Thomas Paine “LIKES” Common Sense. Like The City Charter it is only effective if it is followed and used properly.

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Thomas Paine “LIKES” Common Sense. Like The City Charter it is only effective if it is followed and used properly.

July 31, 2014 - 14:16

Not Tom Paine, The final Chapter!

Well maybe not. As you all know who really wealds the pen of “Not Tom Paine” and he can’t help but keep speaking up even during times of poor health and difficulty.

The final nights ride with Tom Paine as New Rochelle has found the City Charter. Now it must be used and followed as intended. It was not written to be left on the shelf like a book. The New Rochelle City Charter like “Common Sense” is only effective if it is used properly.

Time is long past for me to return to my host, Tom Paine. I am his Doppelganger, able to travel between time and space at my will or Tom’s wish. I am of course, Tom Paine Not, who sadly, has seen the enemy and he is really us; the 21st Century American bears no resemblance to Tom Paine and his colleagues. They formed a great nation under the rule of law. In addition, there was a framework, a model that indicated how future ancestors could modify our Constitution and ensure that it was attuned to modern times.

Tom Paine, it is time to come home. They found the City Charter. They found the City Code. It was hiding in plain sight. It took an issue around a group home for developmentally disabled people, some machinations with New Rochelle’s on-going continuing abuse of power. The abuse actually is a mirror image of what we see in Washington and Albany; a refusal to follow the rule of law by playing the vanity card, laying blame on the opposition party, or even more cynical, making election year promises and then weaseling out of these same promises when it became clear that they were actually going to harm the incumbent if the promises were kept. So, we can see the self-serving actions that have eroded what you had played a major role in establishing America’s unique and inspiring form of democracy when this great nation stood as a bastion of freedom; a light for all the world to see. Now, if we can only find a way to shine this light on The City Council and other member of The City Administration so they can share in this monumental development.

Truly the Lord works in mysterious ways and in His own time. On July 23 Citizen Cox referenced The New Rochelle City Charter for the first time in my memory. Yet, Cox has been a voice for the community when few others stood fast for good government and fair dealing. He had a great correspondent who frequently published information directly pointing out to the community the existence of the City Charter as well as how it had “NOT” been followed but actually abused over the years.
I am very fond of Citizen Mac, the aforementioned correspondent, who is the citizen I refer to above. If you check the first response to the excellent article by Citizen Cox in the Talk of the Sound:

Proposed Group Home in East End Stirs Controversy in New Rochelle
By Robert Cox on Tue, 07/22/2014

You will get a clear disposition of the group home issue, the Cardinal McCloskey Community Service and how it negatively impacted the community most notably in terms of continuing to “NOT” adhere to the rather clear description of roles, relationships and responsibilities explicit in Chapter 10 of The New Rochelle City Charter.

It appears that the actual Chief Executive of New Rochelle, our City Manager, Chuck Strome, was not actively engaged as we should expect given the dictates of The City Charter. The community and its elected City Council Members still seem “NOT” to understand or be concerned with the simple fact that Mayor Bramson is a Ceremonial Mayor, not a Strong Mayor, and that indicates clearly what he can do and should not do. In fact the actual Chief Executive, Citizen Strome is empowered by force of The City Charter yet is an unelected official. It should be pointed out that on at least two occasions in the past two decades, the New Rochelle electorate voted down referendums that offered up the proposition of changing the Charter from Ceremonial (Weak if you prefer) to Strong Mayor.

It seems clear that the recent article in the Westchester Guardian and its sister publication out of Yonkers have indicated that Noam Bramson is putting himself forward as President of Westchester City Council. A few days earlier, Noam was “interviewed” by Correspondent Phil Reisman of The Journal News where The Mayor apologized for his silence in not speaking up when someone had the microphone during a recent Citizens to be Heard and spoke in a derogatory, unnecessary way concerning the group home issue. The gist of the “interview” was Noam’s assertion that Silence is Complicit. Odd timing this and it is an odd issue to bring to the community’s attention with multiple Face Book Likes as well as supposedly unsolicited e-mails.

