MOUNT VERNON, NY — July 31, 2019 — There’s a lot of press around Mount Vernon these days. They’re camped out all around City Hall, and hardly a day goes by that Mount Vernon isn’t making local or, even, national news. I wish I could say all this attention is for a good reason, but I cannot. The reason for this column, however, is not to dwell on the negative circus going on in and around City Hall these days, but to reassure you that the work of your government is getting done. And, we’re moving fast. While I will address some of the legal issues below, I want to focus on some of the more productive things that are getting accomplished in Mount Vernon, despite the chaos.
Memorial Field Is Moving Forward
When I was sworn in, I told my team to make Memorial Field a top priority and move that project along with no more wasted time, no more wasted motion, and no more wasted tax dollars. I’m happy to report that, in just two weeks, we’ve made a ton of progress. First, the bid packages for proposed vendors have been published and are available for pick up at the City Clerk’s office. Second, we will select a vendor to clean up the Memorial Field site by August 20th, with work slated to begin immediately thereafter. Third, we’ve identified funds to pay for the remediation and will be setting them aside in a dedicated account for only that purpose. Our goal is to get this project completed by the end of the year so that the County can begin construction and have the field usable by next summer.
As you know, Memorial Field has been used for too long as a political football in this City. With the help of the Comptroller and the City Council, I am going to focus on getting it ready to play real football.
Changing the Culture of Government
I have established a good working relationship with Comptroller Deborah Reynolds and her staff, as well as with the City Council and Office of the City Clerk. They are all hard-working, dedicated public servants who have been maligned for the last two years. What surprised me the most is that, when I engaged them, they were still ready to do the City’s work. They know who they work for and just want a chance to do their jobs without being vilified in the press by the Mayor.
You’re not going to see me take people to task in public. That’s not leadership; that’s vanity. You’re not going to see me posting a bunch of Facebook rants. That’s not leadership; that’s ego. What you are going to see is me walking the halls and talking to people, encouraging them to share information, and being available to make decisions to make their jobs easier. That’s what leadership should look like.
I’ve run huge projects before. I know how all of the moving pieces fit together in this government. There’s no transition period needed. We’re working now. If someone in this government wants to put their own interest above that of the public interest, they won’t be around for very long. I can promise you that much. By working together, we’re able to move very quickly and accomplish big things in a short amount of time.
Getting Our Financial House In Order
The current priority is making a realistic assessment of our financial situation. There’s been a ton of misinformation published over the last year or so about what’s going on with Mount Vernon’s finances. We’re going to end that practice. I’m working closely with the Comptroller and our legal team to stop the bleeding coming out of the Mayor’s “black box” agencies until we get some real independent audits completed. We’ve frozen the accounts of the Water Department and the Industrial Development Agency until that’s done.
The simple fact is that no one is going to want to do business with Mount Vernon if we can’t demonstrate fiscal responsibility in our government. We will be transparent, and we will make sure those who have taken advantage of our City will be held accountable for their actions.
As part of that process, we’re working to regain our bond rating with Moody’s. That plan is underway, and we’ll keep pushing to do what needs to be done to get the rating back this year. It’s vital to the future of our City that we have access to the municipal credit markets.
While the whole mess is still being litigated and disputed, I am confident that the Court will ultimately decide this matter is a lot clearer than former Mayor Thomas wants people to believe. His conviction vacated his office, and I was sworn in, pursuant to the City Charter. So, in both the legal and practical sense, there’s only one Mayor in the City of Mount Vernon, and I am the one doing the business for the city, as Mayor.
I will keep doing the people’s business, and I will keep letting you know in this column what is going on. Mount Vernon has a bright future. Even though it looks bleak now, the sun is rising on the horizon, and we’ll all get through the difficulties. As long as we keep an eye on the real priorities of this City, we will come out stronger than we started.
Mayor André Wallace