Councilman Vincent Vesce
Councilman Vincent Vesce

To the editor,

I have held my comments up until now on the recent criminal activity that occurred a week ago in our city, and after speaking with many within the community and those involved within our police department and city hall, I cannot tell you how disturbing and disappointing this pattern of criminal events is. While many may not want to hear it, the problems stem from the political games and patronage displayed time and time again by the Democratic majority on the Common Council.

Council Democrats have acted with impunity on matters related to the city budget, stalled or thwarted development in the years prior to the Catalina administration, mismanaged the city to the brink of bankruptcy and pushed the selection of two of their party faithful into judgeships that they were nowhere near qualified for. Time and time again, they are proven to be wrong as they vote in lockstep without concern for the consequences of their actions and, unfortunately, it takes consequences to expose their massive failures.

Thankfully, the budget missteps have been corrected, city finance restored to a healthy level and the Democratic Party faithful on the planning and zoning boards are now being challenged on their development-killing stalling tactics. However, when it comes to appointing judges, there is only so much that can be done by those of us in the minority on the council.

Mayor Catalina has been practicing law for well over 30 years and we have professionals on this Common Council—including my colleagues in the majority—who have the capacity to evaluate a resume. Regardless of this fact and to no avail, as well as deliberations that are crystal clear and on the record, the Democratic majority on the council chose to do what they always do. They collaborated and discussed their votes prior to public meetings (which is illegal, by the way) and once again voted in lockstep with the demands of their party, regardless of what was good for the community. Specifically, they chose to appoint an assistant city judge whose only real legal experience was working for the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx, where she defends the same criminals she now releases back on our city streets on their own recognizance.

If the Democrats knew what they were doing or listened to those in the minority to honestly evaluate the person they appointed assistant city judge, they just might have realized that this individual could have a detrimental effect on the community at some point in the future. Unfortunately, foresight or anything resembling a thought process does not exist on Team Democrat, as it continues full steam ahead against anything that Mayor Catalina may suggest or want, and the consequences are showing.

Not even seven months into the tenure of the Democrat’s handpicked judge, dangerous criminal acts on our streets are escalating. These crimes are derived from “revolving door justice” handed down within our Peekskill City Court that keeps criminals on our streets whose violent actions have recently escalated into the gang-type violence against members of our Hispanic community. Our seasoned detectives are regularly subjected to “The Great Inquisition” every time they need a search warrant signed by either of the judges in our court—both handpicked by the Democrats. These Democrats on the Common Council see it as a badge of honor to elevate judges who are in touch with the “struggles of the criminal” and who believe it is their duty to protect the public from a biased criminal justice system, evening the playing field while our residents become less safe.

In response to the Democratic chickens coming home to roost, my colleagues conveniently say that we have no jurisdiction over the Peekskill City Court and that we should allow our displeasure of the judge’s decision to follow the proper channels. Or, they throw out half-hearted calls for community unity as they bank on your ignoring the fact that this all stems from the justices they appointed and a court that has gone from one of the best in the county to one of the worst.

The sad state of our court stems from justices who are sympathetic and understanding, as my colleagues have proudly stated on many occasions, to those within the community who are most affected by the decisions of the court system and from the appointment of city judges who never allow a landlord to evict anyone and have sympathy for the criminal element that comes before them and allows criminals back on our streets.

Picking sides and following the policy of one’s national political party does not work in Washington and, for sure, has no place in Peekskill. My friends in the majority need to start thinking for themselves and not working as a team against the Mayor just because they personally don’t like him. Their childish and unprofessional actions have no place in city hall and cannot—and should not—be tolerated by this community. If the Democrats fail to clean up their act, their bad decisions will continue to harm Peekskill and reverse all of the positive things that have been made to date.

They owe this community an apology, and I would hope that at least a couple of them realize that listening to their party faithful and playing political games does nothing but hurt our residents. I also hope that this community is paying attention and does not allow this type of governing to continue within our great City of Peekskill.

Vincent Vesce
Councilman, City of Peekskill