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Councilwoman Apuzzo To Mayor Thomas: Bridge Building? – Your Bridges Are Falling!

OK, once again it is time for some REAL TALK! On Thursday, May 5, 2016, as I went into City Hall to drop something off, much to my surprise, the Rotunda was full of Black Clergy, Mayor Thomas and his administration and several others, who had all gathered in City Hall to observe the National Day of Prayer.

Why was I surprised, well for one I had not received a press statement on such a momentous occasion, as I had for a few frivolous things like a snowball competition, where Mayor Richard Thomas challenged other area Mayors including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to see who could build the better snowman, or a snap-chat challenge, or to announce Mayor Thomas’ court victory over the city council and the comptroller, or the Mayor’s Pothole initiative, the announcement of the new Parking Placard Policy, or being named the best place for millennials to live in Westchester County, not to mention his many appointment announcements and statements of the firing of Public Safety Commissioner Robert ‘Bob’ Kelly’ ok ok, I think you get the point.

With all the press conferences where Mayor Thomas called the city council and others obstructionists and the ongoing Civil War in City Hall, I remember hearing Mayor Thomas painting pictures of unity, saying things like this is what it looks like when we all come together the swearing ceremony of Mount Vernon City Court Judge Nichelle Johnson. It was a great photo-op, with the Mayor, all members of the City Council, area judges etc, but after the flashes from the cameras and the pictures posted on social media, nothing much had changed.

The mayor continued to sing a song that he is trying to work with the council, but they are not all willing to either meet with him or work with him for the betterment of the city. He even told the press and the public that the city council and the comptroller are playing politics with your safety, which simply did not represent what was said days earlier in the work session meeting.

As the leader of the city who the people of Mount Vernon overwhelming voted in as you and your supporter like to remind us, what better event to show a united Mount Vernon City Government (even it was just for the photo-op) than a National Day of Prayer, something so non-political that everyone could get behind and show true unity. What a great event to use to be the bridge builder, you and I have personally discussed several times.

So back to BW finding out by chance from dropping by City Hall, what struck me odd  was the visible absence of all five council members. I didn’t think much about it until three people present, one a known Richard Thomas supporters who didn’t miss the opportunity to mention to me, ‘You notice the City Council couldn’t make time to be here.’ I shrugged it off until I received a message from Councilwoman Roberta Apuzzo on the matter.

I wasn’t going to write anything about it to take away from the prayer, even after talking to several other council members, but Councilwoman Apuzzo has never been one to reach out to the press and/or write a letter to the editor and express her frustration about what’s going on in City Hall, she simply does not do that. She lets others step into the spotlight. She rather work behind the scenes doing what she does for the city. She is never the one seeking public attention from the press, in fact she often shies away from it.

“Please note my extreme disappointment in the lack of advanced notice of NATIONAL!!!!!!!!! Prayer day service in the rotunda,” Councilwoman Apuzzo shares with BW. “It certainly appears that many preachers knew about this event well in advance the lack of respect for this council to be notified in a timely matter doesn’t seem to indicate that the administration wants to Build Bridges.”

I spoke with one of the clergy present and they confirmed they all knew as early as Monday.

I also spoke with Councilwoman Lisa A Copeland who told me she find out about 15-30 before the prayer, Council President Marcus A. Griffith who said he got a message 20 or so minute prior to the prayer and Councilman Andre Wallace who mention he wasn’t even informed at all. He and Councilman J. Yuhanna Edwards were meeting in his office around the corner and would have gladly came and stood with the mayor for a national day or prayer.

“This was not an event, City Council was to attend or we would have been notified, Councilman Wallace tells BW. “I was told by the a few Pastors that Shawyn [Paterson Howard] and Kerry made the calls. If they wanted us there, we would have gotten a call. Yuhanna and I were meeting at my office right around the corner and could have easily attended. I don’t think the Mayor wanted us there.”

So what is The National Day of Prayer? It is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman

The National Day of Prayer has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people. The unanimous passage of the bill establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual event, signifies that prayer is as important to our nation today as it was in the beginning.

This is not the first time the City of Mount Vernon has observed the National Day of Prayer, but according to Councilwoman Apuzzo this is one of the first times the City Council wasn’t present or invited in advance.

This is the pattern from this mayor’s office, doing things at the last-minute and with poor planning like the sending of the letter to Comptroller Walker to pull the property the Arts Council wanted to buy for the music school off the auction block, minutes before the auction begun.

“His not given the council advance notice, goes to the disingenuous attitude of the Mayor, it just doesn’t sit well with me,” Councilwoman Apuzzo tells BW. “The bridge, the Mayor often speaks of building seem to be falling down instead of being built up. In moving forward it would be better if the administration wants to truly shows its effort to work together, the Mayor lets the council know what going on in ample time. Building Bridges should be an initiative of working to identify and promote practice and policy that will create strong and closely coordinated partnerships and collaborations between Mayor’s office and the Council. But you need a firm foundation. When you attempt to build a bridge that lacks a foundation, needed to keep it solid, strong, it will never last. Again it seems to me his bridges are falling.”

Councilwoman Roberta Apuzzo was noticeably very upset by the lack of respect and consideration given to the council in the preparation of this National Day of Prayer. BW feels the Mayor missed a great opportunity to unite the two divided branches of Mount Vernon government and feel any bridges the Mayor is trying to build are as useless as the MTA Bridges in Mount Vernon, that have been inactive and unusable for well over a decade. We need you to do better Mayor Thomas for the City of Mount Vernon to have a real chance of moving forward. REAL TALK!




About AJ Woodson (2369 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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