So I meant to weigh in on the Gordon Jenkins saga last week, but I didn’t get a chance to, and in the meantime, instead of this story dying, it has exploded , and the video of his drunken rantings has gone viral. It has given Monticello and Sullivan County a pretty negative fifteen minutes of fame, right at the moment when we probably needed it the least.
For the select few who do not know the story, the mayor of the capital town here in Sullivan County, Monticello, was arrested last week for driving while intoxicated. He was brought to the local police station where he was booked. While being booked, he went on a verbal tirade, rife with profanity, racial slurs, and vague, barely coherent threats towards the arresting officers. It really was a bizarre scene. Click here for the news story. If you want to sit through the entire three hours, search it on YouTube.
Apparently this is not Mayor Jenkins first run in with the law. He was arrested three years ago for selling knock off sneakers in his Broadway store and for possession of marijuana , and last year he was arrested for assaulting a Village police officer–one of his subordinates.
Most everyone now is calling for his resignation, however last report from the beleaguered mayor is that he has no plans on stepping down. So for now he will remain–a giant distraction and a negative blot on Sullivan County, only weeks after we have gotten the biggest and best news we have had in a long time.
I am not going to get into the racial argument on whether the backlash would be bigger, and the punishment swifter if Mayor Jenkins were white. Because it doesn’t matter. What does matter is Gordon Jenkins is not good for Monticello, or for Sullivan County.
Monticello has been a struggling town since I can remember. Broadway has some really nice old historic buildings, and yet 90% of them are shuttered. Forty two percent of families who live in the village are under the poverty line. To put that in perspective, Detroit has thirty-eight percent below the poverty line. Now obviously Detroit is much larger and in a completely different predicament , however it does show where our capital village is in comparison.
Another big difference Monticello has is one of the largest, (and richest) metropolises eighty nine miles to the south-east. And that city is filled with people who are just waiting for a reason to get in a car, or on a bus or train, and come to Monticello for the day, or the weekend or the summer and spend money. But right now they don’t. They drive right by. Exit 104 funnels visitors heading towards Bethel Woods, or the Chapin Estate, or numerous destinations in Western Sullivan County, right through Monticello. But what do these potential consumers see? They see broken down, abandoned buildings. They see a building complex half built, stuck in some perpetual construction zone year after year. They see a ramshackle building with a faded Johnny’s Topless Go-Go sign. Johnny’s has been closed for a decade. How hard would it be to get that sign down?
For way to long, residents of Sullivan County have looked at Monticello with an eye roll and a shoulder shrug. And that is what I am seeing with this Jenkins situation. “I don’t live in the village. “It’s not my problem.” Seems to be the sentiment.
But I think by having that attitude, we are doing a real disservice to our county. Monticello is the first impression many get when visiting Sullivan for the first time. Now many get past that by seeing what the rest of the county has to offer, but I fear that some do not get past it, and move on to a different county.
I realize the role of village mayor is somewhat limited, and that single handedly Jenkins probably could not turn around Monticello if he chose, but I (and most everyone I have spoken with) get the distinct impression that he is not trying all that hard. There is something wrong when virtually the only open store on the entire Broadway strip is owned by the mayor.
And now his clock throwing, racist rant has given our county’s capital village a black eye. He needs to go, and it needs to happen quickly. The casino referendum only states that two casinos will be placed in the “Catskill Region.” Although pundits say that our county will get at least one, why tempt fate, and make our area less desirable?
Let’s show the rest of the state (and whoever else is watching) that we are better than this YouTube snippet, and decisively relieve Gordon Jenkins of his duties, and get someone at that post who understands the problems, and wants to make a difference.
I know that there are some real good folks that are working hard to turn around Monticello and other areas of Sullivan County. The Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development is one of those entities. We need more like them.