town are a little bit different but I'm going to describe Derby, CT's budget process because that's the one I'm very familiar with.

First, each department within the City puts together a proposed budget for their department. This will include everything they need to operate from July 1 of the current year through June 30 of the following year. These budgets are submitted to the Finance Dept at City Hall and passed along to the Chairman of the Tax Board. This generally happens in February.

Next, the Tax Board holds workshops, about once a week starting in March. Each Dept head is assigned to a workshop date and they come before the Tax Board to talk about their budget and answer questions. If someone wanted to know about how Derby government works and why we spend what we do - these would be the meetings to attend!!

After talking to all of the departments about their needs and getting an estimate of what revenue we can expect from property taxes, the State, and so forth, the Tax Board continues to have workshops through April to deliberate on how much we can afford and whether or not we need to raise the mil rate in order to finance Derby's operations. This goes on through April.

Finally a special meeting is held to approve a preliminary budget. A few days later a public hearing is held to allow the citizens to comment on the preliminary budget. There will be another meeting, or two, after that, culminating in the adoption, by the Tax Board, of the final budget. By state law it must be in place by late May or early June, depending on that year's calendar.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Endowment - We're Getting One!

An endowment is a fund that is set up to benefit an entity. Monies are donated and placed in the fund and the fund is administered by a financial institution. The interest earned by the investment of the funds is then distributed, usually annually, back to the entity that the fund was created to benefit.

In our case, a fund is being set up to benefit Derby, in particular its schools and its beautification. The Valley Community Foundation will administer the fund. Derby already has an endowment set up with the Valley Community Foundation for the Sterling Opera House and the Derby Community Endowment will work in much the same way.

Mark Nichols, former Tax Board member, came up with the idea, early in 2011, to set up a community endowment like many of our neighoring towns are doing. Mark is working with an endowment committee made up of city officials (the Mayor, the president of the Board of Aldermen, the chairman of the Tax Board and the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Schools) and active citizens such as Beth Colette, Nelson Cummings, Rob Novak, Dr. Anita Dugatto, and of course, Clearly Derby! As you can "Clearly" see - this is a non-partisan endeavor!

In a future blog I will share some of our plans!