I suppose this trip back in time has made me more cynical than I otherwise would like to be. A great community citizen and advocate, Citizen Warren, has raised the banner of non-adherence to the Charter and provided copies of Section 10 years earlier to the seven Council Members years earlier. They were deposited in the circular file. Subsequently, the good people at Talk of the Sound have published several articles from him on this topic which never generated much interested.

The City Charter A Mystery Inside an Enigma -- You Decide!
By Warren Gross on Wed, 03/14/2012

Enablers Part II -- Those Who Vote for Forest City/Ratner and Citizens Who Are Silent
By Warren Gross on Fri, 03/30/2012

However, I am sure he is delighted at the work presently done by Citizens Cox and Mac and as he always does, Citizen Mac has included many prior reference points – often past articles on his topic for the day. Simply take the time to review these and Citizen Warren’s are in the archives.

Blog site to look at Citizen Warren’s old posts:

If the truth be known I am somewhat at sixes and sevens to reflect on the Bramson interview that comes about on or about the date he submitted his credentials to Westchester Community College as well as a reasonably probability that prior foil requests would lead to the strong reflections from Citizen Cox a few days earlier.

Tom Paine, I have gathered some thoughts from my overall observations on how Noam Bramson speaks in the same general voice of Barak Obama and Andrew Cuomo. I have some direct information sent to The City Council recently by Citizen Warren that show his absolute frustration at their unwillingness or inability to take the bit in their teeth concerning the fact that The New Rochelle City Charter clearly shows that The City Council should be the most powerful voice in The City of New Rochelle. They are no different than a Board of Directors charged with all policy and oversight responsibilities in The City of New Rochelle. That is, by and large, Mayor Bramson’s major role by The City Charter (except for certain ceremonial and State mandated duties). He is a “Council Man at Large” who has the responsibility of heading up The City Council Meetings. Yet, like some of his predecessors, he has assumed duties and responsibilities not consistent with The City Charter. Why presented with an office coadjutant to Administration Staff and Citizen Strome surely adds to the confusion and distorts the very meaning of Separation of Powers.

My view of his future is that he is an excellent choice for President of Westchester Community College with the caveat that he is not to practice politics directly in New Rochelle. We have too much of that with Jerome over at Monroe who specializes in occupying vacant space. Yet, Jerome is straight forward enough and in my mind, Tom Paine, more of an asset than a liability but I am sure that certain new management teams downtown at some of our residential high rises would prefer Jerome to get busy in looking for alternatives, working directly with De Bart at BID being the Head Man at the BID board I believe, and let the Managers in the high rises, no invite the management of the high rises to take part in the strategic planning process for Downtown New Rochelle.

After all, it does not take a Marketing guru to sell the advantages of Downtown New Rochelle. It simply requires putting a hold on new activities while working on the impediments to attracting New York City residents and even commercial interests by allowing them the freedom to take part in elemental factors of urban redevelopment; safety, security, breaking down red tape, rezoning, looking at existing lease renewal issues, modifying City Code and more. It is all clear enough in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan, but Citizens Warren, Mac, and I think Citizen Brian, have spoken about such basic needs. You should not have dessert until you clean your dinner plate.

Tom Paine, I wonder who our current King George is given the size and scope of our United States of America. Perhaps it is Barack Obama who appears to have little difficulty in adhering to the Separation of Powers explicit in our founding documents. It is clear that his road is a difficult one to travel. Few reasonable people can dispute that The Congress is more than dysfunctional. There are likely a number of contributing factors including the obvious partisan politics. However, he must surely know that the rule of law is not to be trifled with; the man is a Constitutional Scholar and surely understands such matters as Separation of Powers.

