Let’s start simple this week: I am the only Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon. I will be the Mayor until the end of 2019. Nobody’s going to be able to change that or challenge it any longer. This is not my personal feeling. This was the ruling of Judge Ecker of the Supreme Court of the State of New York last week. His decision ended five weeks of uncertainty in our City, and I am grateful for the end of that unfortunate chapter in our City’s history.
I understand there was a lot of confusion and misinformation around what was happening exactly, and the details and procedure are complicated. I won’t go through them in gory detail, but it boils down to this: when the last mayor pled guilty in his criminal court case, he gave up his position automatically. Even though he believed he could stay longer, State law required him to leave immediately. As City Council President when that happened, I was automatically and immediately made the Mayor. That happened on July 8, 2019. In early August, the City Council attempted to change their rules and elected a new City Council President, whom they claimed was the new Mayor. Judge Ecker made it crystal clear that was not the case. So, it ended just like it started on July 8th, with me as Mount Vernon’s Mayor. I’m honored, of course, to serve this City as your Mayor.
Even with all of that going on, I continued to work on the People’s behalf and got some projects moving again and started some new ones. An update of what I’ve been working on is below.
MEMORIAL FIELD IS MOVING FORWARD
Memorial Field is coming back to life. The County is ready to begin construction in the Spring. It will have an 8-lane competition track, grandstands, tennis courts, and, of course, a full-size football field. The City needs to clean up the dirt that was dumped there over the last decade, and we’ve already implemented a plan to get that done. This week, we will be opening the bids from prospective vendors and choosing the “lowest responsible bidder” to begin working. We need to make sure the company we choose has the experience and skill to get the dirt out of there and to do so quickly. Work will begin in September. You’ll start to see a lot more activity in and around Memorial Field in the next few months. It’s taken a decade and a long court case to get here, but we’re moving Memorial Field forward, and we can see the finish line now.
CREATING USABLE COMMUNITY SPACE
You’re also going to see a lot of activity around the Fifth Avenue municipal parking lot. In fact, it’s already started. That whole space is getting cleaned up and renovated. When we’re done, we will have removed the meters and replaced them with a modern payment kiosk. We will have cleaned up the space from top to bottom. The idea is not to create only a nicer parking lot, but that’s going to happen, too. By cleaning up this City lot, we’re opening up and creating usable Community Space that will be available to be used for a whole bunch of things. Farmers’ markets, street fairs, flea markets, vendor showcases, pop-up restaurants, festivals, and fairs will all be coming to that space. It’s City property, and that means it belongs to the People.
If you have ideas for more Community Spaces in Mount Vernon, let us know and keep an eye out on our website over the next few weeks. We’ll be looking for your input on this and a lot of things. From missing street signs to safer intersections near schools to double-parking, we’ll be looking to the community to help us target problem areas and prioritize the revitalization of this City.
CHANGING THE CULTURE OF GOVERNMENT
One of my main priorities is return City Hall to the People, both as a space, but also as an idea of good governance. Everyone that works in City Hall is going to be an ambassador to the residents of this City to help them interact with their government. We need to remember that City Hall is not a place for city employees. Everything in that building from telephones to desks to offices was paid for by the People and, frankly, they should be treated accordingly when they come into City Hall. I’ve started by removing the employee parking lot behind City Hall and returning those spaces to the public. We’re also working on opening up all of the entrances to City Hall to make it easier for our seniors to access the building.
We want everyone leaving City Hall to feel respected, empowered, validated, and feeling that they have been listened to. Our goal is ensuring that everyone who leaves City Hall had their problem solved during their visit and, if not, a project leader and a project plan to solve it was made during that visit. Following up will be a priority. I will be holding regular open houses on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 5:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M. to speak directly with the People, hear their concerns, and make sure problems are being solved.
I will be meeting with every city department Commissioner this week to drive home this vision of City Hall as the “People’s Hall.” Hospitality, respect, and citizen service are going to be the benchmarks of every department. And, if I find out a department is not making the necessary changes, I will make those changes for them. We’re not going to be content with business-as-usual in City Hall. We want the energy in that place to be all about one thing: helping our Mount Vernon Family move forward, one resident and one issue at a time.
There’s a lot of other exciting things going on, and I’ll save them for the next column. Stay tuned. We’re building a lot of momentum in City Hall, cleaning up some of the mess that has been created over the last twenty years, and focusing on real priorities for the People. We’re going to need your help to do it, but Mount Vernon is going to get back on track and it’s going to happen quickly. It’s time to take private agenda and personal ego out of government. The People sent us here to do a job, and my administration is going to get that job done.
If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.