I recently published a blog on Facts, etal that put even me to sleep. The position was correct, the explanations properly drawn, but it was pedantic, boring and not responsive. It was so poorly presented that you had to search well into TOTS to even locate it and it deserved that editorial reluctance.
I marked my calendar for the end of March for submitting another blog. However, I am an open book and if you were one of less than 200 readers who read the blog or what prompted it, postings on the “state of the city” speech, you would have noticed that I left information where I lived, where I went after Retrofit in the morning, and I am glad I did that.
I met a fine man, well known to many posters and someone who loves the City as I do. I had already prepared an outline of what I planned to say in late March but we did not discuss this; rather he and I shared views on a number of issues. Just talking to him suggested to me that I might want to get what follows off my chest before the various key meetings take place next week at City Hall and elsewhere. So here goes….
Using today’s terminology, I embrace my naivety using the way my thought processes have been described by some people in Talk of the Sound. It is not naivety; it is the incontestable knowledge that fact is not truth: fact is mutable, changeable and represents some degree of opinion accompanied by data in some cases, in other cases not. Don’t mix up the two because the very essence of the sickness that infests the New Rochelle political system turns on the point that Noam Bramson, despite the facts of a City Charter/Code, endemic issues in the management of the City, and so much more, makes claim to possessing the truth as he portrays his facts as such.
But Noam is not really the issue. He is the front man for the issue. This is really the heart of the matter and has been this way for many years and in many administrations. The agents of non-change, of disappearing and diluted hope, are those who enable… and that would be the “active enablers”, the party power structure (Klugman, Korn, Rudin, Jerome, many others) and the “inactive enablers”, those principally in the north end who vote for him and acolyte council member routinely and without pause or thought, and those we invest our trust in, the actual council members, who fail to act on what is right vs. wrong due to political or ideological differences.
The cold truth is that this is not anything new. I knew this since I was a 17 year old punk who was encouraged by the local democratic northeas bronx democratic party stronghold to take a job at a small insurance agency in Manhattan on an obscure street, Gold Street. I was a tough kid and likely asked to do this because on the top floor was the offices of the most powerful man in politics at the time, Carmine De Sapio. Google him if you like or must, but it took a reformer like Ed Koch, to take him down some years later.
I am mentioning this because what we see in New Rochelle is not that different. You must understand that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The times have changed; strongarming folks has been replaced by more subtle ways to retaining power. But Noam must understand one thing at the outset, HE IS DISPOSABLE and dispensable. He is currently more than a little useful as he is extremely intelligent and very, very ambitious although this ambition is tempered by the knowledge that he is very aware of where and how his bread is buttered.
But the deadly combination of ambition, hubris, is combatable. It is not in slaying the symbol, again, he is disposable. It is in figuring out ways to weaken the grip of the party leaders, the fundings, the power enablers and convincing through clarity, purpose, compassion and tough-mindedness that those enablers who are not part of the direct power stream, the indirect voter, the friend from the church or synagogue, the golf or womans’ club companion, are divesting of the power to look at you downtowners, as a CAVE, but as someone very much like them, a parent, a taxpayer, a citizen, who is under duress, afraid for the safety of their family, worried about the school system and totally puzzled at an administration that would present a state of the city speech which labels two residential planned committees and one misplaced DPW yard, as “WINDOWS of OPPORTUNITY.
Noam is not the major issue in my mind. I have always found him to be ambitious, intelligent, and not interested enough in me or people from where I come from, to add value to the City. The issue is as I mentioned and it lives in a cocoon called 515 North Avenue…. a place where its own security perimeter called the NR police headquarters exists. This is today’s version of “fortress Europa” — a magical mystery of a place where papers disappear, requests for files are screened and delivered in part, where Open Meeting requirements are often sequestered behind closed doors because this law, while a boon to all of us, has the unfortunate condition attached like too many state laws… simply that it is not enforced by the State.
So, life goes on and very strange, very unsettling, very dysfunctional processes and decisions are made that damage us… and it infests the Council as well. The Council is empowered by Charter/Code to conduct formal investigations, take sworn testimony, and if a council member brings this matter up, it is the absolute responsibility of each and every councilman to put such a request up for a vote so you and I can see who is voting for what and so, establish a record. The Fevang situation cried out for that.
I believe with all my heart that the majority of citizens up North are decent, fair, and respectful of the ordinances and responbilities that rule our City or should rule our City. I think the so called CAVE emission would find short shrift with such people. At the very least, we could expect action in terms of concerned citizens calling their council member and speaking their minds.
Do any of you really hold to the notion that our neighbors up North don’t care about their home equity, tax structure, safety and security measures in downtown, the train station, and other venues. Can you say they are deaf to the notion that the school district is experiencing on-going issues. Are they blind to the simple proposition that a failure of New Rochelle to address two of the most critical vectors in determining whether we attract new commercial businesses and residential businesses are a robust school district and a vibrant downtown business community.
You might notice that I phrased the above as questions and not as facts. A problem I sense too often down my part of town is that we treat the seeming laissez faire attitudes of the more benign enablers as facts. They are not meaning they can be persuaded to build a vibrant community; not a false and pat them on the head diverse community as Dr Lipow language suggests, but one where people have common cause, common interest and a open air of oneness.
