Thursday, November 22, 2007

Breakfast With Clinton Young

By Richard Blassberg

The Guardian had breakfast with Mount Vernon’s Mayor-elect Clinton Young last Wednesday morning at the Athena Restaurant on Gramatan Avenue in the city’s Fleetwood section. We managed to cover a lot of territory, over two western omelettes, with respect to his hopes and plans for the City’s future.

We opened the conversation inquiring as to what his top three concerns were that he hoped to begin bringing under control in his first one hundred and eighty days in office. Mr. Young began without hesitation with, “Better day-to-day management.”

He then clarified, “Both operational and financial.” He went on, “We must update our equipment and our procedures in the Department of Public Works, the Water Department, Sanitation, and every other municipal service.”

Young, mindful of an article in that morning’s Journal News, revealing that the city had failed to meet a $2.2 million repayment obligation to HUD, declared, “On the financial side, we have to begin to work out agreements to repay monies owed.”

Then, turning away from day-to-day operations, he said, “Our City’s young people are of paramount concern, particularly their safety in school. Parents must be con dent that their school-aged children are safe in school as well as going to and coming from school.” He went on, “We must deal with the lack of recreational and job opportunities for our kids, and we must develop workable anti-gang programs and strategies.”

Third on the Mayor-elect’s short list, needing to be quickly dealt with, is the need to upgrade Mount Vernon’s infrastructure. He explained that while buildings and roadways, and the like, certainly are in need of previously deferred maintenance, and replacement, he was, at the same time, equally concerned about parks and playgrounds throughout the city, and Memorial Field in particular.

Mr. Young, in this connection, told The Guardian of his intention to form a “Mount Vernon Youth Development Council” that would call upon adults only in advisory roles.

He said that the theme of his Administration could continue to be “Mount Vernon First.” In this regard, he voiced his intention to require all development projects advanced in the city to encourage “neighborhood participation.”

The Guardian asked how much help he expected from the County Executive’s office and from the Governor, two powerful fellow Democrats who originally supported Ernie Davis until Young’s victory in the Democratic
primary. He said he was hopeful for support from the County in the upgrading of parks and also with a major renovation of Memorial Field. He added that he was also looking for County support with affordable housing.

With regard to assistance from Eliot Spitzer, Young indicated that he intended to expand the Empire Business Zone and was hoping for continued state tax credits, particularly for senior and affordable housing initiatives. He went on to say he wasn’t ruling out calling upon the Governor to locate some State offices in the City.

Asked if he had been in communication with Mayor Davis, Clinton Young informed us that he had sent an “urgent message” nearly a week earlier regarding the need to communicate, but hadn’t had a return call.

With respect to business development, Young said, “I want to attract well-established businesses capable of providing employment opportunities across a broad range of salary expectations.” Asked about progress putting together his administration, Young declared, “We’re seeking the brightest and best we can afford.” He then
shared the fact that he had asked Janet Snyder, his former Republican opponent, to join his transition team, and that he was pleased that she had accepted.

Finally, returning to his Youth Council proposal, Mayor-elect Young said, “That body will submit an annual report to the Mayor assessing currently-available services sometime in January, and recommending mprovements.” He then promised, “every department in City government will take the report seriously.”

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