The grief shed over the recent passing of one-time Yonkers City Manager Martin Rochelle will move people from denial to acceptance in five stages. The irrefutable model first postulated by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in “On Death and Dying,” recognized as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance having stood the test of time. Juxtaposed to such understandings, Yonkers has collectively moved from first to last. The economic assault transforming Yonkers, best known as the City of Gracious Living, in denial of its birthright, had its first opportunity to move from denial to anger. It unleashed its scathing anger during the mid-1980’s in the desegregation case that captivated Yonkersites, presided by Judge Sand, and was deemed “groundbreaking” for revealing the connection between schooling and housing desegregation. Yonkers’ narrow-shouldered politicians, groomed on agenda driven drivel, rather than serving the public interest hid behind the mesmerizing drama on the political stage with the protagonist, the City of Yonkers, expressing its hubris, admitting its disdain to integrate its mind-set to the findings in Brown v. Board of Education, concluded in the ‘60’s that segregated schools “damage the personality of minority group children” and “decrease their motivation and thus impair their ability to learn’.”
Remembering Yonkers nebulous chapters under a process of opening and closing with monotonous regularity caused a proud city to reluctantly embrace its loss on a national stage, as if to show our lack of concern, albeit our disdain for integration being recognized, as it was across the nation; likewise our disrespect for magisterial pronouncements.
The City of Yonkers has with uncertainty and reluctance embraced its loss of self-esteem, as if to show we do not mind. Parochialism and frivolity have eclipsed our desire for a leader to define our place and standing among our neighbors. The stars of politics are entertainers and introspective by their very nature. Lording over the narrow shouldered generation of politicians consumed with serving themselves more than concerned over the public interest has proven cheap and easy.
Politics in Yonkers cannot be defined as venal or incompetent; it is simply small-time. There is a chance here for a leader to lift Yonkersites’ collective sights beyond the present mundane. With but one year left in his first term, the opportunity to do just that, resides potentially before present Mayor Mike Spano. The time is however short. Not much will come about until after the Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year celebrations.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano has yet to move beyond reacting to circumstance laid before his feet. His promises on January 1, 2012 have died a slow death since their being uttered. Not one has come about; not even the simple issue of reducing the city car fleet. Mayor Spano was quick to react to public sentiment on that issue, reacting to circumstance, and with little thought, much less expertise, chose to submit to a public outcry when issues of greater import were not then or since mentioned. Economic issues of development and the realization of a revenue stream to build a viable city searching to understand its needs and planning to anticipate and meet them have atrophied to nonexistence in the three years he has held office.
Press releases and ribbon cuttings cannot protect the mayor’s gambit that not-knowing the issues can be his defense in the courtroom of public opinion. Will next week reveal another advisory board to buffer the public knowing what they must in order to mitigate the concerns hidden among those “bodies” who issue no review of the issues they ponder, much less maintain a video archive of their proceedings to maintain transparency; not even a written document divulged in the public interest to that end.
Mayor Mike Spano, seemingly the only candidate suggesting his re-election effort may be in the wings, could transcend the smallness of politics and the reactiveness of his mayoralty by affording Yonkersites and the City of Yonkers a mission statement, an attainable objective, a vision that defines Yonkersites and CoY. Yonkersites can no longer live hand to mouth. The 16-year debacle of former Deputy Mayor and former Mayor Phil Amicone must die and his memory perish.
Mayor Mike Spano, because he is bequeathed a “strong mayor” form of government must clarify the direction that will best serve the City of Yonkers rather than for what he stands. His aspirations are for him alone; the directive for Yonkers is collectively ours.
A directive, better known as a plan, would have Mayor Mike Spano, and / or a challenger for the office of Mayor of Yonkers speak about how one arrives at a defined destination and the effort demanded to achieve the goals set. Yonkersites salivate at the prospect for direction and purpose – these are the protein of government, and the valid point for being in power, anything and everything else is inconsequential to reaching, perhaps even surmounting a collective goal. These are standards opposite of the ephemera to which politics is now in thrall.
Mayor Mike Spano, enabled by his submissive staff, have collectively learned to remove grand visions and rhetorical flourishes, recoiling from what might be inferred to be messianic thinking into a distant future that he has been incapable of constructing even three years out into his first four-year term in office.
There is an unsatisfied demand for seriousness and leadership that has eclipsed all present and future contenders for holding office. Gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and Deputy Gubernatorial candidate Tim Wu have shown that no matter the political perspective or agenda, the obstacle of little money, no name recognition, and lack of media cannot hold back ideas. It is the ideas that can, with time, eclipse the politicians bought off from contesting presently ensconced regimes, or appeasing non-aggression pacts for self-gain. One can fight City Hall. Even Mayor Mike Spano can fight City Hall. At issue now is whether he cares to serve Yonkersites or serve his family and friends.
The months leading up to the November 2015 mayoral election is the most propitious time for any political aspirant to challenge the status quo; the public will be paying close attention. While Mayor Mike Spano enters his re-election year with force majeure very much a part of his office, others can and may challenge him to accede to the helm.
The symbolism of working-class self reliance has been a tenet long espoused and yet misunderstood by Yonkersites for being too difficult to attain by the aspirant holder, even when they earn the public’s willingness to give them the opportunity to do just that. Yonkers’s political elite have been either too quick to forget that cities can also aspire to more than that accomplished so far or never understood that the two concepts are not always aligned in lock-step.
It is not that Yonkers needs to head toward any one direction in particular. Rather, the mere fact of having a direction, whatever it is could be would be galvanizing. Its very telling will transcend the salacious carnival of one celebrity or another captivating our time and minds, and the nonsensical sensibilities we have accepted as our “norm”.
It seems politics as we presently know it may not be a battle to be won but rather a challenge that may be transcended and thereby eclipsed by the leadership qualities of one among us. Who will it be? At present, there is none other than Mayor Mike Spano.
If that is the fact to be revealed less than one year from now, perhaps Mayor Mike Spano will rise to the occasion by considering a plan most Yonkersites may be proud to symbolize their abilities and their drive. Yonkersites gave Mike Spano that opportunity. Perhaps Mayor Mike Spano will reciprocate. At issue is whether even if so desirous, he is able to conceive a concept that may be best described as a “win – win” for the City of Yonkers. Anything less will not necessarily be the cause of his demise, but it will make it harder for Yonkers to extricate itself from the present “smoke and mirrors” malaise.