It was that time again, time for a developer to sit down with city council and explain why they won’t deliver any product for another year or so. It’s taken 14 months to hear Forest City tell New Rochelle the same old we got nothing. This latest manipulation comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the saga of Echo Bay. Afterall, Lou Cappelli received 13 or 14 extensions over nearly a decade and you see where that got us. The rhetoric of how the economy is bad, financing is tough etc, has led the developer to scale back the project and divide it into 3 phases. Phase 1 would encompass all of the property that can be secured with little or no cost to the developer (as in city owned property only). Phase 2 and 3 will have no guarantee of ever happening. This is key because the whole scale, scope and impact of the project has been completely altered and council was called on to extend the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) without any input or comment from the citizens at large. Let alone the residents of the East End and Sutton Manor, who stand to be most affected by the project.
So, you might ask, how does the title of this story fit in here? I’ll tell you. If you happened to see the Feb 15th
city council meeting dog and pony show, much more was revealed than the voting record of a city council on a particular night. As the questions about assurances of open space, costs of moving the city yard, lack of commitment to phase 2 and 3, and so on were brought out, it became abundantly clear this project needed more review rather than a rubber stamp approval. To this end Councilman St Paul attempted to move the vote to next months meeting to allow further conversation. As you watch the videotape (excerpts are HERE, to view the whole session click HERE ), the attempt to stifle Councilman St Paul is evident. The mayor makes accusations of “playing games with council”, suggests they “take a look at the rules of the way the body operates” (as in limiting the rights and expectations of a duly elected official), and goes so far as to attempt to slander the name of a council member by erroneously drawing a connection between a lawyer and the charges against his client. In claiming to have never before witnessing this type of heated argument you wonder if the mayor is lying or just confused (do you remember Cnclmn. Boyle and Mayor Idoni?). Did he lie when he raised his hand and made a promise at the East End Civic Association that there would be NO more tax abatements? So off the scale, the mayor winds up getting publicly chided by two other council members. Shameful behavior to say the least on the mayor’s part. Some would say the mayors rush to vote has less to do with bullying a councilman and more to do with the thousands of dollars in political contributions made by the principal owners of Forest City.
I would expect elected officials to have decisions challenged, argued, and questioned in a public setting. Do we really live in a world where the decisions can be made behind the scenes and the elected officials stand in front of the public to proclaim a predetermined outcome that presumably suits their own agenda? The truth lays not in the answers, but in the questions raised regarding the issues that affect us most. We wake up in a city with troubles, but that city is still in America, where free speech and the strength of the public voice is not only granted, but it is expected if the notion of a government “by the people, for the people” is to flourish. A mayor attempting to quiet an elected officials voice, a councilwoman chastising a public radio station for allowing unpopular views to be raised, what’s this world coming to?
Tyranny is nothing new, although it has changed its face and threatens us if we don’t pay attention.
“…that America will devolve into a new form of tyranny, one never seen before, kinder, gentler, wanting only your happiness, as long as they could define what your happiness should be.” Competitive Enterprise President Fred Smith on the John Stossel Show aired 1/7/11
“A network of small, complicated rules.It does not break wills, but softens them. It does not tyrannize, it hinders, represses, stupefies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid animals of which the government is the shepherd”. From Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” 1835
This is from a man who observed some special qualities in the American Spirit. One of which was the ability of Americans to help each other at the most grass roots level, without the encumbrance and caveats imposed by large government. For this, and many other reasons he was fearful, and rightly so, of a government’s ability to eventually control that spirit. So it’s not so new, but it will flourish in the absence of open debate. Overzealous taxpayer subsidized development, GreeNR, censorship and control of the press, excessive taxation, manipulating the “the rules of the way the body operates” -it starts to add up.
Stay informed, get involved, and speak up. We’ve done it for 235 years, don’t stop now.