MOUNT VERNON, NY — December 30, 2020 — They’ve seen enough. Three years on the Board of Ethics in Mount Vernon have provided a spectacle of what Chairman Gregory Cannata calls “continual corruption, dysfunction and abuse of power which has resulted in loss of taxpayer dollars and city services not being delivered.” Cannata stood Monday on the steps of Mount Vernon City Hall next to his partner in frustration; Vice-Chair Nicole Lucio says the experience of monitoring “egregious” municipal wrongdoing in Westchester’s third largest city left her disheartened with only one viable path forward. “What we saw showed us we have to run,” she told gathered supporters Monday. So, two of the ethics watchdogs of Mount Vernon are now candidates for City Council and the race is on.
Historical problems in Mount Vernon have included a Mayor’s Office that has periodically been at war with the City Council, an elected Comptroller who refuses to authorize approved expenditures, a crumbling infrastructure, and an arcane city charter that is complex and seemingly encourages legal shortcuts at best, and bad behavior at worst. The city has recently endured allegations of officials breaking into each other’s offices, two Mayors claiming authority at the same time, and an appointed Police Commissioner being arrested for trespassing by his own officers when he tried to come to enter Police Headquarters. The stories are legion: a fire engine stored in a warehouse because the manufacturer wasn’t paid; A drainage system that pumps raw sewage into the Bronx River when it rains; Excessive overtime because employee positions go intentionally unfilled; Police officers leave for neighboring departments creating a “badge drain.” The voters of Mount Vernon have turned over the years from one political personality to another only to be let down when the old patterns re-emerge. The two ethics board members decided they needed to run together on a platform of collaboration, teamwork and basic change.
Nicole Lucio and Gregory Cannata decided to make their announcement on December 28th, the third day of Kwanzaa known as Ujima. It is symbolic meant to speak to the residents of this predominately African-American city. “Ujima means building and maintaining a community together,” Lucio told the crowd at City Hall. “We want to be part of a much needed solution.” And they are determined that it can get done if they do it together. Cannata added a surprising caveat to their campaign: “We’re asking the voters of Mount Vernon,” he said “to vote for both of us or don’t vote for us at all.
Together we can get something done.” Lucio says this is not a platform for a further political office or even cultivating a political career. “We won’t be the majority, but we are asking the voters to vote for BOTH of us in hope of being able to create a collaboration that will solve problems. Greg and I will work in your best interest!”
Three of the five seats on the Mount Vernon City Council are on the ballot this election cycle. At least two other candidates have already announced and the field is expected to be crowded. Lucio and Cannata are both Democrats seeking nomination in the June 22nd primary election.