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Life and Politics on the Merry-go-round

The recent battle over redistricting in New Rochelle has the author waxing philosophically about how nothing in life or politics is ever final—that is until we are called home to our final whatever. The fight ends for us, but the battles go on.

There are many lessons one learns from living on the planet for awhile, some mastered much later than others. Perhaps the most hard-earned and late-arriving insight is that there are no grand finales, no “happily ever afters,” if you will.

Fortunately, with the few exceptions of tragedies that might befall a family as the result of accident, crime or genocidal warfare, there are no Armageddons either.  Very few things are decided so completely. 

We live out our lives, it seems, planning for that perfect last day … indeed the day before … we die. Money, good health, enjoyment and fulfillment are all set to peak on the penultimate day of our existence, not realizing that the moment, the struggle—God, I hate to use this next word that has been so diluted by so many warm and fuzzy writers—the journey is over. Many of us live for the pot of gold, or heaven or the everlasting something that we think exists at the end of the rainbow. 

I have a dear friend who is so concerned about her retirement, that she will be rich and ready, for what I don’t know, on her last day on earth. We paint our houses, get bigger ones and build careers. It’s all good, but we have to keep in mind that our individual lives are on a short track. 

Meanwhile, many of the goals we pursue, indeed, the world outside ourselves is on a circular track, a merry-go-round. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two. 

I hope you will pardon the philosophical pitch this early in the week, but the above lesson has value, I think, when discussing the issues that have been at the forefront of New Rochelle politics for these last 30 years. 

Those big buildings downtown have made the area nicer, arguably, even if they did not produce, at least not yet, the bustling commercial strip and tax bonanza that was hoped for. 

Those against the buildings, including those angry with the tax abatements, may well prevail in future transactions, but the buildings will still be there. The redistricting debate now raging within the Queen City is also a continuum that goes back to at-large representation and the legal battles for the soul of District 3. It will go on long after we are gone.

The Democrats will tell you that the Republicans, even under the much beloved three-term mayor, Len Paduano, didn’t get much done. The Republicans will counter that he had a hostile council and a rogue city manager. 

In any case, that was a generation ago. Families have come and gone, residents have died and been born and settled here or left. Wars have been fought, and for the first time we have been attacked in our own country.

We elected a gifted conservative former actor who gave his country back its pride, and a black liberal president, whose mediocre record, thus far, takes nothing away from the hope that his election symbolizes about this wonderful, if imperfect, country. 

And to my point: America did not become an Ayn Rand paradise under Ronald Reagan, nor will it become a European social welfare state under Barack Obama.

As for New Rochelle, the Democrats will continue to pursue their vision of urban renewal, and the Republicans will push back. When the GOP finally gets a majority, they will take us down another path. 

There will be no final solution, no ultimate vision, no perfect scenario. There will simply be tomorrow, if you are alive to share it.

Tedd Potts April 27, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Isn't America already a European-like social-welfare state (ELSWS)? Government spending here is up to 39% of GDP, which isn't far from the 44% of Germany, the 41% of Spain, and the 47% of Greece. Without a reduction in Social Security and Medicare payouts, government spending in the US will increase over the next 5 years. Assuming everything stays the same, including GDP, in five short years governments here will spend over 48% of GDP. If the US isn't an ELSWS then what is it? It certainly isn't free-market capitalism, in which all trades of goods and services are voluntary. If we ever want to live in a free country again we first have to admit the state we are in.
Bob Marrone April 27, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Tedd, Thank you very much for the feedback. Your point is well taken. My gut tells me that the emergence of the financial goals of the Tea-Partiers and even the fiscal awakening of the White House will push the needle back to a more sensible place.
Joseph McNelis,M.D. April 27, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Dear Bob, I disagree with you a bit on this.There's no need to wax nihilistic over redistricting.Every 10 years the new census is used as a parameter to reassess electoral boundaries.Over the last ten years,there have been some significant demographic changes,as the Latin population has increased from about 18% to 28%.Six districts of approximately equal size must be formed with this in mind and with the limitations of the 'opportunity district'.Having a proposal rejected by the courts would be an expensive proposition,so we must get this right the first time.Three proposals have been announced for comparison.With the stated parameters,it may be hard to avoid weird shapes in at least one district.Elbridge Gerry signed the Declaration of Independence and was VP under Madison.'Gerrymandering' was named for his Massachusetts gubernatorial efforts to cram the Federalists in one district to the advantage of his Democratic-Republican party.In that sense,you are correct in noting the merry-go-round quality to this discussion.Overall,though,the more transparent the process,the better for everyone.-Joseph McNelis
Bob Marrone April 27, 2011 at 03:34 PM
Dear Doctor, Thank you for your feedback. Actually, I don't disagree on the point you raise...objection sustained! The column is more about how the nature of politics and political th0ught is a force the pushes a needle...if you will...that swings back and forth never to be fixed in some final grand position,nor should it be; and the tendnacy of those involved in the process, or any process of wills, to view things in their absolute state of victorious rest. It also bares a bit of my existential fear about the transiance of most things, including life. Again thanks for reading my submissions and for your thoughful feedback.- Bob

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