MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The seven candidates vying for three positions on the Mount Vernon City Council were all in one place on Wednesday night as they answered questions from the community in advance of the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
Incumbents Yuhanna Edwards and Roberta Apuzzo, as well as former Council Member Marcus Griffith were questioned about the things they could have done differently during their tenure, while newcomers Andre Bailey, Maria Caraballo, Damon Jones and Damaris Mone were asked about what they would have changed if they had been in office for the past four years.
Over the course of the two-hour debate, each candidate earned praise and applause from the capacity crowd at Wartburg, as they discussed everything from Memorial Field to the city’s deteriorating roads and infrastructure.
“Being on the City Council means that you need to be a part of a team,” Edwards said. “You need to combine all five of your thoughts to understand and be successful, but it’s important that you always remember that you are one of five.”
While the veteran politicians defended the recent actions of the council and supported one another, the newcomers were asked what needed to change moving forward to help Mount Vernon thrive.
Lifelong Mount Vernon resident Caraballo said that the City Council needs to be more active in helping reduce crime in the city.
“The City Council needs to be out in the community and recognizable,” she said. “We’re not a community anymore. Where did it all go? We used to be the community of Mount Vernon, there wasn’t a north or a south side. We need to instill that in our children.”
Mone commented that the current City Council is largely responsible for many of the issues plaguing Mount Vernon, including the poor lighting along the streets and pothole-riddled streets. She added that the closure of several movie theaters, skate parks and other sources of recreation for children has led to the increase in crime around the city.
“The problem is one of long term planning. We’ve been inefficient and have an inadequate number of services for our community,” she said. “We have no trade programs, no vocation. We’re waiting for our teen-agers to go to Valhalla, [the county jail] not to college. We need to have places for our children to interact.”
Despite garnering impromptu series of applause and cheers from the audience, veteran politicians Edwards, Apuzzo and Griffith look to be squarely on the way to victory as the primary approaches.
“Things aren’t always great here, but those three seem to have a plan in mind and they’re clearly united,” resident Jon Jenkins said at the debate. “I feel more comfortable with career politicians running things as opposed to local residents with big hopes.”
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