Down Home Democracy in the Land of Thomas Paine

A WVOX Commentary

by William O’Shaughnessy

November, 2013

Thomas Paine would have loved this.

One after another they approached the podium at city hall to scream into the night.  It was another “Citizens To Be Heard” session before the high council of our city.  And it was democracy at its finest as assorted skeptics, gadflies, watchdogs, contrarians, cynics, doubters, naysayers, negativists, misanthropes, alarmists, outliers, pessimists, troublemakers, and pot-stirrers (I had another word ready to go here) raged in all their sureness at the controversial out-of-town developer Forest City Ratner.

There were, granted, a great many authentic “colorful characters” shouting into the microphone this cold winter night as the developers ill-conceived plan for Echo Bay was beaten down.  And some, to be sure, were certifiably off the wall. Others, however, were accompanied by a remarkable and undeniable sincerity and a becoming concern for the neighborhood, the “public good.”

Through it all, the young, slim Mayor Bramson was unfailingly gracious.  But even his undeniable brilliance and Harvard courtliness were no match for the fury which came up from these New Rochelle residents, concerned citizens all, whose love for their damn city was stronger than Bramson’s fluency and ease with the jargon and buzzwords of municipal governance.

The Thomas Paines-in-the Ass won the night.

The old rabble-rouser would have been proud.

This is, after all, New Rochelle.