May 28, 2023
REAL TALK From AJ Woodson

Real Talk From AJ Woodson: ONE MOUNT VERNON?

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BW Editor-In-Chief AJ Woodson [Black Westchester]So we are 21 days into 2016 and 21 days into the new administration and just like the primary, general election and the weeks between the election and the swearing-in, its been crazy. The extended silly season continues as if it’s still campaign time. While some Mount Vernonites have gotten behind the new mayor or just jumped on the bandwagon, the city is still somewhat divided. Mayor Richard Thomas the youngest mayor in Mt. Vernon history has seen a mass exodus of supporters who were down with him, depart from him.

The administration would have you believe it because certain individuals have hurt feelings over not receiving a job or something else they wanted and now have turned their back on the administration and some of that is to be expected, it happens after every election. Former supporters tell tales of broken promises and the mayor forgetting exactly who helped him get there and again some of that is true and is to be expected because it too happens after many elections.

Then you have supporters of candidates who lost, that refuse to support the new administration because they can’t forgive what was done over and above the call of duty to win and again that to is be somewhat expected to a point. But the bottom line is the residents of Mount Vernon are allowing themselves to be divided, and in the end if it continues to go on WE ALL LOSE, THERE WILL BE NO WINNERS! And what everyone fails to realize, there is no right or wrong, just division.

Let me be clear there are those outside of the City of Mount Vernon who are watching, waiting, laying and preying for the downfall of the city so they can come in a swoop it up. All across the county, all across the state, even as far as Albany, people are watching and talking about the train wreck, that have come from and in the aftermath of this past election!

Now I am not going to give you another, ‘can we all get long’ speeches, but I challenge everyone to think carefully what exactly we all want. No one is going to get everything they want, no one will always be 100% satisfied and even under the best conditions there will always be haters who are not happy and don’t want anyone else to be happy. I am not saying you have to like or be cool with everyone, but lets take a look at the past few months. Where did fighting, arguing, attacking one another get us. Maybe it’s time to try something else.

My message to Mayor Richard Thomas, we know you have a tough job and like a boxer who has had nothing but knock outs and never been to the tenth round before, you are doing your best to navigate through unfamiliar territory. It’s easy to point out what other mayors didn’t do or did wrong, but another thing to walk that walk, when you are in the big chair. Trick is not to just throw out the baby with the bath water, but find what was working and continue those practices and maybe even tweek them a bit, but you do not have to re-invent the wheel and you do not have to get it right the first few weeks. There is a lot wrong and it didn’t get this way over night and it will not be fixed overnight either. Who knows you might even find you have a few people in City Hall, who can be an asset, but having a fire sale the first few weeks might not be a good move.

In our first conversation, August 2014, after the Memorial Field interview, I told you if you remember, I’m all for challenging the status quo and standing up to power but if you wanted to be mayor, you were going to have to find a way to unite the people behind you. Find a way to earn the support of your competitions supporters. To be an efficient leader you have to earn the respect of the people and be able to rally the people (all the people behind you), give them a reason to support you. I remind you of that conversation because I want to see you succeed and go on to do great things.

My message to the City Council is, even when given a reason to beat up the mayor (figuratively speaking) and yes he sometimes makes himself an easy target, despite the fact that a whole lot runs though you five, you have to at least make the effort to work with the mayor for the sake of the citizens you were elected to serve. There will be mistakes and some that may need to be corrected in public, but I encourage you to handle some stuff in private the people don’t need to see every fight and disagreement. You can be in the right but by coming on too strong or embarrassing the mayor in public will only lose the people’s trust in ALL OF YOU!

While I encourage holding the mayor or anyone else’s feet to the fire (and you know I will be doing that with all of you) I challenge you to find ways to work together. Find a common ground like the greater good for the city and build from there. We can not afford to have another round of the Mayor Vs the City Council for four years.

My message to the people of Mount Vernon, I say to you we don’t need to air all of our dirty laundry in public, on social media and for the world to see. It’s like everyone is so frustrated right now, the smallest thing and everyone is ready to go to war. Everything is not that serious, can we table the public displays of aggression and inbox those who we have a beef with or talk to them via phone or in person and air it out, but the constant attacking, fighting shit talking, name calling etc., in public and on social media is not going to get us anywhere we want to be.

