Chairman Jenkins & Columnist Reisman weigh in on Gadsden Flag issue in New Rochelle

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Chairman Jenkins & Columnist Reisman weigh in on Gadsden Flag issue in New Rochelle

April 18, 2013 - 16:08

The ever-escalating issue of the Gadsden Flag in New Rochelle intensified today with Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman, Ken Jenkins, and Journal News featured columnist, Phil Reisman chastising the New Rochelle City Council led by Mayor Noam Bramson. 


As most everyone knows, this issue became national news after the New Rochelle City Council voted to override City Manager Chuck Strome’s decision to allow the Gadsden Flag to fly beneath the American Flag (Old Glory) in front of the New Rochelle Armory, a Naval Militia Armory. After its removal, the City confiscated the flag from Veterans who had folded the flag appropriately. 


Jenkins, on his weekly WVOX radio spot, said this was worse than a rookie mistake on the part of the New Rochelle City Council while Riesman states, “That flag [Gadsden Flag] should be embraced by everyone.”


As a former co-chairman of the Save Our Armory Committee it is clear that this was a political move on the part of Bramson to enhance his chances to attain the democratic nomination to run against County Executive, Rob Astorino, in November. Unfortunately for Bramson, he has alienated the Westchester Veterans according to Jenkins. 


The key player in this issue is Councilman Jared Rice who proclaims himself the initiator of council concern. I believe I was “the first person to contact the city manager with respect to this flag” Rice stated at the April 9, council meeting. It is my understanding that Rice is upset with the blowback he is receiving. Rice is a rookie who is learning a valuable life-lesson. If you don’t want to be a target, don’t put a bull’s-eye on your back. The best way to deal with this now is to let it play itself out. A lesson learned by Bramson who was silent during the council debate of the flag and actually permitted Rice to repeatedly interrupt Councilman Albert Tarantino who stated his fellow councilmembers made “a lot to do about nothing” and stated the issue “is now taking on a life of its own.”


The timeline is clear:

Veterans retire Old Glory and raise a new flag with the Gadsden Flag

City manager informs the Veterans that the Gadsden Flag will be removed

Veterans educate the city manager as to the Gadsden Flag history

City Manager decides to allow the Gadsden Flag to remain

An illegal phone vote by city council overrides city manager’s decision

City workers remove and confiscate the folded flag from Veterans

City council formally votes to remove the Gadsden Flag

National firestorm begins


There are multiple flies in the ointment presented by city council. First and foremost are all of the absurd parallels between the Gadsden Flag and, get ready for the illogical, the Rainbow Coalition and Confederate (Stars & Bars) flags among others. When Veterans noted that many Americans died under the Gadsden Flag, and still do today, one member of council commented that many Americans died under the Confederate Flag, should we allow that flag to fly too? Another fly stuck in the ointment is the fact that Bramson led protests, while attending Harvard, against the ROTC program. Bramson is on record stating that everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to achieve their dream while actively acting to deny fellow students the right to follow their chosen dream of a military career. 


The height of hypocrisy is attained when Mayor Bramson, councilmembers Rice, Fertel, Hyden and City Manager Strome all auspiciously participated in the 2012 Memorial Day Parade and daylong celebration at Hudson Park with the Gadsden Flag prominently displayed.

It took Councilmember Rice a year to develop his belief that the Gadsden Flag is offensive and for other councilmembers to label the Gadsden Flag a “Tea Party Flag.” 


It is obvious that this was politically motivated and it backfired in the worst possible way. Kudos to councilmembers Albert Tarantino for putting the issue in prospective and Lou Trangucci for making a motion to allow council “to make a right out of a wrong” but unfortunately those suggestions fell on politically deaf ears. I will close with a quote from Phil Reisman which I believe sums it up, “That [Gadsden] Flag should be embraced by everyone. Don’t tread on me? Make that, don’t tread on us. Damn right.”

