I went to the citizens to be heard portion of the May 15th Council Meeting to say a few words about City governance as well as to reach out to Noam and the Council to make a few points that were of personal importance to me. I was in good company; Bob McCaffrey intended to sign up and speak on issues of concern to him.
I prepared two documents; "The Courage to Be" and an unnamed document based on the simple management taxonomy of Planning, Organizing, Directing and Controlling. I indicated I would post both on TOTS as I presented copies of each to the Council, City Manager, and City Attorney. As it turned out, there were very few people in attendance in the audience and frankly, I am glad that turned out to be the case for personal reasons.
I am not very articulate in speech at this point and my thoughts come faster than my ability to speak them. So I fumbled, mumbled and it is painful to me to hear my presentation on Channel 75. Yet, I had to say what I felt on a personal basis knowing that my hand-outs would cover the content on my discomfort with the state of City governance.
I am glad I said what I said which, in essence, was that this is the most promising Council I have seen in operation for many a year. I also expressed personal regret at the loss of relationship I had previously with Noam.
Noam seemed uncomfortable and I don't expect any invitation in the near future to contribute to the City. I can understand that, but I needed to express the view that it was a loss to me and I think, for him and the City. I don't think I have ever personally attacked him or, for that matter, any council member on a personal basis. What the hell is the use of that? It will not get things done and my sense is that the majority of posters here would agree.
I do, however, understand why members of the community would feel otherwise. There is a long history of neglecting the voices down beneath New Rochelle Road and it seems clear that many of our most skilled and committed voices come from down these parts. I am very proud to be one of those and very committed to do whatever I can to bring positive change to the City.
If you watch the meeting, forgive my hesitant speech but do take notice of my shirt, "Habitat for Humanity" which I wore with great pride.
Now, before sharing the "Courage to Be" let me encourage you to review the actual Council meeting held that afternoon. I think you will agree that this Council is less ideological and more committed to a "one City." I hope you are, no I know the greater majority of you are and I would like to see some of you indicate that in print or by simply touching base with your Council Member and indicating your support for a unified City.
I have not made up my mind to post the second hand-out on the elements of the basic Management Process and how these are found wanting in New Rochelle. Tell me what you think and whether this would add any value to the readers.
The Courage to Be
I have three minutes to persuade the City Council as well as those gathered in the audience this evening to understand and accept that we live in transitional times. These times obligate our elected officials to forego personal preferences, unrealistic, even damaging plans or actions. We all must return to a state where priorities matter, sacrifice is honorable, people are more important than preferences, and planning counts.
On April 29, our distinguished citizen, E.L. Doctorow wrote in the New York Times that a series of actions are underway which could lead us to what he calls "Unexceptionalism." He claims that if this comes about, we would be part of the "impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic societies in the world." While worthwhile reading, it leaves one stranded on an all-too-common liberal ideological log. Doctorow has little use for conservative values or so it seems. What it shows me is that the opposite side of the coin, is equally risky for America. We are not a "cradle to grave" society; our greatness came about through our innovative spirit, a people who can adjust and make things work. Doctorow shows us both the weakness of an ideological social engineering government albeit inadvertingly while he lays out his case against one that is committed to ultra conservative values.
We are Americans! We need a new paradigm of government and a good place to start might have been with the Simpson-Bowles Report.
On May 3, I read something totally disturbing in the Westchester Guardian. Peggy Godfrey spotlights the results of Debra Newborn's address to the League of Woman Voters. While also a liberal paean, unlike Doctorow, this lacks any merit. She cannot answer the simplest questions on GreeN much less on Sustainability. It is even sadder to sense that she speaks for New Rochelle on some issues; for example, she mentions New Rochelle forecasts 5,000 new residents in some undefined, "near future."
This sort of thing is exactly what we experienced during the earlier phase of Echo Bay when Abe Napersenk of Forest City took over the communications process and spoke for the City. Allocation of this responsibility then or now, is not in the interest of the Community and I urge the City Council to put an immediate end to this practice. Actually, I strongly suggest that the Council routinely put all matters of community importance to a vote in council so that the public is aware of who supports what. Members of either political party must create a record for the community to value their service during an election period.
I want to highlight issues that demand the community's attention. There are many and I will ask the City Clerk to distribute copies of my talk as I can only touch upon each of these tonight. I have endeavored to be fair and supportive and I follow the example of the eminent philosopher and theologian, Paul Tillich, who advised us to "have the courage to be." By this he meant to live and act in the moment and not in some uncertain future or unsettled past. He did not mean to ignore planning for the future or to mourn a sorrowful past. He meant literally "first things first." Or if a Harvard don is not your cup of tea, try the great Yogi Berra on for size who advised us -- "not to make too many wrong mistakes."
I treasure this City and regret the loss of my time with Noam Bramson. I hope this can be mended in the near future as it is not personal on my part but simply a question of different perspectives. Noam is perfectly capable of living in the moment. It becomes his, the Council, all of our responsibilities to recognize the realities of post September 11, 2001. The world is different, our governance changed forever and a new paradigm of management is required that goes far beyond ideological or traditional thinking. The current national re-election idiocy should indicate that clearly to all.
Here are some immediate concerns. For one, we lack a cohesive, coherent planning function. It grows or contracts by whim. It is truly incoherent. From a professional management perspective it lacks what is called, ASSESSMENT. By that we mean you cannot begin to plan until you understand and describe where you are presently.
Let me give you an example of the urgency of proper planning. How many of you would put an extension on your homes given (1) the roof is in poor shape, (2) the basement leaks and the foundation is weakened, and (3) the driveway is well beyond its depreciation point? I hope to hear that none of you would. However, you have this as an operating condition in New Rochelle. Echo Bay, while hardly a scenic waterway and anecdotally described as "something the community wants", is a worthwhile project. But, a cohesive planning process would place this in a later tier of importance. It would call forth the primary priorities of "restoration and renewal" of our core business district. Echo Bay is a "want" and the downtown business district restoration and renewal, is a "need".
Any investment banker, top-end real estate developer, and their like would submit to you that the absence of a vibrant commercial business district, is required for growth and expansion. Its lack causes either no development or, as bad, demands for unfavorable terms in abatement, payments in lieu of taxes, and the like.
In addition, potential residents have their own benchmarks. They look at a thriving school district, property taxes, safety and security. We fail on these benchmarks and, rationalizing that the City Council has no responsibility for the school district or that, in the recent past, our crime statistics were commendable, is pure sophistry!
These lapses in reasoning deny the moment, lack the "courage to be" and frankly, lack both sense and sensibility. The Community deserves better?
Financial management is archaic and directed against the very indices of sound governance. We cannot manage by fixed income, substituting Certiorari as an A Posteriori property assessment, or worse, threaten the loss of first providers because they are low hanging fruit.Councl, the cry of having NO MONEY has outlived its useful life. It is time to look at 515 North Avenue supervisory, managerial, professional, and staff as well as so-called consultants for budget relief. They must be put into play before someone who protects us, our property, or cleans up our mess.
I have no time to mention the absence of managing in accordance to the dicta of the City Charter. I have no time to cite poor process management in terms of building and other inspections, or the tolerance for the unchecked growth of Monroe and, to a lesser degree, Iona.
I have no time to mention the non-profit invasion of Main Street, the absence of any announced work on re-zoning, and so much more.
I have a few seconds to mention the need to put the IDA under the Council directly, refine the role of BID, place a police precinct on Main Street, decentralize some departments from "Fortress 515" to places in our communities, and have the Council appoint the members of the Planning Committee.
Lastly, there is GreeNR/Sustainability. You are allowing something critical to the community to become a joke. I know a great deal about Sustainability. In fact, our program is almost a carbon copy of the New York City Plan. The differences are that ICLEI should have no role, other than as a clearing house for new information and education. Sustainability is, in most cases, a MEANS TO AN END. It is not an end. And, it is not a mandate unless it is part of a state or federal statute such as recycling.
It is an important subordinate clause to a planning process. For example, if the City would undertake the restoration of 515 North, it would use greening advances in roofing, energy, landscaping, and other parts of sustainability to make meaningful cost and resource advances. It is not rocket science.
This City Council is the most promising one we have had in many years and this is good because our challenges are enormous. Consider yourselves one-termers as this will liberate you from ideological and party commitments and free you to serve the people who rely on you.
I have made some editing changes in this copy from that submitted to the City Council. Nothing of consequence.
If you want me to post next week phase II -- some thematically the same on the management process --- let me know by comment or contact me at [email protected]