Research Precedes Development

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Research Precedes Development

December 28, 2011 - 15:46

Simply said, I am toxic, and a mere glance at the newspapers, blogs, or lending an ear to the cable news indicates I suffer from a malady shared by most of world. It is rampant, a disease of the soul and spirit and it must stop NOW! Rationalizations about "critique", will of the Founding Fathers, ideology is no longer helpful. the patient is sick, very very sick and we have not diagnosed the cause of this illness.

I mention this in the context of New Rochelle allocating $100,000 for a development consultant. I think this is essential, absolutely required if this City is going to be healed. But, and this is a big but, the consultant cannot represent or approach the task in ways Peggy Godfrey indicates were placed on the table during the City Council meeting when the 2012 budget was voted upon. It is axiomatic in both business planning and development as well as medical diagnosis that you must describe before you prescribe. It is that simple; yet it appears as if remedies were discussed rather than a process for articulating what the descriptors of the problems are. It would be like failing to take a full blood scan, xrays, cat scans, and other medical tests and couple these with other key factors that might account for the presenting symptoms of a patient's distress. The nation, the City are toxic and we appear for the worst of reasons, to ignore applying the research necessary to define the problem, its parameters, the situatonal variants, and to get a buy-in, a willingness on the part of every elected official to work together for the common good which in this case is the survival of this City.

Freimuth seems to be the most skilled individual in New Rochelle to manage this effort. He seems to have a grasp on situational variants based on his remark in Council that "things are different now" (in New Rochelle, than in Stamford and Bridgeport where he made a positive impact). Indeed they are as are the people in all the aforementioned communities who have suffered the effects of a damaged economy with its corresponding impact on our deteriorating social and economic climate. We are largely a community of critics; many of us lacking both good will, energy, and ideas.

Godfrey points out that essentially meaningless conversations took place around what value this development individual would bring. Would he be a marketing person? How about a real estate broker? What about Echo Bay? Frankly, I think Freimuth knows that there are many issues facing New Rochelle at present that require the discipline of a joint descriptive analysis and that this must precede any effort to come up with "solutions". These seem to be slap dash at best in the past and this is not an indictment directed at this current administration per se but at the inability or unwilllingness of leaders and yes the community, to work to define (1) where we are, (2) where we want to be, and (3) how we are going to get there.

Noam, I call on you as a learned man who I believe loves this City and is open to entrusting its future to the disciplined process of a proper City organization assessment, to lead the Council in giving Michael Freimuth that charge and give him free rein in coming up with an individual who can essentially vigorously and openly define and describe what the Strengths and Weaknesses of our City are, the ruling City Code, the Organizational Structure, policies, and procedures that govern our operations and the conditional consequences that follow any deceptive, or manipulated description of what we are and what we have. In addition, this individual can lay out the variables and the conditional consequences of these variables in terms of the Opportunities and Threats New Rochelle faces in both the near term and the long term. That would include concrete descriptive statements on the economy, community, business, our zoning, our ratio of tax vs non-tax paying entities, our methods of arriving at decisions, and so forth

Michael Freimuth knows all this. He has to based on his background. Give him the ball. Ask him to head up an off site with all Council Members, key senior direct reports, community leaders, others and make one of the hiring criteria for this consultant be the ability to produce an offsite agenda as well as a final report. This should be a dynamic action document that leads to a viable short and longer term strategic plan.

I have heard lately that Mo's is abandoning the City. There is talk that the North Avenue/Lecount area will be turned over to Monroe. A few businesses on Division Street are imperiled by rapacious landlord(s). There is more, but this is enough.

I say based on my experience that the City's first priority needs to be a proper diagnosis of where it is with no punches pulled. It needs to commit to fixing what must be fixed first while putting attractive potential projects, such as Echo Bay, on a back burner.

Please look at your business district and see why it is not attracting or attractive. It is not "just the economy stupid." That is overly simplistic. It is so much more.

I am submitting some information I have developed, used or otherwise know to one or two members of this Council and another one or two to members of the community who want to see change. It will prove helpful, but only if it is the will of the leaders to want to change those matters that impede our growth and prosperity. Politics should mean nothing at this point. The survival of New Rochelle should be our number one project and concern.

Finally, I am toxic and suggest you are as well. I have been spouting off on what should be done, what is wrong, who, what, where, etc.

It ends for me pretty much now. I will give views, but not condemnation and fewer views at that. Rather I will work with the Killoran's of the community to build, protect, change what can be changed.

Noam, I believe in you and you do not read this but many of your people do. Please know I will support every honest effort to bring people together. I believe in the body politic of the Council although it must learn to bury its personal idelogical animosities and work together for the greater good.

We have surmountable issues, painful realities, and those who offer nothing but negativity will have to reap what they sow. I am reaping what I have sown. It ends today.