There are 9 Comments

Bramson didn't just lead protests at Harvard, Bramson used his power as a Student Council Officer to ensure the ROTC did not take root.
He used previous demonstration and the threat of future demonstrations to force the issue with the Administration. Sort of like threatening the power of Eminent Domain if the private owners did not sell their property to Lou Cappelli on the LeCount fiasco.
An elected student council member really does not have this kind of power unless he chooses to seize it. Sort of the same way he has seized power in the City of New Rochelle. If I am the County Democratic leaders I would think long and hard about the blow back on this. Bramson's Liberal agenda will not fly in a County Wide Race. Astorino is a shoe in in towns like Rye, Pelham, Eachester, let alone anything North of 287.

The County Executive election will be determined by the majority of Westchester voters. Most Westchester voters live in Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mt Vernon White Plains and Greenburgh. Westchester mainly votes Democrat, and that tendency is increasing.

It is quite likely that a Democratic candidate, either Noam Bramson or Ken Jenkins, will be elected to County Executive in November 2013. Certainly the Gadsden Flag will not win elections for Westchester Republicans.

But all that is obvious to any realistic observer of Westchester politics.

You refer to Noam's Liberal agenda. I ask you to explain, what is so liberal about Mayor Bramson's agenda?

And for context, what is your honest, non-sarcastic definition of liberal?

Personally, I prefer the word progressive. The Democratic Party ceased being liberal after 1972, and largely moved towards moderate-progressive. Likewise, since 1972, the Republican Party abandoned it moderate-progressive positions, moving towards ultra-conservative if not reactionary.

I said it at the Public Hearings,

In New Rochelle the process by which we govern is flawed as you have seen over the years, the last few months and saw the last few weeks. It seems there are no standards; The City Charter is not followed. There is no accountability, all positions are voted in or appointed with a super majority. Sometimes they act, sometimes they don’t. No one knows who is in charge, Strong Mayor, Ceremonial Mayor or The City Manager. That is why The City Manager and The City Council were on different pages. Who truly calls the shots? Someone needs to step up and take action to return to following the City Charter, If not we will continue with the mess we have today. It is not just about the flag any more.

If the actions or in-actions of the past continue New Rochelle will live in a city of confrontation, heated debate, petitions, hearings and a lack of true input by the community. The City Council was elected to represent the community and the community should be put first at all times. The discussions should have started long ago. Return to following The City Charter. It may not prevent all the problems, but at least we would be able to have some accountability on The City Council and within the City Staff. Some may even appreciate what could be done if The City Charter was followed.

“Common sense for the Common Good”

We need a new City Charter.

The voters need to be able to elect our Chief Executive, whatever its title. I believe the NR Mayor should be elected to be that Chief Executive,and that there should be no office of City Manager.

Likewise, neither the Mayor nor any other office, should be elected as an At-Large Member of the City Council. The City Council should consist of seven members each elected within seven City Council Districts. Having any At-Large member on the City Council pollutes the concept of a City Council representing Districts. This is a concept supported by then-Mayors Republican Leonard Paduano and Democrat Tim Idoni.

It is only then, that New Rochelle, will have separation of powers, greater democracy and the full electoral representation that is supposed to be 'the American Way'. It is only then, that the voters can determine which persons in political office are helping or hurting New Rochelle.

Bob McCaffrey , what is your opinion of switching from a 1930's style, undemocratic, City Manager government, back to a democratically elected Chief Executive government?

Actually, there is no national firestorm, nor are most New Rochelleans aware of the manufactured, unimportant issue of the Gadsden Flag.

The NR Republican Committee is wasting its time on this, in hopes of creating a national firestorm, if its intention is to get more support from the voters of New Rochelle.

If the NR GOP prefers wasting its time on symbols, rather than on local issues that actually affect the lives of New Rochelle residents and commerce, they are welcome to waste their time. But, in the process the NR Republican Committee is simply contributing to a single-Party system in New Rochelle, run by the Democrats.

A single-Party system would make New Rochelle something like Mt Vernon, politically. In Mt Vernon, the government is predetermined on Primary Day, resulting in General Election Day becoming a rubber stamp.

As a Democrat, I'd appreciate the more progressive government, that would result from the demise of the Republican Party in New Rochelle. However, as an American citizen, I would mourn the death of the two Party system in NR.

I think its very important to keep politics competitive, but this can only occur when the minority party focuses on issues that actually interest the voters.