He is a brilliant man and perhaps we expected too much of him too soon. Yet his choice of staff and the power he vests in them is clearly a reaction to his own egocentricity. Sadly he is a mirror image of today’s citizen; vain, secretive, control oriented, and comfortable only within his narrow choice parameters. We cannot expect men and women like him to display the courage and conviction to come up with a new paradigm of governance in the twenty first century that embraces the need for the virtues of our venture capitalist system with the unmistakable need to sustain our citizens without Malthusian or draconian methods of “selection” of the fittest.

This is possible, very possible but it requires subjugating the self to the needs of the greater good. We cannot survive as a society with those who have insatiable wants, entitlements, and verbally promote inclusion while practicing separation. Two senior doyens, Citizens Simpson and Bowles came up with a plan that was an excellent initial cut at this difficult task. It was destroyed by neglect; never brought to light by its sponsor Barack Obama or, in all fairness, his opponents from the GOP. It is time for sacrifice and settlement; something Thomas, you are very familiar from our early days when a Tea Party had a clear set of freedom objectives. Yes, there were Tories a clear and present group of loyalist to the Monarchy. Today, it is different, the common denominator seems to be a sense of sameness; but that is an illusion. Today’s Tea Party is not clear to its opponents. They are many things, varied in belief, not “racists” or progressives in total. Some are some are not. The common denominator is a sense of discomfort with the government which takes on many faces. Sameness is better illustrated by the overwhelming number of African Americans who vote for Obama but that is understandable. If the same is true a couple of decades going forward, then we all have an issue, whether conservative progressive.

Take a look at the Empire State. Citizen Cuomo, who is up for re-election, represents the portrait of a self-interested politician. He promises everything during an election year. Yet, now and then, he over commits, yet he has the Machiavellian genius to appoint as his most important staff member, the infamous Citizen Schwartz, the normative model for ruthlessness. So, when Schwartz indicates that he overcommitted on Ethics, specifically on the Moreland Committee, Cuomo comes up with some verbal pap indicating some nonsense about intention unsuccessfully covering up the real reasons which do harm to principle backers and supporters.

Given his ability to dodge and weave, he manages to be seen by some as a supporter of Charter Schools and by some others as not in favor of such schools. He seems to be a supporter of Core Competencies and I have yet to understand the arguments for or against it as no one is able to assess the real issues and consequences. It seems simple enough to accept that a core curriculum based on expected outcomes is sound. What lacks in critical thinking is the vacuous thought processes that both promote and object. It is a very real issue requiring an assessment driven set of transition outcomes. That is today’s jargon for how we thought through the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Transition means going from one stage to another. Perhaps appointing Citizen Mc Whorter or even dusting off Simpson and Bowles will get us nearer to this desired end.

Net, net these are problems endemic in a society, actually most societies that are fragmented around the self, the entitlement, the unwillingness to understand life is both pleasure and pain. You want some things, and then you need to give up some things for the greater good.

Now with that as context, I want to close with a recent message sent to the City Council and some other citizens from Citizen Warren. In it he describes a personal frustration with the way The City of New Rochelle is managed and does business during City Council Meetings. He refers to the July 15th City Council meeting.

The July 15th City Council meeting seems to form a pattern that suggests why so many decisions that add little to no value to the community, where little to no value comes out of these meetings. I have learned only this morning that apparently you have authorized $250,000 dollars for a study on two-way traffic on both Huguenot and Main Streets. This seems excessive for these times. However, that is symptomatic of putting the wrong projects first. To coin a phrase, there is both a problem of Critical Thinking and Situational Management.

Let me make an attempt to list in no particular order what appears to be contributing or causing this lack of effective problem analysis and decision-making.

