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The Voice of New Rochelle: Small 'R' Republican

As the Armory issue winds through the City Council and memo of understanding process, some proponents of the Save Our Armory/Opera option are talking about calling for a referendum.

The founding fathers, as they are called, were a wise bunch. When they were not busy arguing with each other or entertaining their mistresses, they thought long and hard about what kind of government we should have.

On one hand, they did not want a monarchy or even a strong central government, intending, instead, to create a state managed by and for the people. On the other mitt—no not that one—they did not want the mob rule that can occur within a direct democracy. They understood that the masses were frequently moved by fleeting passions and agendas, sometimes ill-informed or unprepared to drive the business of government in a sustainable way. And thus, a republican—small r—system was chosen.

It is not perfect, but it has worked pretty well so far. Instead of direct voting on issues, they put in place the system whereby we elect legislators at every level to represent us. This method is strengthened and checked by a chief executive and a legislative branch.

I know this is all basic civics, but it needs to be highlighted now, because there are times when some of us are not happy with the decisions our form of government delivers—the Armory choice being one of them. In 2000, many Democrats were upset when George Bush defeated Al Gore while still having a lesser number of popular votes. The way our system treats the states, both in the presidential electoral process, as well as the allocation of two senators per state, are other examples of our indirect democracy.

And so we come to New Rochelle and the grand debate over the Armory. The Save Our Armory group, which lost the city council vote, five to two, in deference to the Good Profit proposal, is hoping to get a second hearing with the council for its revised plan, which came together late in the RFP cycle set forth a couple of months ago. Their heartfelt reasoning is that they are the group whose effort resulted in the RFP, indeed having saved the building until this very day after 15 years of effort. Theirs does seem like a reasonable request; however, one that the City Council has not acquiesced to. Based on the feedback I get, it is not likley to do so.

This week the SOA group took an hour on The Good Morning Westchester program on WVOX to take their case to the public. Tonight, they will take it to the streets via a march on North Avenue. This is all well and good, and I am rooting for them to get another kick at the can.

There is, though, another avenue under consideration, the use of a referendum. New Rochelle has had them before, the one-time tax cap and the City Manager form of government being two such votes. Those were concepts that affected all of the people of New Rochelle. As for a referendum on the Armory, while the building's readaptation may be a wonderful idea, it does not impact every resident, and I do not think the votes are there in any case.

But what it feels like to me is a possible repudiation of the form of government on which our forefathers risked their lives and fortunes.

Billy October 10, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Bob I don't think there ever was a vote on the tax cap. The tax cap came into existence in exchange for the state granting Mayor Idoni's request to allow NR to collect a 1% sales tax. George Latimer got the state to rescind the agreement 10 or so years later. Thanks George! And Mayor Bramson uses "fees" to dodge and skirt the current tax cap law. Thanks Noam!

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