The choices we make together and the path we choose in the coming weeks and months will define Mount Vernon for years to come. The fork in the road ahead is an important decision that needs to be made. We can allow excuses to distract us or focus on facts. We can continue to assign blame that drives us to inaction or we can demand solutions. We can continue to let fear-mongering divide us or we can craft a way forward together.
Let’s not fool ourselves. Making excuses and assigning blame is a lot easier than doing the work, and all of us have fallen into that trap at least once in our lives. Unfortunately, there are those who practice this more than we’re willing to admit. But, we know that this is not the right path – because it leads to nowhere.
There’s an old saying that a person who believes they can and a person who believes they can’t are both right. As a community we need to call upon our collective strengths and values to embrace the idea that despite the difficulty, we can and we will find a solution together. If we work hard, remain united, and ignore the noise, Mount Vernon will succeed.
The good news is that progress is being made. Work is starting again at Memorial Field to keep Mount Vernon in compliance with its obligations to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and to avoid any additional fines. Active, productive discussions are being conducted by the City Council with the DEC on this front, as well as with Westchester County to take over the renovation of Memorial Field once we’ve satisfied our obligations to DEC.
The bad news is that this progress has only occurred through the intervention of legal counsel, a temporary restraining order against the Mayor, and the oversight of a judge. The City Council was asked by the court to come to the table with a plan for moving this project forward, and we provided one last week.
The City Council as a whole is committed to getting the renovation of Memorial Field completed in the shortest amount of time and at the lowest possible cost to Mount Vernon’s taxpayers. We renew our call for Mayor Thomas to join us as a full participant in that process.
Regarding the sewer system rehabilitation. The City Council has yet to be presented with an actionable plan from Mayor Thomas to address this serious issue and one that will satisfy the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DEC. Once submitted, the plan will allow Mount Vernon to begin a constructive dialogue with those agencies outside of the court system. Weeks have passed already since the EPA and DEC filed suit against the city, yet nothing has been done.
If Mayor Thomas wants us to help him craft a plan to solve this problem in a responsible way, we will do so. As a former City Council member, he knows where to find us. We have invited him on numerous occasions to join the Council’s working sessions, and we will continue to extend that invitation. That’s where the work of Mount Vernon’s government gets done. Press conferences, radio interviews, and grandstanding have accomplished nothing. Moreover, they are not substitutes for the hard work that is required.
Just like Memorial Field, the City Council is prepared to act in the best interests of Mount Vernon with or without Mayor Thomas’ active contribution to the solution. Our focus and goal today remains the same as it has been for some time: just solve the problem and not waste time talking about what might happen if we don’t solve it or, who gets credit when we do. The City Council will continue to ensure that the processes that exist to protect the citizens of Mount Vernon are followed, respected, and most importantly, are effective in meeting the city’s current challenges.
Mount Vernon is a special place, filled with passionate citizens who want the best for their community. They deserve an equal measure of devotion from their elected leaders.
To succeed as a community we must come together as a community. We must work hand-in-hand to forge a way forward, recognizing that when we face adversity together, we become stronger collectively than we ever would be facing it alone. The path of assigning blame, letting fear drive our decision-making, and remaining divided is how we got into this mess, but it will not be the way we get out of it. When we do, the credit will belong not to any one person, but to the entire community, on whose wisdom and strength each of us relies on for support.
Let’s get to work.