I am having a drawn out "debate" with a fellow blogger named "Tim Knows." It has become totally unproductive and, from my viewpoint, it needs to end and so it will now.
But, it raises a fundamental question that separates some of us from others in Talk of the Sound and this is worth airing. The question relates to whether being optimistic, hopeful, even trusting is analogous to being naive, not realistic, even perhaps harmful. I have noticed that it goes far beyond where a useful debate should go and becomes ugly and actually even masks what are substantive areas of agreement and distorts these into areas that are divisive and ugly.
I think the greater majority of people posting on TOTS want to be part of a process that leads to substantive change. I also think that this has not materialized for people down these parts (below Eastchester Road I suppose) for many years.
My issue is one I come by honestly and I am not ashamed of being pedantic in attributing it to Socrates. Socrates saw the risk in so-called "facts" and would say that such are merely someones' opinions cloaked in a mantle of "reality." He would go on to challenge the more skilled in this area, the Sophists, whose verbal skills were so polished that people would accept what they said without question or even pause. Noam Bramson employs sophism with a unique skill observed in many speechwriters and the State of the City is a prime example. If you examine it closely and raise QUESTIONS it unravels like a cheap garment and fails tests of applicability and responsiveness to the citizens of New Rochelle.
So Socrates resorted to the question and avoided the generation of "fact." He wanted to test whether someone would be able to separate his emotional attachment to a "fact" and think beyond it to what it really means in some broader context. In the case of the State of the City address, it points up many areas; most of which have existed for some time, and all of which require analysis and response or else the City will not change one iota; the 6:1 democratic majority will remain largely a hurdle that cannot be crossed. It certainly will never be overcome via the spewing out of invective.
The power structure here is not impossible to uncover. Much is done to avoid loss of power; from the veiling of responsibility through endless committees to nowhere to closed door meetings where people from the wrong demographic, such as location, are denied a place at the table. Most of you know that but it must be "sold" to those who still are skeptical or apathetic.
Tim is angry and follows the path of least resistance. He worships at the altar of "facts" but the power behind such facts comes only from their authenticity and acceptance. In short, a fact needs to have a meaning beyond what it seems to suggest. It must be subject to a greater force and that force is the proper application of the Question and more importantly, the context in which the question leads to an answer and the answer must somehow be certifiable as a fact.
You have a family physician. You complain of symptoms. The physician employs questions, a number of questions, to ascertain some possible causes of your discomfort. He may run tests.... the net result is that the combination of what you DESCRIBE and well as the responses to h/her questions and perhaps tests, leads to a diagnosis, and that leads to a PRESCRIPTION.
Doctors employ the Socratic method all of the time even if they have years of practice. Of course, experience can lead to shortening the questioning and testing process. But the end result is the same. You end up with a decent chance of addressing and solving an issue.
Tim feels that questions are not relevant, only facts which likely are opinions of what you see. So, if a councilwoman ran unopposed in the primary, she must be a sure vote for the mayor and the party. That could be the case, but why simply let it serve as a fact. Throw in another variable, the councilwoman's mother works for the college that occupies much downtown real estate and whose president and his family are major contributors to the majority party. Does that suggest that this person is a sure vote for any majority initiative?
It does seem that way, but as I said in the aforementioned blog, she has occupied her seat for a shorter period of time than the Kardashian/Humphries marriage. So, I want to see more but I have been presented with a amber light or red flag that adds some input of value into my physicians descriptive analysis. What I cannot and will not conclude at this point is that this councilwoman is an extension of her mother's will. I don't even know her mother's will.
The point is made that I am driven by a process that helps me in critical thinking and I have employed it successfully. When it hasn't served me well is when I reverted back to some emotional state based on anger or premature disagreement, or insulting feedback. I am pretty much past that now.
So, I can say that there is so much in the State of the City speech that requires focused questioning and even some early, not premature drawing of conclusions. This, unfortunately, is the nature of both the political process and a sign of the inability of the current power elite to adjust to emerging realities. All you need to do to affirm the latter is to turn on the television and see what people are doing world-wide to address the status quo. They are fighting, even dying to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be an integral part of a unified whole. Of course, even here you got to be wary. There are always those who would use these situations for personal gain.
The State of the City ignores basic realities. It continues to marginalize a major, emerging part of the City's population by not actively involving them in the political process. When it comes time to choose people, the doors close and secretly, very insiduously people, such as me, are excluded because we "think we know everything." Frankly, I know nothing! I begin to understand how something operates and needs to change based on questions and that leads me beyond tally sheets, all abatements are bad, and why a critical Charter/Code supported responsibility neglects specifically alluding to the effects of a growing community crime threat, a lack of concentration on growing a vibrant downtown business district, and propping up a failing school district with pointed City control, monitoring and support.
You cannot attract new commercial enterprises without addressing and prioritizing the above. You cannot address significant City funding without the above and you cannot sustain a financial management system that works if you base revenue largely on fee income, grants, member items and surely you cannot continue to threaten the safety and security of the City by not so veiled threats of firing more first responders. Actually there are plenty of opportunities in examining the exempt base, current salaries of exempts, and yes, executive salaries.
Noam falls into the "fact" trap that many bloggers fail into and that is by simply stating something which is opinion or not critically or contextually examined variables as uncontestable Fact. His descripton of Echo Bay, Albanese, and the DPW move as "windows of opportunity" are sophistic. What opportunities do the first two new proposed developments actually present? They are, at best, delayed gratifications and likely not that. We need more pointed relief, we need to consolidate, restore, do more in these areas. I will say unequivocabally that if the Citizen's Committee empowered to work on the Budget, etal does not do a proper assessment of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.... a way of addressing the description phase of the physician's analogy presented earlier, they will have failed. You cannot realistically present solutions or even proper prioritizations of goals or objectives until you understand what the variables, consequences, resources availability, etc. are at your disposal. Of course, the very construction of this committee is flawed and suggests typical overmanagement and contol.
Then there is the DPW yard. It comes up in today's Journal News and what is most troubling is that you are left with it as the option of last resort. I believe the supervisor, I believe his name is Mr Apocella, stated that years earlier he came from Greenwich to New Rochelle and our facility was 50 or so years behind the times. It is stated that the City "has thought about the inadequacy of the site" for a number of years. So, then, a question Socrates might pose is "why did you actually set into motion a plan to do something about it" only within the past few years. We can answer that with some authority, but the bigger question is what does this say about the management process in New Rochelle? What does it say about the need for so many task forces, people, and processes devoted to planning? It says to me that I would look at whether the initiation of so many groupings or projects is meant to obfuscate, to apply power, to give supporters some role in government. If I postulate that, I want to know where they come from, what they do, who they report to, and whether they are registered with any party and are they contributors to that party. These are facts that are contributory to what would turn out to be a greater truth.
So, Tim, if you are reading this, I do feel bad that you feel bad, but you have to live with that. Plenty of posters here will support you and perhaps a few my way of thinking and approach. We both want the same things I think but that too, will have to stand the test of time.
Let me conjure up Julie Andrews for a moment. I want to be an optimist. I want to be a compassionate man. I want to be a voice to unite North and South. I want diversity inasmuch as it has meaning for all citizens. I want Noam to change. I want the City to grow and prosper. I want the school district to continue to show some progress as it is showing under the new school board head and I want this to not be a reflection of hard times, but rather of building a community.
So, Tim, I do walk to the Patisserie each morning after 7:45, or 8am. The place is a blessing. I have a tea or so then I take the bus home. I would love to meet you some day. I really would because it is said all roads lead to Rome. I have no difficulty in accepting that your way is not my way. You should not either, but .......