Wanted: A Socrates for White Plains Now.

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WPCNR NEWS & COMMENT. By John F. Bailey. July 1, 2019:

Well here we go into the two months of the year when big decisions are made by the Common Council of White Plains when most residents of the city are on vacation.

They do not show up for hearings on important legislation, because the city does not tell the agenda until 3 days before the Common Council meetings. Many of the residents affected therefore do not show up. And the Common Council makes an unpopular vote and never feels the heat.

It wasn’t always like this.

Marc Pollitzer, June 2007 in action,
making the Common Council squirm with his reason, logic and dialectic analysis of Council flaws. Showing his trademark engagement face.

Twenty years ago there was a “Socrates” in White Plains who would take the podium like Aaron Judge stepping into the batter’s box. He was theater with a message. You wanted to have the City Clerk Say “All rise.”

Marc Pollitzer was that Socrates.

The voice of truth, reason, tracer of “what were they thinking,” how the Common Council lost its ways on issues. He was articulate. Reasonable. He’d retrace the dialectic of the Council’s tortured meandering to the verge approval and inevitably force them to keep hearings open for months and improve projects, or dump them all together. He was a one man public defender.

I always looked forward to Marc. He knew the issues. Quoted law in a most interesting way. He was didactic with reasonable precision, without leading the listener into legal quicksand where meaning-well speakers sunk in legal ooze.

He was passionate, firm without losing his cool. The voice of reason. A presenter with presence. Forearmed with facts. Always in a white shirt and open collar.  

He spoke out on the City Center project. The New York Presbyterian Hospital Park giveaway and his impassioned arguments strung out the New York Presbyterian Hospital proton accelerator project so long the funding disappeared. He fought the German School North Street access project that was quietly approved after he died in 2008

He died young on the tennis court prior to a tournament at the Old Ridgeway Country Club. Very ironic considering the last eleven years.

Had Mark lived the FASNY project would have been dead long ago. He was that good and using reason and argument to tie the Common Council and development lawyers in knots.

He was a passionate resident of White Plains who followed the issues. He was more a monitor, always first to smell a Delfino administration ploy.

Other speakers followed him up always. There was Dan Seidel. Alan Teck, Barbara Benjamin, Jack Harrington, Politzer’s co-host on White Plains Television, Peter Katz., Robert Stackpole.

But Marc was one of a kind.

He had courage to call issues as he saw them.

Today we have the dogged Gedney Association that has fought FASNY these many years. FASNY is now In its eighth year of hearings, court proceedings, and still there is no end. It is the process that never proceeds.

We  need, in this “era of the deal” another Socrates, an advocate like Marc, champion of reason and truth to step forward.

There is one such man out there. He even has a goatee like Socrates. He needs a toga though

Often, he gives me a call and gives me his perspective on seminal events like the League of  Women Voters Candidates Forum the other night.

His observation: these are different times. History he told me is moving too fast to cope with today locally and national.  

History (perhaps with the exception of White Plains Downtown Development, the FASNY farewell tour of the New York Court System, the search for a County sales tax bailout which my Socrates says has to be a done deal, otherwise the retailers won’t be able to start collecting it for weeks), is moving too fast for government, the population, the city to cope with.

My Socrates believes retail in downtowns is dead. It simply is not going to come back which means a lot of developers have guessed so wrong and bet too much on a generation that is too much in debt to buy houses and cannot afford the luxury housing being built for them based on  an economy of 15 years ago.

He notes the way we buy and entertain ourselves has changed to where we are dominated by the instant gratification of the Amazons and Googles of the world.

Ideas corrupted by short sighted geniuses of the Facebooks, Snapchats and Instagrams of the world. Phenomenon of diversion that compromise individuals’ ability to pay attention far more than television ever did. Television now is no longer a “vast wasteland” as Newton Minnow, the FCC chairman called it in the sixties. Television and its derivitives all the streamers on the little flixes are a morally toxic swamp.

The legendary Eric Sevareid

But it is my wish that my new Socrates besides sharing with the CitizeNetReporter on the phone and laying his Eric Sevareid  analysis on me, share his clairvoyance with the city.

I call upon my secret Socrates and persons who remember the legendary Marc Pollitzer to come on out to Common Council meetings, work sessions, Planning Board Meetings, challenge the hypotheticals city officials and optimistic developers postulate and step up and fill the role of the voice of truth and reason, a 21st century Socrates for White Plains.

I also hope others will revive and fill the role Marc Pollitzer again—providing the reason and research that shredded the old razzle dazzle and improved the impossible dreams with possible reality.

We need more Socrates, a legion of them to shake up the Common Council into thinking, reasoning, and stop rationalizing their all but automatic approvals that have languished for 11 years and not been built.

So I invite you, my Socrates, those like him to come out and stand up as the jury for the city to provide the expertise, analysis, conclusions, reality that a tired part-time, paid Common Council can apparently no longer do.

But wait is their hope that the next Common Council will be more diligent and energetic and perceptive and clairvoyant than the one of the last 10 years?

They have to do so little to do better.

That’s why I am hoping my Socrates will come forward and lead the way. Encourage the new council to be Plato’s Guardians of the Future with the tool both the historic Socrates and Marc Pollitzer used to do.

It is time

Come on down, read the backup material and ask the questions in the hearings to come. Embarrass the council when their thinking is muddled (a common condition). Teach them gently to become skeptical, don’t accept promises, extract guarantees of performance, and stop creating assets for a company by approving site plans that enhance a property.

The city future depends on the number of Socrates  who come forward.

The city cannot make decisions in a self-congratulatory vacuum. They make bad decisions when they do that.

It’s time.

Put away the cellphone.

Come on down to the Common Council and make yourself heard.

That’s where the real drama is.

It is where the future of your city is determined.

Take charge like Marc Pollitzer did.

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