Warren Gross's blog

You Cannot Get There Unless You Know Where You Are Going, Comments on City Council Discussion of Downtown Parking Issue

April 20, 2010 - 14:28

City Council Downtown Parking.jpgLast night I looked at the footage of the April 13th City Council meeting hoping to understand more about the issues surrounding parking in downtown. I was looking for some coherency, some sense of relationship between the larger issue of revitalizing (I hate sustainability for there is nothing of note to sustain at this time) and the parking “issue” which has engage so many people, but unfortunately, not so much the people who are directly impacted or involved as best I can make it out at this point.

I have heard the critics, the supporters, and yes, the “blowing in the wind” crown. The council rhetoric was, frankly, not helpful for the most part, but that could be due to the nature of coming in during a specific point in time and not hearing or seeing context, purpose or for that matter, a sense of plan.

Plummet to the Depths: Our Broken State Government

March 31, 2010 - 16:38

arneduncan.jpgBy now you know that New York State failed miserably in its quest for federal funds under RACE TO THE TOP – a program designed and administered by the federal Department of Education --- to provide funds to states who demonstrated a willingness to create and partner in programs to improve educational results in school districts throughout the United States.

About 80% of eligible states applied; 16 of the eligible states were advanced to the final round and the states of Tennessee and Delaware were announced the winners and awarded handsome sums of federal money to improve the educational climate and conditions in their states. Both states worked closely with stakeholders within the states; politicians, unions, school boards, and others to draft their plans and accede to relatively modest changes in their systems. New York, a strange finalist at this stage to begin with – ranked 15th out of 16 finalists. The plan was flawed in many areas; predictably the unions; led by union leaders Mulgrew and Ianuzzi, were strong opponents of the major provisions such as student evaluations of teachers and charter school development. But, they were not alone.

What I Learned Trying to Understand the Convoluted Debate over the "Education Mandate Relief Act"

March 26, 2010 - 21:19

I have been spending this week trying to understand the meaning and intent of two recent New York Post editorials, one written March 19 (Take-hike Back Stab) and the other March 23 (Scratch One Tax-hike). The topic had to do with education; more specifically with bills that would affect the school tax voting process and property tax changes. I had some initial serious concerns; (1) did our State legislators actually propose some additional tax burden on us which, in my judgment,would be unsustainable, (2) were any of our most important basic rights such as our voting outcomes, being threatened and, (3) how could the New York Post write such a vitriolic article, with minimum fact, maximum rhetoric; in sum, providing much more heat than light. Also, why is it that issues of such potential importance to taxpayers not made more transparent prior to being legislated. Why are our leaders so unable to think critically about these important issues; rather than having solutions in search of problems?

Open Letter to Sara Richmond, President of New Rochelle Board of Education

March 08, 2010 - 17:26

DSC_0575.jpgDear Sara:

First of all, let me congratulate you for letting in some light and air into the closed corridors of the New Rochelle School District. You and your new team have done much in improving transparency, information flow and I am sure that this will continue to grow in the months ahead.

Shortly, the School District will begin the difficult job of selling yet another school tax increase to voters throughout our City. I hope that you will see to it that the usual presentations are shortened if not shelved, so that community voices can be heard instead of the typical support statements by faculty and PTA membership. If we have learned little else this year, we have seen and heard the taxpayer in focus groups, tea parties and other venues crying, enough! Please ask your management team to respect the New Rochelle taxpayer during these critical times.

As we have recently seen in the Journal News, we live in one of the most expensive counties in the nation: one that has experienced the highest unemployment rate in New York State.

Sharing the Load: Both Non-Union and Union Employees Must Do Their Part

February 14, 2010 - 23:50

I am an active supporter of our local County Representative, Jim Maisano, who, allied with his Republican colleagues in the County, urged us to take issue with the Democrats in the County Board of Legislators, who oppose, or are throwing up roadblocks to an County Executive Astorino's proposal to have 400 non-union county employees begin to contribute 15% percent to the cost of their health-care benefits.

