Dear Mount Vernon Friends and Family…
MOUNT VERNON, NY — June 30, 2018 — I write to you this morning (press notice arrived yesterday, June 29, 2018) because Mount Vernon needs your voice. My administration has partnered with grassroots and Blue-Chip organizations, obtained millions in grants, and aggressively sought to implement tax saving solutions; however, other branches of local government remain at odds with reaching common-sense resolutions. My job as Mayor is to drive change, turn our liabilities into assets and transform Mount Vernon for the better good. These ambitions have been met with a pattern and practice of rejection, reneging, and resistance by the old guard which re-established their grip on the majority of the City Council.
In my three, State of the City addresses, I warned that if we fail to work together, Mount Vernon fails. Failure is not an option, nor will I allow it to happen during my tenure. The results we fought for are clear: crime is down 32% since 2011; property values are rising; and quality of life is getting stronger. Three court orders later, the big issue of getting the City Council and Comptroller to the problem-solving table is still an unsolved mystery.
Even fixing broken sewers is stalled by the City Council. Portions of the city are hemorrhaging raw sewage into homes, businesses, and rivers. I have been trying to stop the bleeding on this issue yet obstructionists are refusing to act. Similar to the NYCHA where broken pipes and negligent officials led to $4 billion in penalties, our streets are riddled with busted sewer pipes that will result in a significant monetary penalty from the Department of Justice. These problems are hard to see but easy to smell. Many have suffered in silence as the city ignored the issue for 15 years.
Despite the repeated warnings from federal and state environmental officials and the public outcry from people like the McNeil family, who were forced to evacuate their home on Thanksgiving, the City Council and the Comptroller refuse to act to bring the city into compliance.
The sewer challenge is monumental: Scope and examine all (600,000) linear feet of pipe in the City of Mount Vernon and repair every broken piece.
Our request is simple and has been the same for the past three years: Fund the City Engineer, Fund the Planning Commissioner, and Fund additional Public Works crews to get the work done.
The City Council’s response: No City Engineer. No Planning Commissioner, and no extra Public Works crew.
Mount Vernon has has had a plan and directive since March 2016. There is no excuse for non-compliance. Here’s a video of our expert engineer warning us in 2017 that more resources are needed. Yet still the Council refuses to act.
The question is: What can be done? In the past, I convened the Clergy of Mount Vernon to sit with all of us around the table to work through things. I have opened the doors to business owners, realtors, and residents. Still even non-controversial items, ,like the 2016 Cable Contract renewal which will save eligible seniors $2,000 per year remains stranded in political purgatory, languishing on the City Council’s desk since 2016.;The Council could seize a genuine opportunity to gain $1 million in new revenue for the city without touching property taxes. Instead, they opt to ignore it. below is a link to Chantelle Okarter’s remarks at the June 27, 2018th City Council meeting regarding the shameful violation surrounding the denial of her pay and benefits as Planning Commissioner. Watch it. Share it. Believe it.
My friends, I need your help. I will continue to protect Mt. Vernon but I need your voice and your energy to remind the City Council and the Comptrollerthat they work for you, The People. Callthe City Council a5 914-665-2351 and the Comptroller at 914-665-2442 and tell them to fund the positions to do the work.
Mayor Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas is the mayor of the City of Mount Vernon.