So this editorial was inspired by all the discussion on Facebook after the recent Budget/ City Council Meeting and the feedback from the interactions between Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and Comptroller Deborah Reynolds. Almost immediately following the people came out their neutral corners swinging, choosing sides and once again calling for yet another elected official to go.
While the friction between elected officials, candidates running for office and their supporters get more and more destructive, the call for an elected official to go is not new. There is no need for term limits in the City of Mount Vernon these days, like other municipalities, because the people will call for your head and vote you out in a minute. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
In the mayoral election in 1995, the city voted in a current County Legislator named Ernest D. Davis. He was the “People’s Mayor,” and served three consecutive terms from 1996-2007. Before him, the first African-American Mayor of Mount Vernon, Ronald Blackwood also served for three terms. But after them, it’s been one and done.
Remember when the people chose to go in another direction and elected Mayor Clinton I. Young, who was sworn in January 2008. There were people calling for change. Mayor Young did things a little different, cut a few things like Arts On Third and the people were like ‘oh hell no.’ He would serve one term, Memorial Field would be closed and its renovation stalled when the people brought back Ernie Davis in 2012 and then in summer of 2015 said he gotta go.
The people were getting a little tired of Councilmembers Richard Thomas and Deborah Reynolds, they had to go. The people cried out Ernie Must Go, many including myself called for change. Mayor Richard W. Thomas won the primary and was sworn in January 2016. It wasn’t too long before many including myself said Richie gotta go. During that time people were beginning to identify longtime Comptroller Maureen Walker as part of the problem, part of the past issues of the city and there were calls for her to go and she lost the next election to former City Councilwoman Deborah Reynolds.
The problems Mayor Thomas once blamed on Maureen, he now blamed on Deborah. Allegations of corruption, arrests, arraignments and a federal indictment just to name a few were more than enough for the people to lay and pray for his downfall, even placing bets on how many months or years it would be before he was convicted, forced to leave office and go to jail.
Moving forward Council President André Wallace, who was a major thorn and the most vocal critic of Mayor Thomas, eventually was selected by the City Council to serve the rest of Thomas term. Then, like a week or so later, the same city council members that sworn him in as mayor turned around voted for him to step back down now that they had gotten Thomas out. Weeks followed with A Tale Of Two Mayors until a judge ruled Wallace was the mayor and Thomas had to go.
Then many wanted Mayor André Wallace to keep it moving. Now we hear choruses of Comptroller Deborah Reynolds gotta go. At the same time, there have been a few councilmembers through the years residents voted in and then said they have to go. During this time we got a new Superintendent in the school district that some were calling for his head. We got a new Library Trustee President that revitalized the library and lead the charge for the library to maintain the Central Libray of Westchester status and now they are those calling for his head.
Obviously, we have a problem in the City of Mount Vernon and it’s not just one or two elected officials: the entire city government needs to be gutted and restructured.
There’s a saying you get the government you deserve, you get the government you vote for, so maybe it’s not the elected officials it’s the voters. Let me ask everyone a question, do the people of Mount Vernon have a problem or is the problem the people? I’m just saying. Is it the politicians or the people? After all, it’s the people who put all these politicians who the end up demanding that they have to go, in office, I know this is where I’m really going to lose some of you but, its time for some REAL TALK!
Now we have a new mayor, who was voted to change the climate of corruption, save the city and move it forward. Some have already thrown Shawyn Patterson-Howard under the bus in her six weeks in office. The former Planning Commissioner during the Thomas Administration will face the same unrealistic expectation her predecessors have and without the support of the people, she cannot fix all that’s wrong. Mount Vernon’s first elected female mayor may have the appearance and the perception of a Superwoman, but even she will not be able to save this city single-handedly, either. Until the people come to terms with that, step up and do their part, we are doomed to repeat the past and call for change again. Trust me, change is coming, but the real question is: will we be part of it or even here to appreciate it, is the question?
We do not even give elected officials a chance before we turn on them. Now don’t get me wrong some wounds were self-inflicted, but complaining ain’t working. One of the main problems is the people come out to vote and then go to sleep for 4 years. The people are looking for a savior, not a mayor or a comptroller or a city council member. They want a messiah to solve all the problems of the city and get mad when they cannot deliver on the unrealistic expectations because they are just merely human like the rest of us. Somewhere along the line, we forgot about WE THE PEOPLE! It is going to take WE THE PEOPLE to fix what’s wrong with this city. Elected officials can not do it by themselves without the support of the people.
Politics is Participatory! Participatory politics converge around a type of political action that is “peer-based, interactive, nonhierarchical, and collective. You can not just vote and then think your job is done. We all have a responsibility when taking part in politics, including voting, contacting public officials, campaigning, running for and holding office, protesting, and volunteering. Voting may be the most prominent form of political participation, but it is far from your only responsibility. Obama told us we need to be the change we want to see, and we all cheered, but missed the message and waited for him to save us as a people.
When Ernie was in office we voted for change, how did that work out? Time we look in the mirror before getting behind another elected official. Promises, Propaganda and Political Profiling is what we get before the election and demands for the elected official – we put in – we cry they got to go. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the very of insanity!!!! I’m just saying!
Is the problem the politicians, the people or both – only each and every one of you can answer that question for yourself. But I can promise you one thing if we don’t get it together if we don’t get it right and I mean right now, this city will become that thriving city we know it can be, without us. No one that looks like us will be in charge of it and many of us will no longer live here to appreciate the new thriving city of Mount Vernon.
So we can continue the tribal and self-destructive behavior that often spills out on the headline and leads the nightly news or we can work together, get it right and move this city forward to what it can and should be – the mecca of Black Culture, Arts, Sports, and Politics. The Wakanda of Westchester. Mount Vernon should be the new Black Wall Street, but we have to change our thinking and mindstate.
This ends this editorial. You will now be returned to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress!