Take the Point -- Politics Not as Usual

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Take the Point -- Politics Not as Usual

September 28, 2011 - 23:18


One thing about Talk of the Sound is that it is open and will accept, if not support, views and opinions differing from those held by the Editor and the preponderance of its readers. I learned this fairly recently and, at the same time, saw that many of its correspondents, whether names such as Anthony Galleta and John D, or unnamed such as Fifth Avenue Guy, are bright, articulate, and love this City as much as I do.

I have just read a posting from Adam who seems to be active in advocating for Lyse Spertus as well as a lengthy article in the Journal News regarding candidate for Mayor Richard St Paul. I have no comment on St Paul in terms of his qualifications and alleged issues. It is simply sad, but, that said, there is a lot to say about the election process taking place locally in 2011 and nationally in 2012.

In one of my previous, typically long-winded blogs, I mentioned my disillusionment with politics in general and said that I wanted to bring a few points to the readers of what has been taken place in New Rochelle for quite a while and I still am befuddled at why these; explicitly the failure to mirror the City Code in terms of the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of the "Ceremonial Mayor", City Council, and City Manager. I am also going bananas at the failure of the "Ceremonial" Mayor, the City Council, and City Manager to do substantive acts and apply leverage to address the two major components of why our property taxes are so high: (1) lack of proper management over a rapidly deteriorating school district and (2) precise, meaningful planniing in the short and intermediate run, to build a commercial downtown base, provide protection and city services by moving a police facility as well as other 515 North Avenue departments to show the City's support and serve as a beacon to potential investors; be they new residents or commercial small businesses that New Rochelle is vibrant, fixing its many issues on schools, and the business community, and moving forward on today's issues, not tommorows potential opportunities.

I am not going to waste your time by closely paralleling the national and local scene in any great degree. Sufficient to say that Barack Obama is a skilled campaigner and a weak president who is selfishly reverting to campaign mode at the expense of hundreds of thousands of jobless folks, poverty level citizens and more. He is "sound and fury signifying nothing" no, rather more a victim of what the ancient Greeks would call, "hubris", the need for pride and self affiliation over the general welfare of the people he is pledged to serve. Yet, the opposition is as reckless as are the members of the current party in power and... well here we are.

The application of the skilled work done by Simpson-Bowles would have been the remedy, but it would come at a political cost that neither party is willing to pay. New Rochelle is no where never as neglectful of the public weal and welfare regardless of critics to the contrary. My sense is that is equally a political animal with smaller fangs and duller claws. We need to make some meaningul fixes, but one of them is not voting out Noam Bramson from office. I support him and I would disagree with Adam to the degree that he appears to infer that if the supporting cast were changed, things would be different. I think there are some members of that supporting cast who serve nobly and passionately for the people; there is Louis Trangucci and there is Jared Rice. And, although I do not know her, I am impressed with the words of Lyse Spertus and think she would be a fine representative of her District and a skilled City servant.

So, what is my problem aside from the aforementioned failure to even give lip service to the two most important areas facing the growth and development of New Rochelle. It is one of long standing and has suffered from the same degree of neglect; primarily political rationalization and patent omission. Other issues that dominate this blog and this is not a criticism in the least are errors of commission meaning that more skill and control and monitoring for example, could bring these under more effective management. These include using the Abatement incentive for growth, the IDA process, the application of MOUs, the BID situation and others. Each requires revisiting and rethinking but they serve important developmental purposes. For example, Abatements are as common as bonuses in individual performance evaluation; the point is that the people deciding on its use must be skilled in developing terms and conditions, contractual protections, control and monitoring and much more. So, to paraphrase, it is "not the singer, but the song."

I spent a good deal of time reading the three set City Code and you can too if you visit the library. I wanted to concentrate on the roles, relationships and responsibilities of the mayor, city council,a nd city manager. Let me make a few points up front.

1. the City has been operating pretty much as currently written under the same roles, relationships and responsibilities for the major governance team for years.

2. Noam Bramson, and others before him, is not a "ceremonial" mayor. He operates pretty much the same as a "strong mayor does.

3. The City Council actually has oversight and policy responsibility over the City Manager who, in truth, serves at the will of this body. They are, in effect, a Board of Directors with similar powers, and the Mayor, is actually the Board President under this arrangement.

4. The City Manager supervises the entire administration team and no member of the City Council and ostenbly the Mayor, can direct any member of the administration team to perform in any way shape or form. It must go through the City Manager.

5. You can verify or dispute what I have said by referring to the City Code, specifically (a) Article III, Sections 10, ad 13 as well as Article Vi of the City Code.

Why am I bringing this up? Because the basis of good government is understanding what its rules and laws are as the exercise of our great democracy requires adherence to the Constitution and laws therein and thereafter.

