Sometime last week, pictures flooded the internet, especially Facebook of new street sweepers bearing words of gratitude, “Thank you Mayor Thomas for cleaning Mount Vernon.” Black Westchester Magazine received several phone calls to inform us. Then News 12 reported on the situation so we figured we would pass on it, but still monitored the situation.
“When these brand new state of the art Elgin Street Sweepers hit the streets of Mount Vernon, they will be carrying a special message that no other vehicle that the city fleet ever have before,” News 12 Westchester’s Ty Milburn reports Friday, Dec. 2nd. “words of gratitude for Mayor Richard Thomas by Mayor Richard Thomas.”
Comptroller Maureen Walker told News 12 she felt Mayor Thomas should foot the bill for the $1,200 paint job that touts his name, instead of taxpayers paying for his self promotion, “It’s irresponsible of him to be spending the city funds like that,” says Walker.
As far as we were concerned that was the end of the story but we were sadly mistaken. On Monday we received many more calls from residents who saw first hand the new street sweepers traveling down their street, removing trash.
On Tuesday another picture surfaced of an individual who works for the Department of Public Works with the words ‘Team Richie’ on his back. Once again residents took to social media to express their disapproval and Black Westchester Magazine received several phone call, emails, text messages, with the picture asking us to look into it.
We reached out to Mayor Richard W. Thomas to get his side of the story about the accusations that he is using city equipment and employees as his own personal billboards. Much like the statement he gave to News 12 Westchester on Friday, he stated it is common in municipalities to have the chief executive’s name on city-owned property.
“It’s been a long-standing practice in Mount Vernon, and other municipalities, to have executive branch equipment stamped with the city seal and the name of the chief executive officer,” Mayor Thomas tells BW. “Please see former Mayor Ernie Davis’ name on city trash cans and Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s on city items for example.We are surprised that Comptroller Walker would refuse to pay the bills to clean the streets. We urge her to reconsider this practice as the people of Mount Vernon deserve a government that supports a high quality of life.”
A couple of elected officials including the current and former Mount Vernon City Council Presidents however do not agree with Mayor Thomas.
“It is a sad display of narcissism to force this employee to wear this or else be terminated from employment,” current City Council President Marcus A Griffith tells BW. “The Mayor has gone to an all time low.”
“I am appalled by the hubris of this man what kind of message does this send?” Current City Councilwoman and former Council President Roberta Apuzzo ask? “If u didn’t vote for him does DPW still pick up your garbage? This is disgusting! This is the “Richie show.” The Thomas show is getting poor ratings and people are tired of the rhetoric and his casting leaves a lot to be desired. What happened to executive leadership? What happened to Honest dialogue? What happened to mutual respect? What happened to old fashioned basics? I guess none on the “Richie show “poor poor ratings,” Councilwoman Apuzzo shares with BW.
Former Mount Vernon City Council President Richard A. DeCarlo also publicly expressed his thoughts on Mayor Thomas thanking himself for cleaning Mount Vernon on the new Street Sweepers. “This is however the absolute epitome of narcissistic arrogance and egotism,” DeCarlo posted on Facebook, Monday afternoon.
Councilman André Wallace who chairs DPW and ordered the sweepers, and believes even considering asking taxpayers to foot the bill for the paint job is a violation of the city charter.
“We ordered these sweepers to do their job and sweep the streets, not to promote the mayor,” says Councilman Wallace.
Many residents contacted us with messages of ‘OMG’, ‘WOW,’ and ‘WTF’ when they sent us the aforementioned pictures. While many told BW they were lost for words, others however were not shy about how they felt and some even showed their outage on social media. One of the most popular questions we received was, ‘What are the City Council and Comptroller going to do about it?’
“This is ludicrous and rightfully WRONG,” Mount Vernon resident Joy Nembhard, who was a diehard Thomas supporter, wrote in the comment section of the News 12 story. “There are numerous important improvements and alterations that the city of Mt Vernon is yearning for before and since this Mayor took office almost a year ago, but it seems that self-interest appears to be the motive for this worthless saga and tax-payers deserve much much more. To spend quality time scheming up a way to publicize an agenda for maybe a second term is tantamount to a little child trying hard to draw attention. The Mayor will I am sure receives some attention when he surrounds himself with a team of administrators who are bubbling with brilliance energy and aptitude to produce the best results that’s best suited for his legacy when he leaves office in 2019. If he works this way instead of seemingly going backwards City Council Members and Comptroller could possible give him a bligh.. How about some public relations effort to attract new and viable businesses to want to come into Mt Vernon and help to improve commerce in order to help the city grow and flourish financially for future generations of our children to love grow and enjoy? Look at all the low-income high rises that are given the gracious green light to come into this city and dictate the way the city should look. Re-establish your development plan Mr. Mayor the way you would order your own house for your family to enjoy living. Since the early 2000, various banks like Capital One, Bank of New York, Washington Mutual have bade the city goodbye without viable replacement, Why, because businesses have disappeared and constantly replaced with far too many barber shops, beauty salons, drug stores, fast food, nail salons and lately “Dollar Tree” to the tune of four with new dollar tree headquarters proposed for the Gramatan Corridor where one of the famous monstrous low-income housing now stands. all into 4.4 square miles. This should be some food for thought here that supersedes self.”
“We hope the city council and board of estimate and contract do not support the branding of employees for political purposes. The law is very clear on the use of taxpayer funds. Civil rights laws are clear too,slavery has been abolished. The street sweeper is rolling down third street with thank you mayor Richard Thomas, while this uninformed employee piles the fields. This is not a good look for Mount Vernon,” a group called United Citizens of Mount Vernon posted on Facebook.
“Will the following people (city council members, legislator, senators, assemblyman, congressman, clergy, school board trustees, community leaders and activists) of the City of Mount Vernon; please speak by sharing your thoughts publicly on the street sweepers, employee uniforms, as well as, using taxpayers dollars for the aforementioned items?” Brenda L. Crump shared with BW.
“Team Richie should pay for the Street Cleaners machinery and the salary of those who wear his name on their backs – this is the City of Mount Vernon not Mayor Team Richie Thomas City – disgusted with the conceit!” one Mount Vernon resident from the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon named Karen tells BW.
“Not only is this conceit, it’s also arrogance,” Mount Vernon resident Bill Capello tells BW. “Even Ernest Davis wasn’t this conceited (though there were rumors he wanted to change the name of the A.B. Davis Middle School to E.D. Davis Middle School.”
“We have our very own Trump,” Mount Vernon resident Janelle Allbritton tells BW. “He puts his name on stuff but at least Trump “owns” his buildings.”
However as in the News 12 Westchester report, I ran into a one or two who said who cares as long as the streets get cleaned. You the residents of Mount Vernon asked us to write about and shine some light on this situation and we have. Now its time to let your voice be heard, in one of the comment sections below. Tell us how you feel about these new street sweepers and employee uniforms with the words Team Richie on the back. Whether you support the mayor’s actions of not, let you voice be heard! Stay Tuned to BW for more on this developing story because we are quite sure like the others it’s not going away anytime soon, unfortunately!!! REAL TALK!!!