The Beczak Environmental Education Center hosted a candidate’s night on Thursday. Over 70 residents attended to listen and ask questions from those seeking the offices of mayor, county legislator, and city council. And while all candidates were invited to attend, the slate of incumbent Mayor Mike Spano, city council member Shanae Williams, and her legislative aide Deana Norman-Robinson, were no-shows.
The event was organized by the Yonkers chapter of Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus in coordination with Democratic wards one, three, and four. The format was a three minute introduction followed by two minute responses to questions from the audience. Dr. Alexandria Connally performed the duties of moderator-and sometimes stand-up comic-to the engaged audience.
Mayor of Yonkers
The first set of candidates are seeking to unseat three-term mayor, Mike Spano. Corazon Pineda-Isaac is a three-term city council member. And Margaret Fountain-Coleman is a Yonkers Public Schools educator having previously served in elected office in other municipalities.
Crime stood out as the most prevalent issue discussed by these two candidates. From the police reform recommendations in 2020 to protecting children from entering gangs, both candidates offered solutions and were skeptical of the current administration’s position that Yonkers is one of the safest cities in America.
In fact, few policy differences separate the candidates at all. So, the choice presents itself between Pineda-Isaac as the “independent insider” vs Coleman’s outsider critique of the city’s direction in the last nine years of the councilwoman’s tenure and the mayor’s 12.
County Legislator – District 16
The next session saw Majority Leader of the Westchester Board of Legislators, Christopher Johnson, snarkily move the empty chair meant for the absent Shanae Williams to the side. Johnson touted the work over his six-year tenure on the BOL including free Bee-Line bus service which is set to resume again this summer on July 1st. He also promised to protect the venue hosting the event; eluding to a $3M investment in the Beczak and its related efforts. Johnson concluded how he began by taking a swipe at his opponent saying that electing him ensures “the community gets the representation it deserves and not an empty chair.”
City Council – District 1
Replacing Shanae Williams for the first district city council seat could be two of the three candidates who spoke on Thursday. Shatika Parker is staff on the Westchester BOL and Effie Phillips is a labor leader with the Civil Service Employees Association.
Phillips wishes to tackle the issues of homelessness and mental health services in the first district. And Parker hopes to bring back youth programming to municipal housing spaces like she had while growing up as a child in that system. Both candidates criticized the current council’s lack of transparency and exclusionary processes. Parker went so far as to opine that the current administration is more content to “dictate” to people instead of listening to them.
Voters want access
The candidate’s night was the first truly public in-person forum of this election season. There was a Zoom conference held by the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus on Monday as well as a private event hosted by a residents association in northwest Yonkers last week. But, one attendee of this event called out asking if there would be more occasions to hear from the candidates. As none are known at this time, mayoral candidate Margaret Fountain-Coleman shouted back to applause that, “WE MUST DEMAND IT.”