Fankly one of my frustrations in wrking toward substantal City change is that farm animals, bicycle lanes, or sporting events seem to mean more to both our elected officials and our electorate.
I don't think I am overstating the case. Both readership volume and commens suggest that this is the case.I tend to look at reasons why governments become power vacuums or oligachys and I conclude simply that we enable this; passively down these parts, less so among our North side brethren and a hell of a lot less so, with our system of government, our political majority party, the "haves" who contribute financially to this state of affairs, and so, we suffer from the inequalities, the lack of enfranchisement, the marginalizing that came out so strongly at the March 13th open microphone portion of the City Council Meeting.
So, I tend to perseverate over things such as today's subject, the New Rochelle City Charter/Code. My premise is really very simple. The Charter/Code calls for a form of City Government that is simply not followed by the administration and this happens largely because of community apathy, lack of knowledge on what this form of government is and where it comes from, and the compliance of the power elite of New Rochelle; the Klugmans' Korn's, plus the major contributors, the Jerome's and the Ratner's and the compliance of the City Council who frankly don't grasp their power,perquisiites and responsiibilities. So I intend to share what I know and have learned with you and you can decide if it is too boring to read and digest, TOTS can decide if it is meaningful enough to leave on the open menu, and I can decide whether thi city and community give a damn or at least enough to say ENOUGH.
Here is what I am going to do:
1. Cite briefly what the Charter/Code say are the duties or roles, responsibilities and relationships of our major governance representatives.
2. briefly introduce you to the critical NYS document issued by the Honorable Cesar A. Perales, Secretary of State. This document, "Revising City Charters in New York State, should be required reading for all members of government but as important, for all citizens who want to press for change.
3. postulate that you are poorly informed and have been for well before the so-called Bramson Administration. Perales make the point over and over that the citizen shoud be apprised of the Charter/Code, how to effect changes if desird, and how government operates currently in the context of this Charter. Again, judge for yourself.
4. i have no documents before me, but I believe that in the early and late 1990s, we went to a council system (6 districts).
5. I further believe that the strong mayor referendums (to be defined) were placed before the voters, perhaps twice as Referendums and soundly defeated on both occasions. That would make Noam Bramson, what is described as either a "weak mayor" or "cermonial mayor."
6. I believe also in the 1990's, under the provisions of Section 37 o the Municipal Home Rule Law, a petition was sent to the City Clerk for subequent submission to the electorate and he made some error in processing which kept thi from the voters. Hmmmm.
7. Based on what I see, sense or extrapolate, I believe our mayor is performing at a "strong mayor" level contrary to the will of the electorate (began with Idoi)and that the City Council is performing beneath expected levels of responsibilities. Of course the weak mayor is paid close to 3x as much as the council member but you can check that yourselves if interested. I am not that interested.
8.All council members and the mayor is a council member at large and heads up council meetings cannot and should not direct administrative staff or management to perform any task. That is the job of the City Manager. Of course this is violated routinely by the mayor but I think some council members have done this as well.
9. The city council is essentially as close to a board of directors as you will find in these parts. During council meetings, there is a strange protocol where the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk occupy seats at the table. Each is entitled to speak, however the seating arrangemnts are not those you would find in a typical boardroom. The City Manager and City Attorney sit at the right and left hand of the mayor and since they report to the City Council, it is an awkward and misleading arrangment. Well, actually that is hardly the case, the mayor does seem to exercise control over their actions, even decisions.
WHAT DOES OUR CHARTER/CODE SAY?
MAYOR -- ARTICLE I -- SECION 10 - the mayor shall serve a term from four years from the first of January follwing his or her election. He will preside over the Council, represent the City in inter-goveernment relations, present (N.B. my quote NOT necessarily prepare) the State of the City Message, and perform other duties as specified by the Council or allowed by the Charter. He will be recognized as the head of the City Government for all ceremonial purposes, by the courts for the serving of civil processes and by the Governor for purposes of military law. In times of public danger or emergencies, the mayor shall, if authorized by vote of the council, take command of the police.maintain order and enforce the law. During his absence o disability, his duties as mayor shall be performed by another member of the council.
Thats all folks! This is the maligned man, the current version of Attila the Hun, Vlad the Impaler, etc.. envisioned by many. This is the man who leads the charge at Echo Bay and Albanese, grants 30 year abatments, wants to shred the Armory, loves chickens and bicycles, moves a DPW yard at this wont and will and so much more!
Well, he interited this mantle from a predecessor who behaved in the same way. The Charter exlicitly states on the Council can authorized his taken on of additional responsibities. So, who are the enablers that have gotten this all to this point? Why haven't any prior opposing, even supporting council members read this thing carefully and clearly and do what I did.... get the precise NYS document from eht Secretary of State that specifies a number of important matters about a City Charter and shortly i will share some of the more relevant with you.
Damn, we had minority representatives and attorney who never one lifted a voice about or against any of the above. Noam is a product of his time and yes, also of his making. Why have his enablers spit in your eye by not reigning in this young man and bring him along properly. No wonder I will take a beer with a Anthony G, John D. or most anyone else on this blog than a Chateau Latour with the enablers who have led us to the point of close capitulation. But the.