Maisano mentions not only the need for such an action given the state of our economy, but also the fact that people throughout our nation are seeing the need for expense management and that people across the political spectrum are coming together on the need for decisive action to share in the actions designed to address the issue. Astorino and his Republican colleagues are correct on this point and the Democratic opposition seems petty and simply delaying the inevitable. There are some out there who see a more sinister picture such as protecting a certain few individuals and that seems to be simply guesswork on their part. I am sure that Maisano being a fair man, would have no difficulty as minority leader in the County board of asking a point blank question where that the point.

Recommended Reading: "Unions Are Bankrupting Us" on Newstands Now

February 11, 2010 - 20:28

F57BB824-E2A9-4EEB-A286-C62D15114C9C.jpgCatherine Wilson has a must read piece in the February 11th issue of the Westchester Guardian. The paper is on newstands now. The online version will be posted in the WG Archives in the next few days. Click here to check if it has been posted.

In her article "Unions Are Bankrupting Us" she looks at the White Plains School District and explains that White Plains is representative of other District contracts in Westchester which includes New Rochelle.

This reinforces to me the notion that the major battlefront on cost containment in the district is here --- it is far more important than equity inn property taxes and explains the annual need to go cap in hand for federal funding.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind as First New Rochelle School Budget Meeting Approaches

February 08, 2010 - 21:24

My experience of the average citizen in New Rochelle is that he/she is fair, hardworking and committed to a sense of country, community and values. For many citizens, some or all of these have been challenged in the past few years by the sheer weight of a repressed economy and the lack of direct and focus relief offered by our elected officials at every level in the nation.

There are some indications that things may be turning around to some degree. However, make no mistake about it, we have many long and difficult days ahead and, if you are a property owner and taxpayer in New Rochelle, these days may be darker than we might like to admit. Yes there is some light, but most of it is still filtered behind tinted glass. The bright hope of transparency and community participation has not been realized on any level; national, state, local community and, the topic of today's report, school district. I do believe that there have been changes for the better in the district beginning with some relatively new trustees who appear to want to improve matters and get closer to the taxpayer. Let's hope that this is the case.

New York State Taylor Law - What You Need to Know for the Upcoming School Budget Forums

February 08, 2010 - 21:19


One of the continuing issues property owners in New Rochelle have with the School District is the annual raising of property taxes. When the District holds public meetings for the community to field questions and explain the rationale for increases, they general beginning the meeting with lengthy testimonials from all of the district schools as well as the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) extolling the virtue of the District. By the time they come around to community questions, many people have left the premises based on the hour or on sheer boredom and only then, the dog and pony show and questions appear.

To add insult to injury, people attending the session sometimes have had questions responded to by the Union Head, Martin Daly, which is unusual to say the least, outrageous under any condition, and, were this arrangement under the supervision of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, likely deemed as contrary to law and even an unfair practice. During such occasions, the presence of the Union Head has been justified as being part of an open community meeting. This is interesting from a number of viewpoints; Mr. Daly is not a resident or taxpayer in New Rochelle and his speaking for the District would suggest the negotiations between District and Union is properly described as being a “Sweetheart Contract” --- Mr.


Latest posts from Warren Gross

Change is Invetable

Yesterday Barack Obama announced another initiative that is doomed to fail. He is resurrecting the old forms of economical growth, investing in foreclosure situation which will encourage people who cannot afford to make payments on mortagages which, in many cases, they could not afford in the first place. So, the government will invest in another inappropriate initiative, financial instiutions will package these into non-asset, income generating deritatives, and next, they will bet against their initiatives and make more money. C

It never ends..... by now it should be clear that old forms of managing an economy in a age being drowned by the effects of a global economy, and further downsized by new forms of technology, such as robotics, is a disastrous remedy for any economy.

It was simpler when wars destroyed millions, manufacturing was pre-technology largely and needed manpower, war economies created jobs and people came together to invest, save and work as one.

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Retrofit Revisited

Recently I posted a blog challenging all TOTS readers, especially the regular contributor, to get behind the issues facing Retrofit regarding what appears to be differential treatment and unanswered support from BID. You can pull it up from the archives.

