In recent months, there has been a lot written about development, so-called PILOTS (a payment in lieu of taxes), and our city government. Given the continued fear tactics used by some elected officials and candidates, a case of schizophrenia has descended on Mount Vernon. We want change in our city - but don’t know how to achieve it. We want increased services for our seniors and youth - but don’t want to increase taxes on our homeowners. We want to properly pay our municipal employees like police officers, firefighters, and DPW workers - but don’t know where to find the revenue to pay them. We want our residents on the South Side to have the same services and quality of life as our residents in Fleetwood - but are worried about developing properties on the South Side that may ultimately be a cost to our city. Let’s take the fear out of this conversation. Let’s stop the finger pointing and let’s end the blame game in Mount Vernon. Instead, let’s begin to develop guiding principles that will move Mount Vernon forward. Let’s define the developments we want and ensure that no developer or city officials violates the principles we all agree are important to our city. I propose that new developments in Mount Vernon should be guided by the following four principles: 1) No Displacement - Our residents should not fear that new developments may displace them. Instead, they should look forward to the amenities new developments will add to our community. 2) Revenue Positive - PILOTs and other incentives come in many shapes and sizes. And they are crafted and defined by our city council and mayor. We should ensure that all new developments add revenue to our tax base whether they receive PILOTs or not. We can do this by hiring outside consultants to review all potential costs incurred by our city due to new developments. Then we need to ensure that all developers pay these costs, plus more. 3) Economic Development – New developments can represent a one time economic stimulus for our city. They can create jobs for local contractors, restaurants, hardware stores, and other small businesses. And they can provide temporary jobs to unemployed people in the community. But we’ve typically squandered this opportunity and not forced developers to hire locally. We MUST enforce this rule upon developers and ensure that our local businesses and residents benefit economically from new developments. 4) Improving Our Environment - Broken sewer lines. Lack of sunlight. Increased carbon emissions. All of these issues should be addressed by new developments in Mount Vernon. Whether we create a sustainability fund that new developments contribute to or whether individual developments bear these costs on their own, there are a myriad number of ways to address this issue and ensure that Mount Vernon becomes a greener city with an improved quality of life for everyone. What do you think are other principles new developments should adhere to? John F. Kennedy said “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Let’s work together to ensure the future of Mount Vernon is bright. Please share your thoughts with me on Facebook @EdPoteat or visit our campaign website at mvforward.com. We’d love to hear from you.
Veteran urban planner and Columbia professor Ed Poteat is a member of the Mount Vernon Forward coalition of candidates for Mount Vernon City Council, with Danielle Browne and Cathlin Gleason. Be sure to vote in the Democratic Primary on June 22nd!