As the December 10th City Council meeting ended last Tuesday, New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson leaned into the microphone and called out "Katie" and waved his hand to indicate to a woman in the audience that he wanted to speak with her.
The woman was reporter Katie Hoos of The City Review New Rochelle, a publication of the Home Town Media Group, formerly known as the Sound & Town Report.
Bramson wanted to complain about Hoos' article, ECHO BAY SAGA OFFICIALLY OVER, in which she cited unnamed sources who raised questions about the motivations for Council Member Jared Rice and Barry Fertel to vote against the Forest City Land Disposition Agreement, effectively ending the Echo Bay Project.
Sources surrounding the dynamics of the vote suggest Bramson advised Fertel and Rice to save their political futures by voting against Echo Bay, while he would be the sole council member to fall on his sword for the doomed project. All seven members of the City Council are up for re-election in 2015.
As political analysis, the observation was not particularly shocking to Council Watchers who know well Bramson's penchant for micro-managing City Council Members and choreographing City Council meetings. In fact, it was rather obvious to those watching that the 6-1 vote against the LDA and the accompanying speeches by Fertel, Rice and Bramson were all planned in advance by Bramson.
After calling her over to talk, Bramson could be overheard as he spoke to Hoos in the City Council chambers.
Bramson asserted that it was not accurate that Bramson had advised Fertel and Rice how to vote in order to protect their own political futures and criticized Hoos for including the paragraph in her article. Hoos stood by her story and walked away.
This incident was not the first time Bramson has come down from the dais at a City Council meeting to confront a person in the audience: Furious New Rochelle Mayor, Noam Bramson, Lashes Out at New Rochelle Citizens' Redistricting Committee "Don't Piss On My Leg Then Try to Shake My Hand"
In the article Hoos also notes:
...it’s unusual for New Rochelle City Council members—in particular Rice and Fertel—to vote across party lines, it has happened before. In February, Rice sided with Republicans Trangucci and Tarantino and Democrats Hyden and Rackman to vote down the creation of assistant police commisioner (sic) roles within the police department. Fertel, who typically votes in line with Bramson, broke ranks and left the mayor standing alone on Echo Bay’s front line.
Fertel did vote against Mayor on Bramson's push to allow residents to raise chickens in New Rochelle. That proposal was voted down by the City Council.
Rice claims to be an independent vote on Council, a statement usually accompanied by guffaws by anyone who hears it. Up until this past February, Rice had never challenged or contradicted the Mayor at a City Council Meeting or been on the other side of a vote.
Since Bramson's defeat at the hands of County Executive Rob Astorino on November 5th, however, Rice has been telling people that with the election now over they are "going to see a new Jared Rice".
Although Rice has now voted three times this year against a position taken by Mayor Bramson, he has always done so after a majority has been lined up against the Mayor at which point his vote no longer matters.
For a regular vote on the seven-member City Council, a simple majority of four votes is required so a fifth vote is of no consequence beyond political window-dressing.
The firs time Rice voted against the Mayor was in February, only after the Gang of Four (Hyden, Trangucci, Tarantino, Rackman) came together to oppose a pension-padding scheme cooked up by the City Manager and Police Commissioner. Once four votes were in place, Rice voted against the creation of the new civilian position of Assistant Police Commissioner.
Similarly, Rice was the fifth vote to put Civil Service Commission meetings on TV.
On the Echo Bay issue, Rice told Trangucci, Hyden and Tarantino that if they could line up a fourth vote against Echo Bay he would join them.
Rice has put out a similar word on the move of the City Yard from East Main Street to a site located on Beechwood Avenue.
Rice, who has never cast a deciding vote on City Council, is not likely to be a candidate for a Profile in Courage Award any time soon.
Hence Talk of the Sound's new nickname for the Council Member from District 3.
Jared "Fifth Vote" Rice.