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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CITY OF MOUNT VERNON: DIVIDED WE STAND!!!

“United we stand, divided we fall” is a popular phrase but in the city of Mount Vernon where things run a little differently, it’s more like Divided We Stand!

Ok, so I took a brief hiatus, and while I watched what unfolded in 2020 and wrote an editorial in January titled, Mount Vernon, Divided We stand. Then I watched quietly over the next ten months to much criticism. I have been quiet about what’s been going on. So much so everyone now had something to say about my noticeable silence to all the dysfunction that has been going on. Well, once again it’s time for me to break my silence and get a few things off my chest.

In part one in January, I stated that one thing I’ve learned during the end of the Davis Administration and the entirety of the Thomas Administration is when you talk all time, write about everything that is going on, even when you present the facts, people eventually stop listening. So, I decided to speak less and make it count when I do. If ever there was time for some Real Talk, that time is now! And like I said where I was once criticized for speaking up about everything now, I’m being criticized for not speaking up on everything. My phone rang and rang, wanting to hear what I thought or read what I had to say!

So, since I will be criticized no matter which approach I take, let me share my thoughts. I have a lot to say and let me say before I go on, all I ask is you read this in its entirety before you criticize. I am posting directly to Facebook, so you do not have to click on links to the site to read this.

We have a lot of things wrong in the city of Mount Vernon and to prove my point, things haven’t gotten any better, the perception of the city in the county and the state haven’t gotten any better with my staying silent. While there is a lot of good things going on and I’ve tried my best to highlight as many of them as I could, but you barely read them when I write them. We cannot move forward if we do not have a difficult conversation and address what is wrong. And to those that will continue to sing choruses of how I am making the city look bad but writing about what’s wrong, you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Things do not get better by burying your head in the sand and not speaking about what’s wrong. If you do not want me to write about the dumb shit you are doing, stop doing dumb shit!

Lastly, before you cheer me on because I called out something or someone you do not currently like there is enough blame to go around, and that goes for the residents as well, but I will get to that at the end.

Now, and I say this out of love for my city, there isn’t one institution in this city that is running smoothly, without dysfunction, finger-pointing, scandal, corruption, or alleged corruption, calls for federal intervention, division, lawsuits, and even a few federal investigations and indictments. And before any residents call out the leadership of the city and the elected officials, you too are the problem. To you, I say you get the government you deserve because you get the government you voted for.

Let’s start with city hall, let’s start at the top. In February of 2019, Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard ran being the candidate that ‘can restore Mount Vernon to its prideful reputation,’ and bring healing to the city of Mount Vernon. After two years in office – which did consist of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic – the dysfunction in City Hall continues.

“United we stand, divided we fall” is a phrase used in many mottos, most often to inspire unity and collaboration. In the city of Mount Vernon where things run a little differently, it’s more like Divided We Stand! Much like it is in the nation, but the difference is, it is not Republicans and Democrats in Congress governing like the Bloods and Crips, it’s Black Democrats that cannot get along with other Black Democrats to move the city forward (pun intended). This is a Black Run City you cannot blame the white man or the Republicans. Black Democrats run this city and if we are honest with ourselves the city has been on the decline for a while now. So much so, you have no idea how many people, and I mean Black people, I heard say maybe we should let white people run it. I am not the only one, a former mayor of Mount Vernon told me he is hearing that as well and it’s a dangerous thing.

We just had an election and the candidates that won ran on a united ticket by the name of Mount Vernon Forward. The mayor campaigned as hard for this ticket and Darren Morton for Comptroller as she did for herself in 2019. To the mayor I say, you got your chosen candidates. In 2022, there will be no one else to blame, Deborah Reynolds was the problem, some of the council members were the problem, they will all be out of office on December 31st. Like you told the residents when you ran that you were the candidate that can restore the city in 2019, you told us that with these candidates you can do the job you promised us you would do. There will need to get a reasonably short period of time to get everything in order, identify the problems and put a plan together and do what you promised you would do, get the city back on the right track. People should not expect miracles on January 1st, I will give you that, but the truth of the matter is there won’t be much time to start making things happen, I wish you well because your success is the cities success and as I told you many times, I wouldn’t trade places with you for all the money in the world. Black Westchester and the residents of Mount Vernon will be watching eagerly to see what you do.