1. You continue to overlook the fact that a fee is to a property owner no less than a tax. However this tax is not one that can be declared on a NYS tax return. You are not responsible for the continuation of an archaic tax system; property tax valuation. We are well beyond that as being a valid way to produce revenue for any municipality. However, by employing a fee-based system, you are basically balancing your books on the backs of the taxpayer. Surely you must see this for what it is. I know you are all terrorized by the thought that your district would draw and quarter you if you supported any reassessment program and process. It is unlikely, actually impossible, for each of the 6 districts to experience an increase in tax valuation. Your funding of Certiorari creates a liability that does not go away. Your house Auditors told you as much when Louis Trangucci raised the right question on the extensive Audit Report. It is also systemically unfair as it rewards the so called “sophisticated” residential tax payers who file for Certiorari relief. They will most likely receive a favorable re-evaluation and perhaps the more informed Council member takes the time to educate his or her community on what it is and how it affects property taxes. But, I am sure that the conversation does not mention the negative effects it has on the budgeting process in the School District and also misrepresents what the actual property tax valuation is or should likely be for new residents who see a distorted picture of New Rochelle. It likely causes damage in the Council’s commitment to attract Commercial ventures to New Rochelle. It is to me an example of a mediocre, manipulative approach adapted to a real issue in our City and worse, we continue to explore the expansion of new Residential developments. Little wonder our house Auditors lavish praise on Rattner and have a relatively easy job in presenting findings to the Council.

2. For many decades you have marched in lock step with prior Councils. You are truly the causes of your own effects, but these effects affect your constituents. Last evening someone presented a comical approach to what I believe was called a Registration Program. That presentation was a joke, a twisted joke. As best I could make it out, you suspect that there are commercial interests somewhere in the bowels of the business district and perhaps in other commercial areas within our borders. It appears like you are worried about someone or something making money and not paying sales taxes. If this is the case, it is hard to understand the approach taken by the Development staff. It was a presentation rife with problems and instead of dismissing it out of hand; you spent a good deal of time in trying to “fix it.”
Perhaps your instructions to Chuck Strome and Luiz Aragon were vague. Happily, thanks to the selfless or selfish intervention of Barry Fertel, some of the major problems and the conditional consequences of those issues were raised. But, you continued to persevere a beat the dead horse. There were four attorneys in the room. The one who could have added immediate value was the City Attorney. I am sure that he would have pointed out the difficulties in trying to sort out those professions that could be “spared” (note attorneys) and those who would not. Perhaps he felt that he did not have the freedom to speak out unless spoken to. Fair enough, then ask him, or have Strome ask him, beforehand.
What then, do I mean about “causes of your own effects”? It appears that the City Code should have been addressed much earlier to ensure proper regulation and enforcement of anyone or anything trying to escape sales taxes or some shadow corporation operating illegally. After all, we have little difficulty in our fee based environment in approach legitimate small business owners and subjecting them to red tape, strict measurement of signage, and other ways derived to earn revenue and often, close businesses. I lack good manners at this point because the problems are so endemic and so apparent. You actually have both a business and moral imperative to act positively to act in the community’s best interests while recognizing what would be clear to you were it your home that restoration precedes any new initiative.
Now there will another individual involved in building a proper commercial base called, I believe, a “Business Ambassador.” Why? Doesn’t it make sense to present a product that would be welcomed by investors? It is like the aforementioned quarter of a million dollar expense on two way traffic on Huguenot and Main Streets? Surely we have enough experience and information on hand to be more precise on that need and thus, cut the cost dramatically. Same with the Business Ambassador, if such a person adds value, then you must add value to the business proposition that she or he will be involved in or with. If you were in a business of some size and scope, you would surely be obligated to pour new wine in new wine bottle meaning simply, and all this individual will do is what can and should be done by you and staff NOW. Surely an examination of our Charter and Code will point out numerous examples of repair and restoration. If not, what we will experience is…………….