There are 10 Comments


First of all, I wish you a healthy and happy New Year. I always look forward to your comments, etc. This is certainly a topic all citizens are interested in to save our city. By hiring a $100,000 consultant for Michael Freimuth is throwing away the taxpayers money. What was Michael Freimuth hired to do? You always mention Stamford and Bridgeport, when was the last time you drove on I95 and looked at the two cities. Not something that New Rochelle should become. I feel if the mayor would send out a call for the citizens' help in getting New Rochelle on its feet, he would create a much better place for all. There are many people with great ideas and willing to do the work. We realize it is not just the economy, perhaps it is the people that developers have to deal with in City Hall.

Finally, all those who have stated, "Would you want to live in Mt.Vernon or Yonkers", look again and what we are missing.

Knitter, part of the problem is that our Mayor doesn't think there are any problems and as such he isn't going to listen to or ask for ideas from outsiders like you or me. 

Instead, he throws a bone to a friend in the form of a $100k job (which with pension & health care costs I bet is actually costing closer to $150k) and says that we're in tough times but everything will be ok, and btw here's your tax bill.  Sorry the 10% increase couldn't be helped, but hey we've got our development commish some help so things should turn around in no time.  No time soon is what I'm thinking. 

As usual great posts from two very bright fokls who should be routinely listened to in the City.

Let me give you the underlying basis of my thoughts on this. I know intimately what took place in Stamford as I consulted with the State and a sizable nonprofit at the time. So, I do not Freimuth's quality.

His quote in Peggy Godfrey's column in the Westchester Guardian was cryptic yet reading between the lines of the comment, "New Rochelle, Bridgeport, and Stamford are very different", I am wondering whether he was actually inferring that he does not the freedom of action required to do the job properly. Maybe, maybe not. But, he is too smart I think to point up the obvious regarding the economy.

I went on to point out to the readers that every reputable consultant or practitioner in the development field always, always precedes prescription (solutions) with description (problems or symptoms). I think you will both agree this does not happen here for any one of a number of reasons.

So, last I heard is that the Council agreed to hire a Consultant. If one or both of you is correct, and it turns out that the individual is a house mouse or someone with limited credentials who does not know how to proceed on an assessment, we have an issue, but no worse off than keeping and rewarding a BID guy who it seems simply moves businesses from one location to another and apparently has not pointed out the real issues of retaining, much less attracting new businesses. In fact I think he got a raise for God knows what.

City government, on both sides of the aisle have produced nothing, repeat nothing of substance or value in 2011 and actually for years prior to that. You guys know the story.

I want to help this process out; to be meaningful and substantial and like in D,C, we may have to take more pain before it turns around. We are in a hole period and bold action is needed, action that defines the many issues that are not addressed based largely on the simpleminded proposition that it is a combination of the economy and hubris (meaning false pride) coupled with a large dosage of politics.

I cannot accept this nor can I continue to sit and write my generally long-winded responses to a serious perhaps fatal flaw in governance. I have pointed out things that would scare the hell out of any professional business professional or even a legislative committee -- what, you have a City Code that states what! and you are managing how! And, you won't look at reassessment alternatives because it could hurt the North or South or God knows what else so pay off by retrogressive, a posteriori Certiorari and hope for the best.

I am very sincere on this point -- you two and others like NINFRO, John D, Imburgia, etc. are super citizens with first class minds. I know I missed some others, but speaking only for myself, I am not going to label the sinner because I have not caught him or her redhanded; Lord knows the sin is bad enough.

So, I will accept the right sort of consultant if he is directed in the right way, follows the classic paradigm of diagnosing before dispensing, is empowered to demand openness and honesty, and reports to Freimuth.

thanks guys

So far, the job is not posted. I wonder if it is a done deal. I think someone from Stamford that Freimuth worked with will be getting the position.

Let's hope Freimuth is looking for an independent with good ideas and willing to get the job done. Not the same old, same old.

I am hoping that Freimuth will do the right thing for New Rochelle, after all we only want the best for New Rochelle. 

If they post on the NY Times or Monster websites I bet they'd received hundreds of resumes and could bargain down the salary to something reasonable.  But I have no delusions here & my money's on a friend/donor of Bramson.  

Any way you slice it, it makes New Rochelle government bigger at a time when it needs to be shrinking.   Any idiot can see this and there's no way to grow ourselves out of this mess. 

comon Fifth, you are much too bright to adopt an ideological position that expense management is the only solution to our issues. If that is the case, go all the way and suggest a city wide property reassessment program. You can see by what is happening on the national level that doctinaire Republicans are going to lose nationally and doctraine Democrats won't even go for re-election. Take Barney Frank and Ben Nelson as only two examples.

