MOUNT VERNON, N. Y. – Mount Vernon residents questioned the effectiveness of having of a conference to address the problem of violence in the city.
They made their comments at Wednesday night's City Council meeting. But council leaders urged the doubters to attend the conference anyway and make suggestions for tackling the problem.
Scheduled for next month, the conference will include church and city leaders and members of the public. Mount Vernon had a violent year in 2012 with over 20 reported shootings.
Resident Geoff Monroe said that while earnest attempts have been made in the past, there have been little notable results.
“We need a more proactive, inclusive strategy,” he said.
Resident Bobby Baskerville said the city needs to have serious discussions with residents at the outset of the problem and not have them sit in a large room listening to speakers.
“We have an unemployment rate that exceeds 50 percent in some communities in Mount Vernon, if one bothers to do the research,” he said. “We are not going to solve the crime problem unless we find steady, regular, well-paying employment for young people.”
Councilwoman Karen Watts-Yehudah disagreed with the assertion that a conference would not help, saying that the city needs to be healed. Watts-Yehudah said the best thing anyone who doubts the merits of the conference can do is go to it and speak.
“This city is sick,” Watts-Yehudah said. “It’s not just the city of Mount Vernon. It’s a national issue. We need to take control, whether it is due to unemployment or disenfranchisement. Rather than criticize someone, do something.
"I’m sick and tired of the blight and crime, so don’t stop the forward motion of people who want to do something because you feel disenfranchised because no one called you,” she said.
City Council President J. Yuhanna Edwards said there is a lot of work to do and urged residents to come to the table with suggestions.
“Hopefully those who come will have the stick-to-itive-ness to stay,” Edwards said. “There are always very few people who help with the solutions.”
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