"I have found the enemy and he is us." Pogo is right; but to be fair, there are degrees of fault as their are degrees of sin. My purpose today is not to indict, but to state that things do not remotely work in New Rochelle because we act or do not act in ways that encourage and support these outcomes.
I don't see any real value, except to ventilate anger and frustration, to do little but excoriate office holders for acting the same as most office holders have learned to do over the past half century or so. Noam Bramson is mayor of New Rochelle, yet by the authority explicit in the New Rochelle Charter/Code, he as assumed power and responsibility that is not explicit in the Charter and has taken the lead set by his predecessor and to a degree, those who came before the predecessor. There is no value in labeling him as sinner, or for that matter, even saint. He is acting well outside of role; he has assumed power not granted to him, and you must conclude that the City Council has tacitly permitted this to occur and his community support base, has done this as well through apathy, ignorance, or tacit support.
So, the aforementioned: the Council, the community, the bloggers, are all enablers, albeit more enablers of omission and not commission.
The differences are important! Ask any Roman Catholic the diffferences betweem venial and mortal sin and they will say that the former are lesser in intent and severity while the latter are much more serious and have considerable effect on lives and even immortal souls.
Bringing this back to the secular world, we then must ask ourselves, who are those who can be equated as those who commit mortal sins? My response is simply those who create the conditions and support that allow the mayor and his administration to subsume power not explicit in their role as stated in our Constitution, the City Charter/Code, and who curry and grant favors to those who set forth the means to govern for self-gain. This often comes down to the almighty dollar, the political contribution. Another group of commission enablers are the leaders of the ruling parties who determine who runs for office, what the party plank will be, who gets seated in key committees and who benefits in whatever shape or form, the money enablers benefit.
Those of this ilk range from Arnold Klugman the somewhat unobtrusive party chair, old pols who held key positions such as Peter Korn, well to do citizens who occupy party seats, positions in planning and other committees, "pillars of the community" most often from the North end, some of who are in synagogue and church hierarchies, come from the artist community, school district hierarchy and others.
These are the sort of people, many of them decent and well intended people who divide the City by not understanding the impact of many of the outcomes they sponsor and the conditional consequences of these planned or real outcomes on the lives of the other half of the City; those who live down these parts and are denied places at the table, are slapped in the face by the foolishness of the Dr. Lipow's of this city whose definition of "diversity" is one of social engineer ownership.
But, with respects to my blogging colleague, "Knitter" by name and likely hobby, I will try to keep this shorter than usual by indicating that my initial candidate for COMMISSION ENABLER is Marc Jerome.
Let me say at the outset that Marc Jerome is a highly skilled businessman with a highly respected core business proposition. He has built up an education system, principally serving members of the African American and Hispanic communities, that gives these young people a post high school education. I am aware of the curriculum, entry requirements, graduation rates, costs per student and how these costs are borne by said students, quality of faculty, and more and will say very little about these except to say that there remains a high drop out rate (about 61% in or after the first year). All I will say additionally is that if his place in our community is to educate the young. I would not be writing this piece. If anyone else wishes to comment on the education and costs, for example, be my guest.
I am only approaching Marc Jerome as a particularly dangerous enabler; one who outreach for space can bury any and all plans to grow a commercial retail base in our business district. It would have other unpleasant effects on residents as well, but my major concern is ... "how do you plan, develop, grow and support a small business commercial small business base with the Monroe sword of Damocles over present overhead? How do you effectively rezone, restrict, and otherwise worry about profit/nonprofit considerations for our property tax base given the clear and understandable need for Monroe to grow to increase housing, classroom and administrative support edifices and whatever else is required to meet Jerome's business plan.
Marc Jerome is an enabler, and so is his family, and this comes across in several ways, through political contributions, favors to key administration and other individuals, taking over the BID leadership which is quite inventive, paying to sublet sub rosa, space in churches and public buildings to house classrooms, and along with Iona, housing students in residential hi-rises such as both Avalons, Residence Inn, and perhaps others. BID has not produced anything resembling an impact analysis of Monroes "urban creep" towards acquisition of stores or more important, how many spaces they use in the aforementioned hi-rises to house students.
You have to wonder if BID would have been better at what they do if Marc Jerome was not on the business development group's board. You have to speculate whether the taxpayer expenses in providing abatement and city services has been compromised by their using such facilities as dormitories and, I should note, by Iona doing the very same thing.
