OPINION

Letter to the Editor - Oakwood apologies

Geneseo Republic
Geneseo Mayor Sean Johnson

Citizens of Geneseo,

As your Mayor, I am ultimately responsible for the actions and directives given to all branches of government and services we render to our citizens. What took place yesterday during the cleanup of Oakwood Cemetery broke the hearts of many, and was a sad day for everyone. The actions many of you witnessed yesterday, both in person and thru social media, are unacceptable and on behalf of the city, I hear your heartbreak and your passionate outrage.

The City failed the citizens yesterday. Proper notification was not given as Mayor, City Administrator, and the City Council - the buck stops with us. We place trust that the layers of Administration from City Administrator down thru department heads, to the employees executing an order, pay due diligence to the task they are about to perform, and that did not happen yesterday in Oakwood Cemetery. Advertising of the cleanup and the items prohibited should have been in all forms of media well in advance. Detailed explanations of what would commence on April 1 should have been all over all forms of social media, on utility bills, and advertised in the paper. None of these communications with our citizens happened. Where these breakdowns occurred, I have dealt with those responsible appropriately and swiftly.

I would say changes are needed to the expectations of what can and cannot be placed in the Cemetery for a variety of reasons. What the City attempted to impose yesterday was not a change at all, but more a following of the rules that have been in place for a very, very long-time. Last summer as Mayor, I was inundated with so many complaints from citizens at just how poorly the cemetery was being maintained. However, as a city we are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but it is not enough hear citizens loud and clear that do not want additional taxes or fees to raise revenues to be able to do things like better maintaining of our Cemetery. In February, I had a pleasant email exchange with a citizen floating the idea of a Cemetery Auxiliary to be launched, to help with the general maintenance of the Cemetery.  I found the idea to be inspirational and very "Geneseo like”. We began to do the things that needed to be done on the City end to move ahead in the proper administrative manner so that we could run full steam ahead with such an inspirational idea.

It is not normal to interject such information like I just did during a formal apology. However, I did so because we all share on common goal, and that is better maintenance and upkeep to the pristine place that Oakwood Cemetery once was, and needs to be again. I did so because I want you to understand the City and myself are committed to making Oakwood Cemetery neat and clean once again. I did so because I want you to know I care, and places like Oakwood Cemetery carry a passion within me, as I too visit there often.

Citizens of Geneseo, again on behalf of myself, the Council and the City Administration, my sincerest apologies for the way the last couple of days were handled, I took this job to continue the values and legacy I was left in the history of Geneseo. We fell short, but we will get back on track.

Respectfully

Mayor Johnson