Why Nothing Gets Done in Mount Vernon
Part 3 of a 5-Part Series on the Lack of Accountability in Government in Mount Vernon
When it comes to politicians and city government officials, it would not be unfair to classify some as probably insane, some others as probably incompetent, and a few of them as too new to tell just yet. Unfortunately, for a place like Mount Vernon, those folks are not really the problem. The real problem group in government are the do-nothing seat-fillers who expect to assume the mantle of leadership without actually making any meaningful contribution to Mount Vernon. They’re happy to collect their check and medical benefits, of course. But they’re not prepared to stick their neck out to help the people of this City even a little bit.
They are worthless wastes of space and, for some reason, they keep getting nominated and they keep getting re-elected. If we want to know why problems persist in Mount Vernon for so long – sometimes decades – we have to really focus on the root causes. We have to ask ourselves why the people we elect to run this City are so bad at actually running it?
It’s not laziness, necessarily. Laziness doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning. These folks show up to work at City Hall. They just don’t do anything when they get there. It’s not stupidity, either. Stupidity involves making bad decisions because you don’t know any better – like grabbing a hot pan from the oven. In order to make a stupid decision, you have to at least make a decision. These so-called “leaders” cannot be bothered to even make stupid decisions. They know that if they make decisions, they will be criticized, and they might actually lose their cushy spot in City Hall. Department heads, custodians, City Council members, and Mayors alike, they just do nothing instead, hoping someone else will solve their problems.
I’m quite positive it came as a shock to many if not every member of the City Council in Mount Vernon when NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said in his scathing Mount Vernon report last week that the “Council is responsible for providing general managerial oversight of city operations” and “to plan for the future by setting long-term priorities and goals” and “to develop or adopt comprehensive written multiyear financial and capital plans.” Why did that come as a shock to them? Simple. They don’t want to do anything. Not those things. Not anything.
We are talking about a body that likes to issue resolutions but doesn’t like to actually make decisions. Decisions by the City Council are embodied in legislation. When I was in the City Council, the people wanted the parking rules changed, so I drafted and got passed legislation that created common sense rules, eased morning congestion, and stopped the ticket blitz. When I was Mayor, I implemented that legislation. I bring up this example because about the only thing the City Council has done in 2020 is to repeal those common-sense rules and re-start the ticket-writing bonanza. Why? Pettiness and jealousy. I was making them look bad by getting things done. No other reason. Want to know why there’s no Starbucks in Mount Vernon? Same reason.
How can a City Council that issues no legislation, provides no leadership, defers to the Mayor at every turn, and hates to stick its neck out over anything be responsible for managing this City? It can’t. So, feel free to blame the Comptroller if you want, but the real villain in the DiNapoli report was the ineffective, inefficient, and do-nothing City Council. So, having identified a problem, let’s focus on solutions.
First, it’s up to us. We’ve got to throw the bums out, as they used to say. All of them. The same disease at the core of police corruption in Mount Vernon infects City Hall also. Yuhanna Edwards and I Co-sponsored and passed legislation creating the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), legislation that hold the police accountable years ago. Was it implemented? Of course not; it was actually defunded by this current Council. Why? Because it had my name on it. The People need to clean house and tell the world that we’re not going to stand for business-as-usual politicians who are more interested in saving themselves and lining their pockets than in running this City.
Second, we need to stand up to the Democratic Party in Westchester that keeps nominating these same shiftless “leaders.” Lodging all power in a single party, as Mark Twain used to say, is the best way to ensure bad government. Don’t like the way this town runs? Blame a Democrat. Don’t like how Mount Vernon lags behind every other city in Westchester? Blame a Democrat. Want to know why your children are not using Memorial Field or getting the education they deserve? Blame a Democrat. Curious as to why the Federal government is fining and suing this City over discharging waste into our rivers? You got it, blame a Democrat. The Democratic Party has been running this City for over FORTY years unchallenged. They’ve got no one else to blame. I know it feels uncomfortable and frustrating, but the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. As a lifelong Democrat from a family of Democrats, it pains me to say this, but if we want to move forward, we have to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths.
As Chuck D. of Public Enemy once said, “It’s weak to speak and blame somebody else when you destroy yourself.” Mount Vernon! Welcome to the Terror-dome.
Finally, we need to recognize that the people of this City are the BOSS. When an employee fails to perform their job, the BOSS gets rid of them. When he or she finds out an employee has been stealing from them, the BOSS sends them packing. And when it turns out the employee never had any intention of working in the first place, the BOSS shows them the door.
Your City Council has failed you. Your City Government has failed you. As the BOSS, what do you plan to do about it?