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The Voice of New Rochelle: Reason to Believe

The author is lost in a sea of uncertain political realities that raises questions about our democratic system, the true intentions of those that seek to govern and the apathy and misapprehensions of an electorate who enable our imperfect process.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was listening to Rod Stewart’s “Reason to Believe” for the reasons the songwriter, Tim Hardin, intended. Relationship troubles had me questioning the fidelity of a certain someone who I was inclined to—desperately wanted to—believe. The words are quite remarkable and will no doubt resonate with anyone in similar circumstances:

“If I listen long enough to you/I'd find a way to believe that it’s all true/Knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried/Still I look to find a reason to believe.” 

A couple of weeks ago, fresh from my morning dialog with angry and disagreeing callers, and with the day’s political news still aching in my bones, I began to hear the song in my head, once again. I was in the middle of an intense off-the-record conversation with a New Rochelle city official about the realities of governing when the words, faint at first, started commandeering my feelings.

My source was altogether earnest and fatigued owing to the burdens of a the tax cap, the disingenuousness of Albany, the ambitions of individuals and the acrimony that often dictates what happens in city hall. We also talked about what the public wants—everything—but really does not want to pay for it. I got to thinking, all the while with the song playing in my head; does no one enter politics for the purposes of doing good? Do they all become corrupted, to use the term loosely, by the realities of political maneuvering and the naiveté of an electorate that is easy to manipulate with buzzwords, negative ads and demagoguery. At what point, I wondered, did they give in to the easier road of capitulation and go along to get along. Or do we expect too much?

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Some of the men and women I have met in government, more than you would think, want to do the right and just thing. Mayor Noam Bramson, in my view, is one of them. He is an extraordinary, bright and decent man. He has his critics who say he is only doing this job to get to the next step, as if somehow he could not move up and do good at the same time. And I am sure, to be fair, that while he is no perfect angel, he can play hardball when he has to—a disagreeable but necessary part of leading. 

Another is Councilman Lou Trangucci, who represents his District 1 like it is his own house and does what he says he will do. Rumor has it that he would like to be mayor one day. These are just two men, who often disagree, but who are frequently pitted against each other more by their constituencies than by themselves. They really do care about this city.  

There are those who will read the above and will not be able to digest their names in the same paragraph. In that case, the problem is us.

President Barack Obama has begun to throw mud at his presumptive opponent Mitt Romney. The allusions by the president’s staff that the governor may be guilty of a felony are heinous. For his part, Romney has changed positions on almost every issue in the past six years. One of these men—both now proven to be less than honest—will lead our country next year. Why do they think such prevarications will work? What is it about us that makes us targets for such foolery?

But I love my country. I love this city. I want to believe that our leaders love it too. So for now, I will continue to hum the song and look for a reason to believe.

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