To Danielle Browne, Ed Poteat, and Cathlin Gleason, all year long you three told us, the residents of Mount Vernon if we voted you three, you would make it happen. You are inheriting a mess and there will be no easy fix, but we the residents are hoping and praying you will end the Civil War in City Hall and work together with everyone to do what you promised and that was to move Mount Vernon Forward. Everyone who sat in the seats you will sit in, all told us they can work with everyone else in City Government to get the job done, will you three be the ones to get the job done? We do not want to hear any more about what your predecessors did not do and did wrong, all the residents care about is results. Because you are inheriting a mess, you probably won’t get the traditional grace period usually allotted, the residents just want to see results and that you can all work together with everyone else in the city government.

Darren Morton, you may have the hardest job of them all, but hey, you too ran that you were the candidate who can get us back on track, probably won’t be a big grace period for you either. While many have given up on the city, I write this with hope for the future, but that can only happen if our elected officials work together for the betterment of the city. The problems have been highly documented and publicized now is the time for action.

One of the things that hurts the most is the state of our beloved library. Even the library is dysfunctional in the way it’s being run. Now I have been quiet up until now but damn. Where do I start? We have alleged financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and calls for a criminal investigation. We had four elected Mount Vernon Library trustees that could not vote on a fifth member to appoint, to replace the one who resigned, before the deadline, after which the state would come in to take over the board. Instead of writing about it, I called the four trustees to see how we could move forward and to no avail, the conversation was a bust. Eventually, they finally agreed on a fifth trustee to sit in until the election but that was a well-drawn-out drama. Then you have a trustee, the former board president accused of serious crimes against young boys and some of the staff, a civil suit, possible criminal investigation, and call for that individual to step down even by some of the other board members. The library has lost its not-for-profit status, employees worked for years without a contract. Do you know most other municipalities don’t even think about how their library is run, it just does, but ours is in the press and it is really ugly, but some said I make the city look bad by talking about it? Well in my silence many others were talking about it publicly to the point one organization had a press conference and filed a complaint calling for the district attorney to investigate. Where else do you hear mess like that! Nowhere! We have got to do much better. What hurt so much even our library is running without drama.

What else we have, senseless gun violence, city employees indicted of federal charges stemming from a PPP fraud, that has been highly publicized, and from what I hear the feds are not done, who will be next? We are in danger of losing our hospital. I saw a recent town hall type meeting with the Mount Vernon City School District where several parents and members of the community had complaints about how the school district is being run. We have a few corrupt cops who keep making the news, a whistleblower who has been retaliated against. Leaving myself and many others saying damn, we do not have one institution in the city of Mount Vernon that’s not dysfunctional.

But residents before you cheer me on, this wouldn’t happen in any other city because the residents wouldn’t allow it. You are the ones with the power, and my silence came when I got frustrated that many of you were unwilling to speak up and demand better. When is the city – as a whole – going to be sick and tired of being sick and tired? Yeah, my phone rings with complaints but you are unwilling to even write a letter to the editor and put your name on it. You call Black Westchester, say your peace, and then follow that up with you didn’t hear that or get that from me. You call me and complain I haven’t said anything about this or that, but I say to all of you when are you going to say something.

The moral of the story is it’s going to take all of us for things to get any better. And let me tell you while many have given up and tell me not to waste my time, we may not be at the point of no return yet, but we are getting pretty damn close. Do we have to lose everything and have our city taken over before we step up and speak out and demand better? Like I said there is enough blame to go around. Everybody has a part to play. Before I hear anyone complain about anything else, I ask everyone what are you going to do or willing to do to move Mount Vernon Forward? We must stop all the fighting just for the sake of fighting and start fighting for something. We must stop attacking each other because we decided to support different candidates and our elected officials in office and those coming on January 1, go you stop campaigning, you won the race, now we need you to govern. To the residents politics is a participatory sport, your job is not done after you cast your ballot. You cannot vote and go to sleep until the next election. You must be engaged.

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About AJ Woodson (2278 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, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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