Taken to the extreme we might eliminate all social and entitlement programs and if so, arm yourself man, the wolf will be at the door and so will the guy down the block

what i am suggesting is precisely and economically consistent to what you want to happen. you find out what the issues and problems are, you priortize them, and you work them through.

I am pretty much of a hard-ass fiscally myself and surely there is plenty of fat to put on the fire in city government. It should be addressed but it gives me very very little pleasure to coldly go that route. That "fat" is a neighbor, a friend, a family man and being out of work as you know is demeaning and very very painful. Ask the millions of Americans presently in that situation and ask further, what is your position on a safety net.

So, my thesis is that it has to be done with problem identification prior to problem solution. Over the last few years it was rare to see anyone in government from either side proposing that are almost as rare to see critics and skeptics or even supporters doing the same. Everyone has answers and that is not the way to go.

Sure you are frustrated and angry, but so is Knitter, so in NINFRO, so am I. Who wouldn't be? And, if cronyism determines an unfit candidate for this or someone who is little more than a hand-picked supporter, then we will all have to kick it up a notch; through TOTS, through our Council Members or City Hall en masse.

Mark Twain said, "trust everyone but cut the cards." Speaking for myself, I have already contacted Council Members asking for a full disclosure of any selected candidate in terms of qualifications. And, you are correct, put it in the Times or go to Columbia or NYU Graduate School and come up with the right faculty member.

The only way to make a difference is to insist that there is a difference in the way we do business here. This money represents scarce tax money and I will surely ask publically of Michael Freimuth to state affirmatively that the person has qualifications and beyond that, exactly what approach he or she will take and, speaking for myself, it better proceed with definition and description and not anything like... "how do we reposition Echo Bay?

You're a fine man and I don't ask you to suspend belief or judgement. All I ask is that you look at how this plays out and get your views directly known to the Council.

Happy New Year to you and your family

I do support a city wide reassessment as the current system is grossly unfair if you never appeal your assessment.  I've never heard of an assessment going up, only down.  

Unfortunatley, NR collects NO information annually that would help the process and the employees of city hall aren't competent enough to take on the task without sending millions on outside contractors.  Every city & town in CT reassesses their properties every 10 years without outside help so I fail to see why NR can't do it internally.  And we all know there's corruption in city hall so I'm not so sure it would be fair.  And fairness is what its all about.  I'd also be concerned that Bramson would be hiding even higher tax increases through reassessment.  Who can trust a guy who releases the budget the day after the electiosn?   

Since our assessor does little or nothing with the information already at hand (ie public information on property transfers & the amounts paid), I personally think he should be fired.  He didn't even give city council the correct assessment totals until the last minute, figures I might add were fixed enough to issue school tax bills so what gives? 

The bottom line is that expenses are out of control and need to be cut otherwise we can all expect 10% increases for the forseeable future and I can't afford that.  You Dems are always looking to increase revenue to support agendas that are of little consequence to most. 

And I'll bet anyone that I don't notice at all the $7 million dollar reduction in the 2012 budget which is why I would have pushed to double that amount.  But when considering reductions, let's not be pennywise & pound foolish by attacking the FD everytime without 1st understanding the ramifications or finding other staffing solutions. 

Fifth, I should be more careful in using a term which has multiple meanings in business. My primary use of the term is Organizational Assessment which doesn't relate to property evaluation but rather to describing those conditions, factors, or issues that affect the management of this City. Another meaning of course is Property Assessment.

What you mention about problems with the City's approach toward property assessment, the performance of the Assessors Office, the City approaching the first providers as the first casualties of any cost management are valid description entries as part of an Organizational Assessment and should be included in any listing, discussed and prioritized. That is the value of a practical and business based approach to Development, every stakeholder has the capability to provide meaningful information which is then pared down to what is most important at a particular point in time (2012)

I don't share your opinion about the "trouble with democrats" any more than i would about the sanctity of Evangelical Republicans or large government conservatives. Without proper analysis it makes no sense. In the latter case, nobody knows how big any government should be without it and then it has the extreme pleasure of figuring out what to do with the leftovers, you know the unemployed. So you have to really work the issues to find the most compassionate and best fit. The Malthusian theories of yesterday had remedies that worked.... early deaths, war, infant mortality, etc... these don't really work now.

And, Fifth, I am not a Democrat. Cannot see myself sharing anything with a Pelosi or Schumer. Same goes for a Gingrich or Palin.

So, what else is there to say.

Sorry about that I didn't mean to offend and I probably shouldn't have made the comment. 

At any rate Happy New Year to you Warren!

speaking for myself, you have nothing at all to apologize for. We need honest passion. With 100 more like you this City could be rebuilt in 2012. Keep on posting.