There are always naysayers. Every community has them. These are people who for all sorts of reasons — sometimes it amounts to simple orneriness — have come to feel their community can’t do anything right.
Who knows how it gets to that point? Sometimes it’s the result of witnessing years of futility and ineptness. It can also come from a strange way in which negativity can be perceived as admirable. That kid in high school who was always down on everything was cool, right? Consider “Rebel Without a Cause” — or Marlon Brando in “The Wild One.” When he’s asked what he’s rebelling against, his response is: “What do you got?” Cool.
When it comes to Meriden I consider this the “bridge to nowhere” approach. “Bridge to nowhere” generally refers to pork barrel spending. In Meriden it typically refers to the pedestrian bridge that runs from the train station over the Meriden Green. People in Meriden witnessed decades of flooding and not much success at the former Meriden Hub, so “bridge to nowhere” is an expression of local futility. The problem with this point of view is that with persistence it can become self-fulfilling. If you’re continually convinced everything’s a boondoggle, well, what can you expect?
This is one of the reasons the departure of Sean Moore, along with his wife, Kelley Moore, is such a loss to Meriden. Meriden will have a hard time filling his shoes at the helm of the chamber of commerce. Where others saw hopelessness Moore saw opportunity, as in a bridge that far from leading nowhere would become a great place for wedding photographs and other harbingers of brighter days to come. The Moores have been superb cheerleaders for the Silver City, the yin to the “bridge to nowhere” yang.
I’ll offer a distinction, between the naysayers and those who say no. The naysayers have all but given up to their pessimism, those who say no are a little different.
Year after year, decade after decade, those who say no say there is not enough money to do this or that. We’d love to have this, they say, but we can’t afford it. In this realm there is never a good time to spend money.
As opposed to naysayers, whose persistent pessimism is a bore, those who say no can play a vital role in a community operation. They’re not down on the community, just wary of spending. It’s partly because of them that we get to be reminded that state funding or federal funding is not a gift, not money dropping from some tree, but taxpayer money. Your money. My money. Our money.
Many times it’s worth following their warnings, but I don’t think the Meriden public library is one of those cases. This has been one of those Goldilocks deals: too cold, too hot, just right. But we’re not picking beds or porridge; we’re picking library improvements.
So, here’s the measure: $6.3 million for a partial renovation, $7.8 million for a full renovation but no addition, or $9.3 million for the kit and caboodle. The kit and caboodle is what the City Council is scheduled to vote on Monday.
“Meriden can’t afford this. That’s the bottom line.” So said resident Joe Vollano at a recent hearing. And that may indeed be the case.
But another observation was offered that night, by resident Karen Nangle: “A strong library sends a very powerful message to those who want to live in a community.”
The bridge goes nowhere or it’s a spot where couples want to pose for their wedding pictures. The library looks to the future or patches its trousers. What kind of Meriden do you want it to be?
Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.