REAL TALK From AJ Woodson

BW’s AJ Woodson Addresses City Council and Mayor Richard Thomas [Video and Full Letter]

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Wednesday, March 23rd, I addressed the Mount Vernon City Council and Mayor Richard Thomas at the City Council Meeting. I spoke on the need for them to work together for us to go forward, and the fall out of the continuous civil war unfolding in Mount Vernon in the local government. Since then Mayor Thomas has taken the City Council to court furthering the division in the city government. Due to time limitations I was not able to read my letter in its entirety. Below is the video of my statement to I read at Council meeting and the full text of the letter….

Our government on the federal, state and local level was created to be one of checks and balances.

To ensure a separation of powers, the Government is made up of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial. To ensure the government is effective and citizens’ rights are protected, each branch has its own powers and responsibilities, including working with the other branches. This is what we expect from our local elected officials.

I understand many feel Mayor Richard Thomas has burned bridges with his fellow Councilman, the Comptroller and the Former Mayor when he was on the Council and now feel he is burning bridges with the new council as Mayor.

My biggest critique of Mayor Richard Thomas is he had the rare opportunity being the only Mayor or one of the only Mayors, who first served on the Council before being elected Mayor. He more than any other mayor this city has had, should not only understand, but respect the relationship between the executive branch and the legislative branch now that he serves as Mayor, especially being the former Mayor Davis’ most outspoken political adversary

To paraphrase Dr. Robert Baskerville latest piece in Black Westchester: After months of feuding between the City Council and Mayor Thomas, during the past weeks both sides have taken steps toward a legal showdown that could end up plunging the city into a full-blown constitutional crisis. Though this clash has been a long time in the making, stretching back to the dirtiest mayoral race that captivated the city’s attention last year, the immediate cause is the unprecedented challenge the Council mounted to the legal standing of several of Thomas’s Commissioners.

Fueled by a combustible mix of incompatible personalities and political principles, neither side is showing any signs that it is willing to back down. Indeed, both sides insist their unwillingness to compromise over this matter is grounded in legal principles derived directly from the City Charter, the city’s highest law.

To the Mayor I say, for the record, you are considered the leader of the city, the CEO of Mount Vernon, if you will. I publicly say what I said to you after our first interview on Memorial Field, when I met you in August of 2014 and several times since then. If it was your wishes to become Mayor, you will have to be able to galvanize and rally the troops behind you. The voters who voted for you and those who voted for others. Now that you have been elected Mayor of Mount Vernon, you are the mayor of all the citizens on Mount Vernon, not just those who voted for you.

Simply put you are the leader that was voted in by the people, myself included and now you must lead. As you near your 90th day on April 1st (April Fool’s Day), the end of what some call a traditional honeymoon period that many say you weren’t granted. It is time to get out of campaign mood, stop blaming past administrations for what you inherited and put any previous and/or personal animosities you have had with your former council members and the former administration behind you and govern now, lead now.

You campaigned on how bad the city was, how we needed change from the ol’ boy system of governing and how you were going to change it, if we elected you. We have and now we expect you to do what you can with what you have to make this city better as you promised on the campaign trail. It is important to remember history, but not continuously bring it up or continue to blame the previous administration. You knew what you were getting into and this is what you wanted to be, Mayor of Mount Vernon for a long time, now you are here. At some point we expect you to roll up your sleeves and do what needs to be done.

But let me be clear in no way is that to entail unilaterally trying to make moves without the City Council and the Comptroller but work with them. I say again the three branches are supposed to work together. It doesn’t matter at this point to the residents, who said what and did what in the past, but what you are going to do in the future. As the leader you have to find a way to work with those you need to work with to get the job done.

My mother, God rest her soul always told me since I can remember, in life you will always have to work and get along with people you don’t like, that’s just a fact of life.

If you are in a role of leadership, like say the Mayor, you will have to do what is best for the city and put your personal feelings aside, for the betterment of the city.

AJ Woodson

AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

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