I would be more than shocked to learn that the individual members of the Council were not aware of its provisions and prescription or proscriptions. So, there is only one explanation that necessarily and sufficiently explains why Noam behaves like a strong mayor, the City Council neglects to employ its powers of subpoena and testimony, and the City Manager can "take sides" and display animosity to some of the members of the Council. It can be either, (1) I have misread the Code, (2) the Code is simply window dressing to maintain a political majority vs.minority set-up, (3) the current form of governance expects too much time and effort from non-administration members sitting on the Council to exercise their power and actively represent their districts and the City as a whole. It is, in fact, a part-time job which doesnt' pay near enough for full time service.

All this explains to me why the City did not immediately use its powers to investigate Fevang. When Louis Trangucci came to the point of forcing a turnaround he behaved heriocally, served the City but violated the City Code as well as not being part of a 7 person effort to immediately investigate, call witnesses, and make some fixes before the DA, impounded the evidentary material and took over the case.

So, we have the typical disease affecting the nation... partisan politics, failure to perform in some unified fashion and so, neglect of stewardship and in truth "there is no Bramson Administration but rather some agreed upon arrangement that the City continue to do business in ways it has done in the past. Occasionaly we get a burp on a "strong mayor" resolution placed on a ballot, but why? Is it to justify changing the City Code? Why not simply operate under the aegis of the Code? And, why can't the citizen get a presentation of facts on the Code from the City Attorney so we all can act in a more grown-up, thoughtful way.

So why do I unhesitatingly endorse Noam Bramson for mayor? I have never received anything from him as a payment in any kind for my support and don't expect it. My reasons are simple: he is easily the brightest guy in the room, has an enormous capacity for bring disparate facts into some cohestiveness, loves the City, is a solid citizen of the Community, and frankly, as Pilate said once, "I find no fault with this man." I have shared everything that I have said to you above in the past with Noam and I think he will begin to see the need for proactivity with the School District and the need to migrate key services to the downtown area. He should not, repeat not, abandon Sustainability, Long Range Planning or even Echo Bay. These have long term value to all of us albeit the latter needs to be re-envisioned and re-tooled. He needs to advocate for a return and restoration of the Armory to celebrate our veterans, of which I am a proud ex Army NCO, as well as building a parallel community based facility for The East End.

Of course there is much more, but let me say why I feel strongly about Louis and Jared. Louis is one of the most courageous, fair, and moral people I have met in politics. He has strong views; many of which I question, but never his advocacy for New Rochelle or his willingness to work with all people all of the time. Jared is a great addition to the process, bright, articulate, caring and full of ideas. His work with Community based organizations is exactly what is needed. As for Ms. Sperber, she appears to have the qualities you look for in a representative and a human being. I will gladly trust my intuition as well as Adam on this one.

Let me close by mentioning once again the Talk of the Sound. It is read by most citizens of this citizens. I will take many shots across the bow on this blog. It doesn't matter. It is time for people who don't step up to step down.


So why do I use the term, Take the Point. Anyone veteran with a line Army or Marine Unit knows what this means and what qualities you hope to find in those who take the point. Dakota Meyer is such a man, you all must know the recent Medal of Honor winner who literally blinds you with his courage and sense of responsibility. Martin Luther King took the point leading a people out of the darkness into the light. In all candor I cannot see anyone of the national political horizon that exemplifies what this means and represents.

But, I do see it often enough in the common man and woman who do step up and lead. We have Jim Killoran, Reverand Hudson, others... Esquire has a long article about the Joplin tornado and it is heartwarming to see a young man from a convenience store take the point.

We are a community, a family and we need to differ but also restore. The late Ernest Becker pointed out the dilemma in very human terms. He said that people most often have the need to both compete or dominate and to collaborate or be part of something. It is in all men and women and Becker would actually see the balance and often sacrifice explict in what he would call the "denial of death." Noam, Lou, Jared, Iyse, neighborhood associations, bloggers, and all citizens --- Let's commit to denying the death of this one place in the landscape of the greatest nation on earth. TAKE THE POINT!

There are 2 Comments

great facts warren good job

You say Noam Bramson does not operate or act as a ceremonial mayor but instead is a "strong mayor." This has been observed by many people. I am sure you are familiar with the referendum when the citizens of New Rochelle rejected the strong mayor form of government. So it is troubling for you to say you approve of Mayor Bramson being a strong mayor. This is not what the people want. Any Council member who does not follow the City Charter is defying the regulations of the City. When a mayor or anyone else disregards the will of the people the residents become apathatic because they feel their vote does not count. This has become a pattern in recent years. Let's hope this year will be different.