From The Mayor's Desk

A collection of writings about small town democracy by Roy Reehil, Mayor of the Village of Cleveland, New York.

Memorial Day Weekend Vandalism

I hope everyone has enjoyed our outstanding spring and avoided any problems from the few big storms that we’ve had.

I have good news and bad news today, so I’ll begin with the good. We had a beautiful day for the Memorial Day Parade and a fine turnout of participants and parade watchers. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all the people who work so hard each year to make sure that we remember the importance of Memorial Day and the heroes and heroines for which it is dedicated. I’m sure that our tribute would have made them proud, if they were still with us.

Now the bad news. When local veterans arrived at the war memorial in Cleveland adjacent to the village hall for a brief ceremony, they found a park ravaged by vandals. The engraved war memorial monument was toppled. Two massive picnic tables were thrown over the railing and off the deck where they broke apart on impact. The tables were built by William Angell, IV for his Eagle Scout project. To cap their rampage, a marble bench with an engraved bronze dedication plaque to Bee Brown was heaved over the railing and broken apart on top of the smashed picnic tables. The marble bench had been donated by the Cleveland Book Club in loving memory of their popular friend. It was purchased with money raised from homemade candy sales and from donations by Bee’s husband, Dr. Brown using proceeds from local sales of his book. In the weeks preceding this incident of vandalism, both the American flag and POW/MIA flags that flew over the park had been stolen.

The same night the park was desecrated, a motorized go-cart was stolen from a resident’s back yard and several youths were spotted riding it by another citizen late that night. They decided not to call the police. They were annoyed with the boys making so much noise late at night, but they didn’t realize the cart was stolen. They also didn’t realize that the park had been vandalized, possibly the work of the same group of boys.

Many villagers have told me that they don’t bother calling the police anymore. They say things like: "they (the police) don’t respond", "vandalism is a low priority", "there isn’t enough cars on patrol" and "they’ll only get a slap on the wrist". Unfortunately, those comments are often true but, if no one calls, then no one ever gets caught.

If every citizen who saw something suspicious that night had called the police, not only might the kids have been caught with stolen property, but a string of details would reveal a night of reckless destruction all tied to the same group of boys.

My point is not to chastise the folks who didn’t call the police, but to illustrate why we should call the police more often. The more information you provide may be the missing piece of the puzzle. We need to catch and punish the perpetrators of these crimes because the more we look the other way, the more reckless and dangerous they become.

I gave a short speech from the podium at the Memorial Day Parade and several people made a point of calling me to thank me for it. That seemed unusual until I picked it up and read it again. I’ve included it here because it seems even more appropriate after learning of this incident of vandalism.

Memorial Day 1998

"The fallen heroes that we honor today leave us a great legacy.

They fought and perished that we might have a chance to pursue our dreams in these peaceful and prosperous times.

I ask you today, to consider this…

That to truly honor their sacrifice, and to live up to their expectations for us, that we should commit ourselves to improving our communities by our own good examples of sacrifice, volunteer service, and of teaching what it is to show good character.

We need to do this in order to pass on the legacy to the children of our community, the legacy of peace through strength and of strong moral values.

For it is from this group of children here, scouts, band members and children in the crowd, that we will raise up the heroes of the future.

For that reason I would like to offer my sincere appreciation to all the volunteers, Scout Leaders, Firemen, Ambulance Workers and Veterans who exemplify these great values. It is by your actions that we live up to the expectations of our fallen heroes. Thank you and enjoy this beautiful Memorial Day."

These and other incidents of vandalism and theft are not just a product of our times. They are products of our failure as a culture, and as a community, to impart the values of those that paved the way before us unto these kids. These events should stiffen our resolve to catch these kids, to punish them through restitution and community service and then to reach out to them with tough love and education. Not all of them can be reached, but to let them go on this way without trying is to give up on them and then what… give up on those that follow them too.

When you witness a crime or something suspicious, call it in. When you see kids out on the streets at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning call it in, jot down their names. When you see someone driving recklessly, or racing 4-wheelers or go-carts on the streets, write down a description, time and a name if you have one and call it in. This way we begin building a case against these individuals who disrespect us, our laws and our community. All to often it is the same offenders who commit these acts over and over again. We each need to take some responsibility if we’re going to deter this type of crime

We intend to rebuild the picnic tables at the park and to replace the broken parts of the monuments. Anyone wishing to volunteer their time or donate funds can call the Cleveland Village Hall during regular working hours. We also intend to post rules for village parks which will allow the police to arrest persons violating those rules. The Village of Cleveland has also passed a resolution to provide a $250 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone vandalizing village property.

Before I go, just a reminder that village elections will be held on Tuesday June 16th from 12 Noon until 9PM. I’ll be seeking reelection as mayor and will be opposed by Cyndy McClaine. In the race for trustee, three persons are seeking two trustee positions. The two receiving the highest vote counts take the two open seats. Running for reelection is incumbent Trustee Malcoff Davis who has served on the Cleveland Village Board for over 20 years, including several terms as mayor and also running for trustee are Debbie Myers and Patrick Malone. I hope you’ll get to know the candidates and come out and vote in this important election.

As always, the public is invited to all of our meetings and we encourage good ideas and participation.

It’s our village, let’s find ways to make it better!

Best wishes for a safe and happy Summer.

Roy Reehil, Mayor
Village of Cleveland, New York

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Copyright Roy Reehil, 2004