And, you really must wonder and think about and force your council members to respond to you on growth and development plans and potential intrusions on Monroe's part in terms of further acquisition. Rumor abound that Jerome is positioned to take over the lamentable "13 MOU" eyesore in and around Leroy Place planning it is said, a large dormitory arrangement. Monroe plans on growing and approaching full non-profit standing. Iona, itself, is seeking Division I status, and who knows whether they will stay or leave.
So, all of you enablers whether active in branding people you don't like as thieves or worse, and all you apathetic, benign, and uninformed uncaring enablers, take a breath and THINK what this means in terms of your equity, your market value, the history of our beloved City and its once thriving business and entertainment distrct. Dont' you care! If you do not, shame on you and if your council person does not care, you know how to both hound him or her and surely how to press another lever when election day looms.
Noam Bramon is guilty of abuse of power not because he is a mean, uncaring son of a britches, but because he continues to follow the path of least or no resistance. You allow him, you allowed Idoni before him, to do the same thing. Your elected council members were so wrapped up in ideological warfare, they failed to notice that they were out of sorts with our Constitution, the City Charter/Code and that they were abrogating their duties as assigned as well.
You critics accepted breakdowns in communications, but more often, arguable business decisions as an excuse to brand Idoni, then Bramson as uncaring SOBs. Maybe so, maybe not, but it is irrelevant. Our rule of law vests this in our council representatives. We cannot use the Majority/Minority vote as a justification. That is a cop-out. I continue to preach the message... get all matters of any signficance on the RECORD. Insist on a vote and ensure it gets into the minutes. Make the City attorney state for the record why the mayor, for example, who is clearly via City Charter/Code a "weak" or ceremonial mayor, embellished with so much direct power.
But nobody does! Were this simply a question of intellectual abilities, Bramson would win hands down. But our Charter does not have a litmus test around IQ or the ability to synthesize ideas and thoughts where Noam is unequaled. The City Charter has a clear, unambiguous set of roles, relationships and responsibilities for the mayor, the city council and the city manager. Actually Noam acts like a strong mayor and we are paying for him in this capacity and for a city manager at well over six figures as well. The elimination and refocusing of positions would pay for any first provider issues we are constantly threatened by.
Marc Jerome enables this to happen and of course he is not alone. I have wondered in the past why Richard St Paul, a bright, aggressive, irritating attorney, never challenged the City Charter/Code. He had to read it... I dont' know but he liked the ideological argument. I suppose he liked the paycheck he received from Jerome for an adjunct professorship as well. That is what enablers do, they provide.
Do you remember that classic scene in the Godfather Part I when Corleone went to the undertaker to have him perform the burial and presentability of his mutilated son, Sonny who was assassinated by a rival mob? Years earlier, the undertaker came to Vito Corleone and asked him to help him with an issue involving his daughter. Corleone did just that and told the undertaker that some day he would "ask him to provide a service for him". That is what some active enablers do. Is Marc Jerome Don Vito Corleone in a cheaper suit? Of course not, he is probably a fine man and as I said, provides on the face of it, a great service for New Rochelle.
But, his campaign contibutiions, help to Union Baptist, the Library and others have a price, it is unstated, but understood. The collection may come at the stage when he asks for consideration on the Cappelli properties at Leroy Place and surrounding areass.
What are these contibutions? In the last year of so, he contributed $12,600 to Noam $8,000 to Tim Idoni, $4,000 to Shari Rackman, $1,400 to the Democratic City Committee, $500 to Chris Selin on the Planning Board, $500 to Marianne Sussman on the Planning Board, $500 each to Councilme Fertel, Rice and Hyden, and $500 to Greg Varian who s actve in the Library and well known to the community.
Are these stated and negotiable instruments with expected pay-offs? Of course not. Does this commit Shari Rackman to act on his behalf because her mother is employed by Monroe? Of course not?
But here it is and it does include contributions made by the Jerome family. You cannot find one GOP name on this list.