CITY COUNCIL. This is the real locus of power at the ridiculous salary I believe of less than 30k per year. Few seek further political office, most, all perhaps own businesses or are professinals and yes, one, maybe tow are in the power elite or enabler group. But what do they do or are not doing.
SECTION 11, 13 ETC.The Charter could stand some reformation, but it articulates the council has the power to fix salaries and compensation for all officers and employees except as otherwise provided in the local law.they shall be the judge of the election and qualification of its member. NOW HERE THIS!! They shall have the power to subpoena witnesses and compel the production of all pertinent books, records, and papers. The Council shall determine its own rules and order of business, and keep a journal of its proceedings. It shall have the power to compel the attendance of absent members and may punish its members for disorderly behavior or violations of its rules.
There is some more, but consider the above in the context of the Fevang situation and other matters that could have profited from the subpoena and testimony implications. Lou Trangucci would not have had to run, retrieve records, photocopy and seek DA help unless and rather until, the City Council performed its own investigation. So much more, but let me state one or two things before moving on to the NYS Charter Revision text, etal.
1. You can read about the specific roles, relationships and respnnsibilities of the City Manager, various departments, City Attorney (why hasn't she intervened on any of this?) and other matters.
2. My initial conclusion is that our weak mayor, strong council system works backwards. We have a strong mayor, weak council.
3. The majority of citizens in the community don't care much about these things ... they are long, boring, and not sexy. Chickens, bicycles, are sexy. Once you care, you have a shot at getting a government you really deserve.
4. I hope this helps... but Cesar Perales will fill in some gaps.
REVISING CITY CHARTERS IN NEW YORK STATE -- Cesar Perales. Secretary of State.
This is also a borng, deep, and unsexy document so let me simply highlight one or two things.
1. The City Charter is the basic document that defines the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of city government. It is comparable to the State Constitution and to the Constitution of the United States. The Charter is, therefore, the most important single law of any city.
As some of my TOTS buds would say, give us facts! That is a fact and if you admire and respect the Constitution of the United State, remove your heads from the sand and respect this fact and question what it is and isn't, is it followed, and how does an absence of treating it with respect and compliance figure in on how this City is governed and really by who. As I said, Noam is replaceable in the eyes of the enablers. Always remember power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely an power is an aphrodisiac. The Who paraphrased the risk well..... "meet the new boss same as the old boss." I learned that in 1958 or so sitting in a DC6 strapped in, ready to go to Cuba. Turns out that Castro was not better than Batista. Batista at least, gave good entertainment.
I covered what I think happened under Section 37 of the Municipal Home Rule Law when a citizen petition ran afoul of the City Clark. Few people remember this, but I bet Brian Sussman does. That should never ever happen and if it does, there are remedies that can be taken by referedum, but that too, is boring.
What I really want to cover will help you in comparing who and what we are viz governance to what NYS has determined as the basic shapes and forms available to communities in terms of Charter/Code governance.
1. In a council-manager form, an appointd professional maanager is the administrative head of the city; the council is the policy making body and the mayor, who may be elected by the voters or by the council from among its own members, is mainly a CEREMONIAL figure. The manager usually serves at the pleasure of the council, has the power to appoint and remove department heads, recommends legislation, directs and supervises day to day municipal operations and prepares the budget. The manager does not have veto power over council actions.
2. In a strong mayor-council form, the popularly elected mayor is the administrative and executing head of the city government and the council is the policy making hody. The mayor usually has extensive power to appoint and remove agency heads from office, to supervise and direct municipal operations and to prepare the budget. The mayor ordinarily has broad veto powers over council actioss as well. The form sometimes also provides for a professional administrator appointed by the mayor and is then called the mayor-administrator plan.
3. In a weak mayor - council form of government, the mayor, even though popularly elected, is mainly a CEREMONIAL figure. The council is no only the policy making body, but also provides a committee form of administrative leadership and exercises the powers of appointment and removal of agency heads and budget preparation. There is generally no mayoral veto power, and committee chairmen tend to wield extensive powers.
4, finally (YEA) the commission form of government is where commissioners are elected to head and administer the individual departments of the city government together form a council that is the policy-making and law-making body. In some cases one of the commissioners may be designated to perform the ceremonial duties of the mayor.
In closing this, let me say that, in recent decades, most cities selecting a new government have chosen either the the council-manager or strong mayor-council form. The commission and weak mayor-council plans find little favor as ways of dealing with CONTEMPORARY MUNICIPAL PROBLEMS.
There you have it. You can now see through a glass not so darkly what our governance is and what the NYS Charter folks describe as classic and standard governance forms. Of oourse, both the New Rochelle Charter/Code and the New York State Charter Revision document are more extenisve than reported here.
Hope this explains me a little bit better and why I march to the drum I march to and toward.
Oh one final point, I basicall turned my allegiance to the man I had and have respect and affection for, wehen I developed a breakdown of the Charter/Code and requested the Corporate Attorney make a presentation to you folks. This type of transparency is a major hallmark of Perales recommendations. I prepared hard copy for the entire council and request it be distributed. I could not present it to people myself, who the hell am I and what can this mega mouth do in three minutes.
I subsequently learned the papers were never distributed.
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