We are often a different form of enabler ourselves. We attact, present facts, even offer solutions. Much is valuable and thank goodness for Talk of the Sound. Yet, these alone will not budge the entrenched power elite, the enablers with a capital E. Powerful questions must be asked and discussions must ensue in public council meetings. The head must be severed from the body in terms of discussing in council the need for some disclosure on campaign funds, for example. Why should Noam Bramson have a campaign fund in the neighborhood of $150,000? He does not run media ads, he doesn’t fund community events… where does that go or does it sit waiting to be dispensed?
Who are these donors and what is their place in the City? Why does someone outside the City proper; members of the Jerome or Ratner family for example, contribute a nickel to Bramson, any council person or the party? Yes we can answer that but it doesn’t make me feel good or bad and surely not indifferent. I want to see referendum, legislation something that sets up some Ethical boundaries for office holders and parties. And, I want the votes counted by an independent third party selected by bi-partisan agreement in the council. The city clerk apparently made a king sized error in a 1990’s citizen referendum which negated its chances to be voted upon. I cast no aspersion, rather I want to see that possibiility also eliminated by legislation or law.
There is the City Charter/Code. I cannot get a clear indicator of what was passed, turned away, etc. on past referendums concerning the role of the mayor and city council. You don’t take this seriously you get the government you deserve. Had you seen this you might learn some things that would help bring us closer by unbundling power never meant to be held by the mayor and even the city manager. The opposite is true of the city council. They don’t seem to understand what they have been empowered to do and are guilty to a man or woman and have been over a number of administrations, of constituent neglect.
You get the government you deserve always if you don’t fight for what is right. Many of those who fight are marginalized, insulted, put into a corner. Take Jim Killoran of Habitat for Humanity. A finer human being doesn’t exist in our community. He may seem hasty at times, but he has done more for us and for humanity in one month than the administration has done in one year. Yet he is labeled as an “alarmist” I suppose if you see someone hit by a car midtown, or teens fighting like Kilkenny cats, or panhandlers breaking windows or Lord knows what else, you are an “inconvenient truth.”
Downtown is a disaster, a catastrophe, and the BID management in place since I believe the year 2,000 has done far too little. If you look at their home page on the website, look at their supposed membership numbers, and read the clause about providing security and safety for downtown businesses. But, you get the government you deserve.
Look at government with fresh eyes. Do you agree with revenue by fees, a cost management approach that holds exempt city hall supervisors, managers, professionals, and contracted consultants, as being more important than police or fire, even sanitation? Have you ever looked at the committee structure, asked what purpose they support, cross check against political monetary contributions, or party affiliations? Of course you haven’t and neither have your councilmen. What about the duplication, redundancy in planning by staff and carefully administratively selected “volunteers” with assigned consultants who know little or nothing about the topics at hand. They really don’t need to know anything as the end states are already determined largely by city hall. You get the government you deserve.
Take the heart of the State of the City speech to heart for a moment. Look at the so-called windows of opportunity. We have one which is downsized, misfocused, threatens the expense budgeet dramatically, brings no discernable revenue to the City, and is being championed by one of the most disreputable venture capitalists in the tri-state area and that is saying somethin. You have another that adds to the issues around resource usage, requires a large bond outlay, does not take into account the severe issues faced by existing high rises — the two Avalons and Trump Towers and does nothing to reinforce downtown New Rochelle.
Both of these are targets of opportunity only inasmuch as the City’s reputation has dwindled significantly and there may be no suitors on the horizon. Both are a disaster to New Rochelle, a matter of arrogance, driven by a cadre of old enablers who know nothing, literally nothing about what the hell is going on in society. But, again, you get the government you deserve.
Then there is the DPW yard. It is unfortunately, a fait accompli, a victim of shoddy thinking and planning. I know the site well. The numbers in the presentation are squirrely to say the least. There was a fuel tank leakage but dispensed with although I am curious why after so many years: (1) the county and OSHA were slower to act than I can remember from my business experience with them and (2) there is such a rush to bond and spend at an inferior site when time is surely available to see, minimally what the Forest City folks have to offer. Hopefully that presentation will come in the early evening so the community can be on hand. If not it will be another rationalized “enabler explanation>’
But even the few numbers put together by the engineer firm are curious. The costs association with the present site are inflated. The effects on the West Side community are not inflated. I would love to see the original work that produced the 5-7 or so sites that eventually led to the selection of Beech Wood. I would love to learn why the current engineer firm involved has an ex City manager as a principle. This does not bother the benign enablers north or south because in qualifies as a NIMBY. Yes, it is not in your back yard, but it is in someone elses and they can write off their property value. But, we get the government we deserve, but those owners did not.
I have an opinion to offer. I consulted as a principle in Stamford for a number of years. The guys we attracted from their are excellent. I predict they walk at the first opportunity. They are too sharp. They walked into a maelstrom and do not deserve the government they got.
My summary is brief. We can only succeed as a City by divesting the power structure. Noam is not the principle problem but he is safe as is; only the council can learn by doing and they must understand their role in this government and behave as trustees. The Citizens up North must eliminate thoughts of CAVE and the Citizens down South must understand that collaboration is the best weapon against the oligarchy we operate under.
And, to my council friends, land is not land. It has value as attributed to it by use. We could easily have ran a parallel study on putting a residential use or a commercial use for both the current and proposed DPW yard sites. What the hell is the rush?
If you love sophistry, rationalization and a sure slow and lingering dissolution of equity, community and sheer decency, continue on with it things as they are. If not, act like a kid for God’s sake, they believe in community, empowerment, diversity, and justice. Ask Jim Killoran.