Few NR Voters are even aware of the Gadsden Flag brouhaha. But as this issue escalates to conservative national media, such as Fox News, it will only turn off support by New Rochellle voters, of the political candidates of the New Rochelle and Westchester Republican Committee.

Clearly, this sophmoric folly will do no damage to Democrats like Councilman Jared Rice or Mayor Noam Bramson. But any Republican running on the Gadsden Flag issue, for election to New Rochelle or Westchester County public office, will lose, more than gain, voter support.

Currently, Ken Jenkins is competing with Noam Bramson, to determine who will be the Democratic Candidate that will beat County Executive Astorino in the 2013 election for County Executive. As such, Ken Jenkins criticism of Noam Bramson must be taken into account, as poitically self-serving, just like Mr Parente's criticism of Jared Rice.

But the Democratic candidate for County Executive will probably be determined next week. No doubt, any conflicts between Jenkins and Bramson will disappear shortly after that candidacy is decided.

As for Mr. Parente, he will probably have to wait until 2015 for his next chance to lose an election for the NR City Council 3rd District.

BTW, very few Americans have died for the Gadsden Flag, except perhaps for a few sailors between 1775-76, prior to the Declaration of Independence. The Flag of the USA that our patriots died under, during and after the American Revolution was the Stars and Stripes, the only flag of the USA since its creation by Betsy Ross.

Meanwhile out national flag is in itself, a symbol of "...the Republic for which it stands...". It is our Republic and our Constitution that our soldiers, sailors and airman have fought for, and died for.

You are right however, "that is obvious that this was politically motivated", but the political machination is that of the NR Republican Committee acting under the false colors of United Vets. The issue is meaningless to the Democrats, except as an advantageous example of the silliness and unimportance of the so-called Tea Party.

Under Noam Bramson's watch we have seen Cappelli lauded as favorite developer. What is New Roc? What has dealing with Cappelli brought us.
Trump Cappelli half empty and thats good because the residential projects Noam presided over is bleeding the Tax Payer and the school system day in and day out. No retail at Trump Cappelli, not much at New Roc shall we discuss LeCount. LeCount is the project that Noam gave to Cappelli and threatened private property owners with Eminent Domain. Not for a Highway or infrastructure but soe Noam can try and make something of a Meager Political Career.
LeCount just look at the Pudding and you have your proof of Noam Bramsons leadership. Let go now to the Avalons you know those projects sucking up City services and bleeding the tax payer dry due to that same Noams manipulation of IDA PILOTS. We have gotten our heads handed to us by Noams brainstorms one project at a time and you still can't buy anything in New Rochelle for more than .99cents.
And now he want to recreate more of the above with Forest City at the Echo Bay project. Sooner or later the spin needs to be moved off Noam and we have to look at reality.
All of this genius looms while he wants to make the same mistakes over and over screwing the Tax payer.
Forget the flag this is all a sympton of the same problem. We have a Goverment that is supposed to have a City Manager form of Government. Strome is busy servicing the Ceremonial Mayoralty and the entire process is a failure. Truly Noam has invaded the host New Rochelle as a Ceremonial Mayor on paper while he off loads power from behind the curtain. Its a bad combo and when you look at the body of work this is not about a flag it is about a Guy who hijacked a City and he won't go away.
Sooner or later he will because the pressure is on not just now from Vetrans but from the regular guys many of us not buying anymore and many like from up North. Its not about partisianship its about relief from Stupidity.

actually there was a national interest in this story that was growing right until the tragedies in Boston you are right about one thing it was manufactured but by Bramson and co, thinking they could score points with democrats for silencing the evil tea party bogeyman of which does not exist in New Rochelle.

Secondly the Republican Party has had very little to do with this other than maybe a show of support here and there. lastly you may not have saw my other quote of Professor Quiggley the two party system you keep hyping is a lot of BS, it is precisely why our nation is in this mess and is what our founders hoped would never occur.

both parties are the same on anything important, the main differences are on social issues of little impact for the entire population, on war, monetary policy, civil rights they are both the same, they both favor expanding their own power at the expense of the liberty and wealth of the people. so you think the two party system is great huh? hows choosing the lesser of two evils been working out for ya?