3. The certainty of duplication of roles, relationships, and responsibilities. We have on hand, or access to, resources that, if functioning appropriately, are adequate until we really would profit by a Business Ambassador. We have a Development Staff, BID, a Planning Committee, and friends of the court such as the Chamber of Commerce. We have a 1996 Comprehensive Plan that followed proper assessment and planning protocol. Now you wax enthusiastically about a Business Ambassador without any evidence of a proper due diligence. It is a continuous love affair with the new at the expense of the necessary. Good Lord, the taxpayer, the relatively few we have proportionately to total occupancy, is always under siege. Had the Council did the norm followed by responsible business practices, you would have routinely brought forward and continually monitored and evaluated initiatives brought into play by the Comprehensive Plan. You did not because it seems that no Operating Plan was developed in house to implement the major findings of the Comprehensive Plan. That is outrageous and continues to be an expense to the taxpayer in various forms similar to Certiorari which is an expense liability to the City and a shadowy cloud cover to the taxpayer. We have a six figure budget and no formal mechanism to develop a plan that Council supports then controls and monitors.

4. While being financially ruled by fee revenue and a lack of discipline on expense management there is scant evidence that exempt staff is subject to the same performance discipline as non-exempt staff. It seems apparent to a fair number of people in the community that a number of exempt staff are being protected for a number of reasons. There are many examples of simple coordination activities that somehow fall beneath the tracks. Signs supporting the outdoor market at the Library Green mysteriously disappear then re-emerge and we seem to learn that they were removed because of a lack of a permit? How is that possible? We lost vendors, probably customers because someone did not recognize who is instrumental in operating or supporting the market. Strange, no really sad. This is not an isolated incident. There are never issues in threatening the fire and police departments with layoffs. You have to wonder whether too many people occupy exempt positions based on connections, nepotism, or is it just a question of not knowing steps to take to remedy the situation. Ask the City Attorney about early retirements, separation packages, reassignments to non-critical jobs. Tell Strome to do a contingency plan on exempt staff based on variables such as need, performance, mobility, and other factors. Tell him he is responsible for ensuring a high quality staff. Evaluate him on this as well as other factors. After all you are the City Council responsible for policy and oversight and this is a critical part of why you have been elected. Why? Because if you don’t we wind up with Business Ambassadors, or Registration Consultants or who knows what else. It is a bread and butter issue.

5. Now, I have watched many Council Meetings live and on tape. Many appear to be exercises in trying to come up with something to top the preceding speakers. I know that because I am guilty of that every day. However, I have not been elected to office but you have been. Put aside your legal training and try to cut to the chase. The mulching issue was particularly distressing. You reached a too often reached Council decision. You agreed to go along with it but bring it up for review the following year. Let me tell you what you know. You will not bring it up next year. It is a twirl of the cape after the bull passes; showy but no substance. If you cannot bring up a comprehensive plan annually what suggests you will bring up mulching. Come on, you have already internalized it into our fee structure. Then there is the question of value added to holding a monthly opportunity for members of the community to speak to Council, on television and tape no less, where those who look at these with a critical lens can see that matters that come up are not internalized into any follow on process. Take O’Toole’s frequent complaints about the excesses brought about at Maple Terrace where some owner or agent is running amok and soaking the elderly with unwarranted increases and almost daily messages or demands to harass those poor folks. There very vulnerability should be a clarion call for Council intervention. I seem to recall something in Talk of the Sound when the arrival of new ownership or management was under examination. I realize none of you publically admit to reading TOTS but I think Bob Cox talked about something unsettling about the relationship of the prospective new owner or manager to checkbook diplomacy. Perhaps he can dig it out if it exists for your review. Whether it does or does not, you still have a duty and more, a moral imperative to look into that matter without hesitation.

Let me mention much later than intended that Barry Fertel also mentioned on the Registration issue that it should be presented at a public hearing. If it still breathes, it should be placed in front of the community.

This is Not Tom Paine closing Citizen Warren’s letter and taking the opportunity to thank the community, Citizen Cox and especially Citizen Mac for his generous help to Tom and your new friend, Not Tom Paine. Remember always, you get the government you deserve so hit the streets, drop in on City Council Members and make your presence known. Paul Revere sounded an alarm many years ago which went, “One if by land, two, if by sea.” Well seeing what you have in Echo Bay, he would modify it by simply saying One if by land.

As for me, later someday, later.