We don’t have to go the city council meeting and attack the councilpersons to express our disapproval or express what we feel is wrong. If they were to yell at you in public the way some of you yell at them you would be ready to fight. Let’s be clear there isn’t one of us who doesn’t have issues, (anyone who knows me will tell you my issues have issues), not one of us alive who doesn’t make mistakes or who is blameless. No matter how you feel about the mayor, the city council, the southside, the northside, the police etc, no one is 100% right and no one is 100% wrong, even a broken clock is right twice a day and broken crayons still color. So instead of attacking the individuals, how about we collectively attack the problems, the issues, so we can break down all the barriers one by one and move forward into the future together.

In closing I challenge everyone first to look in the mirror and see what you can change in yourself, before telling others what they need to do to change. I challenge everyone to think hard on how what they can do to make our city better, in the bible in Ecclesiastes 3 it says there is a time for everything

  There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

We don’t have to go hard and at each other all the time, there is a time to go hard, but we need to know when to turn that switch on and when to turn it back off. I encourage everyone to get involved, our mayor and city government can only do so much. Yes we elect them to serve us, but not like they are our personal servants. Nobody nowhere is going to do it for you if you are not willing to get down and do some of the work yourself.

Everyone has to get involved in some way. Everyone has some strengths. Like in a marriage one person’s strengths compliments someone else’s weaknesses. Everyone has a role to play, it’s up to you to find out what your role is, to get in where you fit in. To see what’s lacking  and fill the void. I am as frustrated as you are, there are a lot of things I can not do, but since I am a writer I choose to do what I do, write to try to unite my city!

Like the aforementioned bible verse there is a time for everything, and if we all truly want the City of Mount Vernon to be the great city it can be, the time to work together in NOW!

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Bill Cappello February 7, 2016 at 8:42 AM

AJ, Thanks for writing a sensible article about a problem we have in this city. Too many people are intent on continuing to divide this city as has been done by past administrations.
There are some people who want our new Mayor to fail miserably, simply because their chosen candidate did not win the Primary or General election.
I’ve tried explaining to them if our new Mayor fails, then we all fail together. Some of them are understanding of my rebuttal, but others are so steeped in their dislike and hate, they’ll never be reasonable.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens going forward, but I sincerely hope for the best for ALL of us.
Thanks for allowing me to throw in my two cents’ worth.

Bishop C. Nathan Edwers January 21, 2016 at 7:54 AM

Good day I decided to respond to this article. As a community activist, pastor of the people for the past 27 years and President of United Black Clergy of Westchester based in Mount Vernon for the past fifty years. I believe I have a right to speak out with some legimacy concerning my home and my city Mount Vernon. The election is over Richard Thomas won and he is our Mayor. His job is to provide leadership to the residents of our city. I believe he can do this task with the support of the majority of Mount Vernonites. We often forget that most of the residents 70,000 and half who are eligible voters didn’t. Therefore our city isn’t divided because majority of the voters stay home. We continue to have low voter turnout. Their not a problem of division but a problem of disengagement between the voters and politicians. I talk to many people and ask why don’t you vote. The answer is nothing has changed. We are building affordable housing but the middle class can’t afford the apartment their income to high. No decent job created in Mount Vernon just fast food which is unhealthy, hair, nail salons and barbershops are largely the only source of new business which by the way it hard to track sale taxes reimbursement to the city. The Mount Vernon education system has fail to produce our fair share of high achievers and our taxes are to high. Our city isn’t divided but frustrated by the lack of good leadership. I believe new fresh young leadership was needed for this time in the history of our city. I call it a radical restart. This was demonstrated by the election of two new fresh council members. Change bring pain and pain brings growth. We are suffering growing pains but we are growing and for the better. The clergy leadership of Mount Vernon have committed ourselves to the success of the Thomas administration. We will engage, monitor and ask hard questions throughout his administration but will not engage in undermining his efforts. He have a right to build his team with or without old team members of prior administrations. Richard Thomas has been elected to bring change and change we need. I am confident that the city council will work together. The power of the vote is still the resident weapon and we will vote out any official that hinder the progress of our city. So let get to work and build a better Mount Vernon for future generations to enjoy.

Bishop C. Nathan Edwers


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