Polls and elections show that most Americans care about social issues including civil rights, the right to abortions, voting rights, gay rights, etc.

The Democratic Party tends to be supportive of expanding social rights, while the Republican Party tends to want to restrict social rights.

Except for the period of approximately 1817-1825, known as the Era of Good Feelings, the USA has always had a Two Party System. I will have to read up on Prof Quiggley, whose theories and reputation I am unaware of. If Quiggley is unaware our founding fathers knowingly created our two party system, he doesn't know much about USA history.

If you look at nations with multi-party systems, such as Italy or Israel, you will find governments that are usually unstable and erratic. Two Party Systems such as the USA or UK tend to be more stable, economically viable, more rational, more pragmatic and more popular. It's clear that a Two Party System is the lesser of many evils.

Unfortunately, the USA is heading towards a One Party System. Fortunately, the USA's tradition will ultimately restore us to a viable Two Party System, although the current version of the Republican Party is unlikely to survive if it keeps to its puritanical, anti-science, anti-civil rights, pro-19th-century-economics stances.


As Ken said, “The Flag is only a symptom not the issue”. If something isn’t done soon, the patient will not survive. We need to find the cure and that is to get back to following The City Charter as written. The City Charter like all prescriptions, the directions need to be followed to work properly. This is an illness that has developed over the years and needs to be treated first. So before we go trying to change our government, we need to correct the illness/problems first and get New Rochelle, The City Council and The City Staff a tonic of reality. Call out the National Guard, The Vets, The Governor and every person possible to fight this deadly disease of poor government before we have to bring out the paddles and it’s too late to bring The City of New Rochelle Back from the edges of death. Some have said we have already gone beyond that point, I don’t believe so. Let’s put the same effort into correcting the sickening ways of our current and past leadership, Mayors or City Managers. If this had been done sooner, some of the symptoms would not have gotten as bad. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Many of you have asked about Warren. He is not able to post any longer. The topic of The City Charter has been an ongoing conversation with us and others in the past. He recently sent this note to me and asked to send it out to you both, Brian and Ken.

A note from Warren:

I have been advocating returning to The City Charter for 2 years; demonstrating how a reading of Article 10 of the City Charter carefully set forth the roles, relationships and responsibilities of the ceremonial mayor, city council and city manager. clearly the city council has oversight (like a board of directors) and the ceremonial mayor can only exercise duties over and above those cited in the City Charter at the expressed will of the Council which would be a matter of record. No record exists.

It is important to note that (1) a strong mayor ballot initiative was voted down by the community on two separate occasions in the past two decades; a fact Brian well knows. And (2) the electorate has no power to elect a city manager. In addition, the payroll expenses for city exempt staff is enormous and this comes about through the high salaries paid Noam, chuck, Mr. BID, and others. In fairness, this did not originate with Noam, Idoni, probably others exercised non-Charter powers.

What amazes me to this day is that the minority never formally questioned this and I would venture that they have not given the proposition that they hoped to get elected and have the same powers. St Paul, who turned out to be a bluff, never brought this up.

The latest brouhaha over the Flag is a classic case of misplaced thinking. It is clearly not a first amendment case; it is one of property rights. The errors in judgment made by our elected officials is legion. Frankly, there should have been a scenario where the flag was taken down, returned to Parente, and I would have put up a Marine Corps and Naval flag(s) given what the Armory represented. I am amazed that a bright guy like Noam does not choose to think outside the box.

For your thinking process -- perhaps another referendum in the future might be called for regarding strong and weak mayor and if the results continue to reflect mayor, then this needs to be actualized in fact or the Charter has to be changed to reflect a new definition of weak mayor which I should think would call for the elimination of the position of city manager.

Good Luck to all,

So I say to Brian, Ken, all the other readers and poster, there is an urgent need to get the message across to The City Council and convince one brave soul on The City Council to bring forth The City Charter as a discussion item. The time is right to have the serious conversations necessary. The City of New Rochelle can’t carry on in its current state of poor and failing health for much longer. There is a cure, it’s not too late to get the help needed and bring back a stronger more vibrant New Rochelle for years to come.

“Common sense for the Common Good”