I have searched my memory to find a parallel to a ceremonial or weak mayor receiving such a large amount in the way of political contribution. It is part of a six digit war chest. It seems bizarre to me that someone with very limited powers would receive so much money from so many people. But my apathetic or otherwise benign or hostile enablers, it seems to reflect that we have a wolf in sheep's clothing. Noam is a strong mayor; STROGN DESPITE a number of failed referendums in the past few decades that voted against having a strong mayor in New Rochelle. If you check the voting patterns, you would most likely find that a large percentage of these "nay voters" came from up the North end. So, why do you tacitly accept the dichotomy of voting one way and acting another way?
Shortly I am going to add to my 10,000 word output by naming three current issues that I strongly request and urge all of you calm, angry, apathetic, active.... to think about and contact your Council member and let him or her know exactly what you think and where you stand. It is your city dammit, and you will get the government you deserve. This is no time for ignoring, for cute little internet poetry, for cartoons, for passing the buck. It is time to regain control of New Rochelle period.
Have you hear of HR4646? It is a bill sponsored by the democratic enablers in Washington with the expressed approval of Barack Obama. It is enabling at its very best.
An indescript Pa representative, Chaka Fattah, drew up a bill that would mandate that all recipients of checks from the government, foremost SS checks, pension and other checks of similar sort and nature, would require the recipients (thats you and me) to open up a direct deposit account in a bank or credit union. We would be charged or taxed 1% for this dubious honor and to sweeten the deal, the government would allow all checks designated for direct deposit, to be charged 1% as well.
This is a tax masquerading as a fee. Does it sound familiar to our so called trash fee; you know the trash tax where we get no benefits on our tax forms as we do for mortgage deductions.
I raise this as context to the sins that happen when you enable horsespit to replace proper constituent, voter participation and right to know. Our politicians are very careful to wash their hands after rubbing the community's face into these sorts of things. For example, the Open Meeting Laws in New York State are not enforced by New York State. If you have Journal News kinds of money, for example, you can sue in NYS Supreme Court. Otherwise, lots of luck.
Back to the projects.
1. echo bay -- should be voted down and you should dmand that this happens immediately. It is an affront to the intelligence of every citizen. It provides no taxpayer relief, it is proposed by a den of thieves with a documented record of shifty dealings and stains the very honor of our City. Of course Steve Ratner has contributed funds to the usual suspects.
But, it is flawed in design as well. It also goes against the grain of our need for tax revenue. It should provide recreation and a scaled down series of commercial outlets similar to other coast line facilities. And, the Armory could and should serve as the entry point; some of the Armory space could be retail as well and designed to as to point the way into the new development. A new RFO can be issued to attract the proper developers. Give Freimuth and his team room to make this happen. He has experience in similar venues in Stamford.
2. Armory. The biggest deterrent to getting the Armory, preserving it, making it sustainably sound are sadly, some of the advocates. These folks need to back away and understand the Armory is at the mercy of the City but protected by NYS.
Dont' anger the community with wild and reckless claims. Rather listen to softer, stronger voices. Tocci for one, D'Alois for another. I know the Tocci and Bramson history and I don't give a damn. Tocci can handle that and we can demand Bramson handles his end. A small action team can be assembled... perhaps two councilmen, two or three ad hoc Armory Committee members, and several others. I would want to be one of the others based on personal commitment, lots of experience and access to resources.
The Armory proposal was full of sound ideas. We can and should use that, add in some protection from Barbara Davis, and go full tilt.
Why this... two reasons: (1) it has, prior hyperbole aside, a history that can bind all communities together and (2) it can provide needed community services in a part of town that has few while also serving as a lead in to Echo Bay.
3. DPW yard. It literally does not have to move and the mechanics, the rubrics, all of the prior actions leave much to be desired. What we have is an area where a large waste tower is under construction; a fact not mentioned very much, if at all, in prior discourse. It also should be noted that a hell of lot of storm drains, pipes and other products will be needed for this.
It also brings into question the "rush to judgement" aspect. The original study was flawed. No question in my mind that the costs shown at the current location were magnified beyond what they ought to be. The proposed site is indecently chosen, inadequate and unnecessary.
And what sight lines? Although these become irrelevant if housing is killed as it should be, there are not sight lines.
This is the core issue with today's politicians, especially the younger ones. Hubris stands in the way of doing the right things. Do the right thing now.
Council, you first. There are 7 of you and not 6. The 7th is the ceremonial mayor who also serves as the head of the council. With the probable exception of Fertel who represents Christmas Past, you all can stand up for New Rochelle and do the right thing.
I am one of many who will support and assist you in exactly that.