THE BLOG

Come Together

01/20/2012 04:47 pm ET | Updated Mar 21, 2012
  • Henry J. Stern President, New York Civic, Former New York City Parks Commissioner

While national attention focuses on the presidential race, now in the early stage in both parties, New Yorkers should remain concerned about how the cosmic plans of aspiring leaders of the free world will affect our burgeoning metropolis.

The New York political stage now has two performers who are used to governing, rather than to being governed. Both Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg are men of stature and prestige. It is inevitable that they will come into conflict with each other, on one issue if not on many. If they engage in battle, the most likely result of their failure to get along will be an impasse on a spreading range of issues, which would preclude the full adoption of either official's vision for the future.

It is therefore important that the two principals -- who share many but not all their personal qualities -- work together as much as they can, and not be diverted by those in either man's administration who might prosper from conflict. If the aim of government is to accomplish good things, which it should be, let it be known that division and strife do not provide fertile soil for accomplishment. This is not to say that one level of government should yield to another simply to promote domestic tranquility. As a reformer, I have always sought to have decisions on public policy made on the merits, not on the power that can be exerted by one public official or cabal over another, and, in a worse case, decisions made on the basis of the financial strength of the opposing parties.

Even assuming that the merits of an issue are the first and best, if not the only reason for determining a question of policy, it is also true that opinions of the merits may genuinely differ as they affect different interests within a constituency. 

Rule 40-G which provides "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," is contradicted by Rule 30-M, "One man's meat is another man's poison." In the Modern Midrash which we periodically cite, rules are allowed to contradict each other because different circumstances may result in different outcomes, depending on which rules are deemed governing.

Three areas which transcend, but do not overrule formal rules are good manners, sound judgment and respect for others. The most enlightened rules will not long survive corrupt, heavy handed or simply stupid administration.

Since people differ widely in behavior, judgment and character, there can be no guarantee that anything, no matter how nobly conceived, will be managed properly. That is just the way things are, "Here on Earth" (Rule 11-E) and that guiding principle is Rule 28-E: "What can't be cured must be endured."

One should never take too large a portion of anything in one sitting, so I will leave our readers to ponder these observations as we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You are welcome to send us your own thoughts on this and other topics which would be helpful in our effort to maintain a free, just and democratic society. It is not a bad idea to occasionally pause and look at ourselves, as long as we are not overly taken with ourselves and our own views at the expense of broader discourse.

Subject to relatively conventional concepts of decency and appropriateness, we will publish what you write, if you allow us to do so. We hope that ideas which are shared can provide social betterment, even if they are not set forth by geniuses, literary or philosophical. The thoughts of sages will not, however, be excluded. We intend to judge all contributions on their merits, and we hope that the resulting stew will help us to better manage the difficult world we share with other creatures.