As we enter a new year, we can hope for a better life for all of us.
And we can do what’s necessary to make that hope come true.
There’s lots of reasons to justify this hope. From Bristol Hospital’s multimillion-dollar commitment to downtown for its new ambulatory care center to innovative curriculum changes throughout our schools focusing on career readiness (like those initiated in New Britain this year), from a decrease in already-low levels of violent crime to the creation of new businesses and improvements in the facilities for entertainment and sports startups and expansions (think Muzzy Field and the Blues), we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. And growing Grand Lists are keeping us financially stable.
That’s a start, for sure. But we have a long way to go.
This year, let’s look for the best in each other, and capitalize on our strengths.
We need to invest more in our future. That means more resources for educating our children at every age, from preschool to postgraduate. That means support for programs that give every child the advantage of preparation for school at the earliest possible time, so that when they do enter school, no one is behind from the beginning. That each child has the support system necessary to be healthy and happy as they grow older, no matter what problems they may be faced with at home. And that they can choose what direction to go based on their talents, interests and abilities - be it academic or vocational. After all, society needs trained mechanics as much as physicians.
Our hope is that the local, state and federal government add to educational funding through reprioritization of current budget allocations, and (gasp) even raise taxes to pay for meaningful improvements in our system. The payoff is down the road in less poverty (lower entitlement spending), greater opportunity (more qualified people drawing more quality jobs) and fewer prison cells (less crime from contributors to society). Let’s see an initiative along these lines this year.
We have to draw more good jobs to our region to get more people to say “I want to come to Connecticut” and “I want to raise my family here.” This may mean more incentives for business, from lower income and property taxes to subsidized recruitment and training. It means looking at restrictive laws and requirements that just don’t make sense (although we can’t confuse this with a wholesale slash-and-burn of regulations that have protected the environment and the economic and physical well-being of consumers, workers and the businesses that employee them). We have to face the fact that we are in a dogfight with neighboring states to be competitive, and as long as this is the game, we have to be the best at it.
How do we pay for this commitment? Again, it’s time to put long-term value ahead of short-term penny-pinching - isn’t that what good businesses do?
Our hope is that a concerted effort is made to reduce the burden business is faced with now through a focused initiative of reducing regulation, and that a high-powered pitch be developed to move successful businesses here and build new ones - and that we get a few big fish next year, no matter what it takes. A business czar at every level - with the resources needed for him or her to sell the region - is what we need. Let’s get people of vision in place and let them do their job.
We need to build a culture of excellence and sustainability. We know that’s tough when all we see are corners being cut, half-truths being told and an “anybody but me” view of sacrifice. It’s time to stand up for what’s right, even though it may not be the most expedient thing to do, at every level - especially at home, right in our backyard. We can’t count on Hartford or Washington to do things we’re not doing in Bristol or New Britain. We need to do things for our neighbors and ourselves - after all, you really can’t give what you don’t have - and be proud that we’re sharing we those less fortunate.
Our hope is that our leaders define some clear goals that we can all work toward to really make us great again, using the tremendous, diverse talents that built our cities and towns. Combine great ideas with challenging milestones on a timeline we’ll stick to. Sacrifice other things if necessary, but let’s do it equally. Let’s build something that has lasting value for generations to come.
We can do this. Together.