I wanted to see how many readers or bloggers would get behind an issue which has all the ingredients of being in the mainstream of the issue base of posters. We have a local guy, with a large segment of members from the community, an organization which apparently is being treated differently from major corporations external to New Rochelle such as CVS and Planet Fitness. In fact, the manager is a poster as I understand it, on TOTS.

I wanted to see if criticism of the Administration, with or without merit, would extend to postive assertive action in favor of some organization who contributes to our tax base, who supports a number of small businesses in the vicinity of the health club.

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Here is a Chance to Do Something Positive

I just returned from Retrofit and talked to Mario the manager. I have been a member of Retrofit since it opened and I am one of close to 4,000 members, many of them from New Rochelle. Retrofit is a local gym, with state of the art equipment, excellent leadership and attractive rates. It is also suffering from what appears to be a lack of love and support from the City and this is not the first time a New Rochelle business downtown, owned, operated or patronized by New Rochelle residents has suffered from excessive red tape, seemingly unequal treatment, lack of direct assistance, and hands-on support. I remember the Speckled Door on Main Street, owned by a couple of second, perhaps third generation New Rochellans that experienced almost daily visits from Administration members on signage, licensing, other matters which demonstrate a sheer lack of common sense and civic support. Of course, I only can go on the language from the owners and "street reports", but I have no reason to doubt it. I have seen other examples of excessive ticketing of coffee shops, pizza parlors etc. when clientele stopped in for minutes to get a take out product. Pretty soon, no business.

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Take the Point -- Politics Not as Usual


One thing about Talk of the Sound is that it is open and will accept, if not support, views and opinions differing from those held by the Editor and the preponderance of its readers. I learned this fairly recently and, at the same time, saw that many of its correspondents, whether names such as Anthony Galleta and John D, or unnamed such as Fifth Avenue Guy, are bright, articulate, and love this City as much as I do.

I have just read a posting from Adam who seems to be active in advocating for Lyse Spertus as well as a lengthy article in the Journal News regarding candidate for Mayor Richard St Paul. I have no comment on St Paul in terms of his qualifications and alleged issues. It is simply sad, but, that said, there is a lot to say about the election process taking place locally in 2011 and nationally in 2012.

In one of my previous, typically long-winded blogs, I mentioned my disillusionment with politics in general and said that I wanted to bring a few points to the readers of what has been taken place in New Rochelle for quite a while and I still am befuddled at why these; explicitly the failure to mirror the City Code in terms of the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the "Ceremonial Mayor", City Council, and City Manager. I am also going bananas at the failure of the "Ceremonial" Mayor, the City Council, and City Manager to do substantive acts and apply leverage to address the two major components of why our property taxes are so high: (1) lack of proper management over a rapidly deteriorating school district and (2) precise, meaningful planniing in the short and intermediate run, to build a commercial downtown base, provide protection and city services by moving a police facility as well as other 515 North Avenue departments to show the City's support and serve as a beacon to potential investors; be they new residents or commercial small businesses that New Rochelle is vibrant, fixing its many issues on schools, and the business community, and moving forward on today's issues, not tommorows potential opportunities.

I am not going to waste your time by closely paralleling the national and local scene in any great degree. Sufficient to say that Barack Obama is a skilled campaigner and a weak president who is selfishly reverting to campaign mode at the expense of hundreds of thousands of jobless folks, poverty level citizens and more. He is "sound and fury signifying nothing" no, rather more a victim of what the ancient Greeks would call, "hubris", the need for pride and self affiliation over the general welfare of the people he is pledged to serve. Yet, the opposition is as reckless as are the members of the current party in power and... well here we are.

The application of the skilled work done by Simpson-Bowles would have been the remedy, but it would come at a political cost that neither party is willing to pay. New Rochelle is no where never as neglectful of the public weal and welfare regardless of critics to the contrary. My sense is that is equally a political animal with smaller fangs and duller claws. We need to make some meaningul fixes, but one of them is not voting out Noam Bramson from office. I support him and I would disagree with Adam to the degree that he appears to infer that if the supporting cast were changed, things would be different. I think there are some members of that supporting cast who serve nobly and passionately for the people; there is Louis Trangucci and there is Jared Rice. And, although I do not know her, I am impressed with the words of Lyse Spertus and think she would be a fine representative of her District and a skilled City servant.

So, what is my problem aside from the aforementioned failure to even give lip service to the two most important areas facing the growth and development of New Rochelle. It is one of long standing and has suffered from the same degree of neglect; primarily political rationalization and patent omission. Other issues that dominate this blog and this is not a criticism in the least are errors of commission meaning that more skill and control and monitoring for example, could bring these under more effective management. These include using the Abatement incentive for growth, the IDA process, the application of MOUs, the BID situation and others. Each requires revisiting and rethinking but they serve important developmental purposes. For example, Abatements are as common as bonuses in individual performance evaluation; the point is that the people deciding on its use must be skilled in developing terms and conditions, contractual protections, control and monitoring and much more. So, to paraphrase, it is "not the singer, but the song."

I spent a good deal of time reading the three set City Code and you can too if you visit the library. I wanted to concentrate on the roles, relationships and responsibilities of the mayor, city council,a nd city manager. Let me make a few points up front.

1. the City has been operating pretty much as currently written under the same roles, relationships and responsibilities for the major governance team for years.

2. Noam Bramson, and others before him, is not a "ceremonial" mayor. He operates pretty much the same as a "strong mayor does.

3. The City Council actually has oversight and policy responsibility over the City Manager who, in truth, serves at the will of this body. They are, in effect, a Board of Directors with similar powers, and the Mayor, is actually the Board President under this arrangement.

4. The City Manager supervises the entire administration team and no member of the City Council and ostenbly the Mayor, can direct any member of the administration team to perform in any way shape or form. It must go through the City Manager.

5. You can verify or dispute what I have said by referring to the City Code, specifically (a) Article III, Sections 10, ad 13 as well as Article Vi of the City Code.

Why am I bringing this up? Because the basis of good government is understanding what its rules and laws are as the exercise of our great democracy requires adherence to the Constitution and laws therein and thereafter.

I would be more than shocked to learn that the individual members of the Council were not aware of its provisions and prescription or proscriptions. So, there is only one explanation that necessarily and sufficiently explains why Noam behaves like a strong mayor, the City Council neglects to employ its powers of subpoena and testimony, and the City Manager can "take sides" and display animosity to some of the members of the Council. It can be either, (1) I have misread the Code, (2) the Code is simply window dressing to maintain a political majority vs.minority set-up, (3) the current form of governance expects too much time and effort from non-administration members sitting on the Council to exercise their power and actively represent their districts and the City as a whole. It is, in fact, a part-time job which doesnt' pay near enough for full time service.

All this explains to me why the City did not immediately use its powers to investigate Fevang. When Louis Trangucci came to the point of forcing a turnaround he behaved heriocally, served the City but violated the City Code as well as not being part of a 7 person effort to immediately investigate, call witnesses, and make some fixes before the DA, impounded the evidentary material and took over the case.

So, we have the typical disease affecting the nation... partisan politics, failure to perform in some unified fashion and so, neglect of stewardship and in truth "there is no Bramson Administration but rather some agreed upon arrangement that the City continue to do business in ways it has done in the past. Occasionaly we get a burp on a "strong mayor" resolution placed on a ballot, but why? Is it to justify changing the City Code? Why not simply operate under the aegis of the Code? And, why can't the citizen get a presentation of facts on the Code from the City Attorney so we all can act in a more grown-up, thoughtful way.

So why do I unhesitatingly endorse Noam Bramson for mayor? I have never received anything from him as a payment in any kind for my support and don't expect it. My reasons are simple: he is easily the brightest guy in the room, has an enormous capacity for bring disparate facts into some cohestiveness, loves the City, is a solid citizen of the Community, and frankly, as Pilate said once, "I find no fault with this man." I have shared everything that I have said to you above in the past with Noam and I think he will begin to see the need for proactivity with the School District and the need to migrate key services to the downtown area. He should not, repeat not, abandon Sustainability, Long Range Planning or even Echo Bay. These have long term value to all of us albeit the latter needs to be re-envisioned and re-tooled. He needs to advocate for a return and restoration of the Armory to celebrate our veterans, of which I am a proud ex Army NCO, as well as building a parallel community based facility for The East End.

Of course there is much more, but let me say why I feel strongly about Louis and Jared. Louis is one of the most courageous, fair, and moral people I have met in politics. He has strong views; many of which I question, but never his advocacy for New Rochelle or his willingness to work with all people all of the time. Jared is a great addition to the process, bright, articulate, caring and full of ideas. His work with Community based organizations is exactly what is needed. As for Ms. Sperber, she appears to have the qualities you look for in a representative and a human being. I will gladly trust my intuition as well as Adam on this one.

Let me close by mentioning once again the Talk of the Sound. It is read by most citizens of this citizens. I will take many shots across the bow on this blog. It doesn't matter. It is time for people who don't step up to step down.


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Politics or Patriotism -- Pick One

It seems more and more likely that politics and patriotism have become separated at both body and soul. This is not unique to any one party or level of governance. Today, for example, the President is speaking at the United Nations and, politically, is undoing what appeared to be his operating moral imperative of working to bring the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian situation together by means of a negotiated solution, he has "discovered" that many of the GOP leaders have developed a crush on supporting Israel to the extent of denying foreign aid to the Palestinians.

This follows concerted action and actual military support of insurgents in Arab nations such as Egypt, Libya, and Syria to overthrown established governments in favor of who knows what. It even meant deserting a friendly leader, Mubarak of Egypt.

This discontinuity of moral fiber has undermined our national security, further corroded our financial picture, and put American military and civilians at considerable risk. Why? can you say politics? Let it roll off the tongue... politics.

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A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

What has happened to the America I grew up in and thought I knew. We went to Church or Synagogue, pledged allegiance to our flag, were watched closely by the entire neighborhood for any signs of disrepair or disrespect, served our nation, and sacrificed and saved for the greater good. Yes, there were plenty of social and economic concerns to keep us occupied, but it appeared to me at least that elected officials cared, were wise and kept the greater good always foremost in their thoughts and actions.

No more! Politics has lost all of its root meanings from the ancient Greeks; it is now a composite of people who put self before service, ideology before the greater good, and the office holders seem more interested in re-election than reflection and collecting contributions over contributing.

Is this harsh? No, actually I think it is rather mild. Perhaps we have too many lawyers in office rather than people who literally left their businesses, secured their farms, and marched off to the State, City or Nation's capitals to do the people's business. Where is Mr. Deeds now that we need him?

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How Open Is the Open Meeting Law

A recent artcle in the Westchester Guardian featured Bob Freeman from New York State Committee on Open Government presenting information on the Open Meeting Law. Mention was made of pending legislation sponsored by Assembly woamn Paulin (A00081) which would fruther strengthen a citizen's right to obtain important information on requiring the State to make record documentation from meetings and other sources available to the public. Unfortunately two lamentable facts came into play (1) the Open Meeting law is not enforced by the State and relies on the "good will" and due diligence of municipal bodies to comply with the law A dissatisfied litigant would have to arrange to secure legal assistance to bring the matter in question up to the Supreme Court and likely, be obligated to pay significant legal expenses. In addition, A00081 was returned for a signifcant rewrite and a considerably weaker bill, A72B, was finally agreed to by the Senate and Assembly and signed by the Governor. This seems to follow the trail of other NYS laws, specifically the Businss Corporate Law which, for the most part, also require litigants to obtain private counsel to advance their course. It is both distateful and depressing to see bills that actively inform, involve, and energize the NYS electorate be treated with such a negative mind-set and it should present the need for sites like TOTS who work hard to fill in the gaps caused by a lack of high level support.

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