Longtime councilman William McKoy kicked off his campaign for a 6th term with the support of his former nemesis mayor Andre Sayegh on Wednesday night.
McKoy and Sayegh had been inveterate foes for years.
“Tonight, for the first time in my life, I’m endorsing Bill McKoy for public office. Miracles do happen,” said Sayegh. “If you would have told me two years ago, I’d be standing at the Bonfire endorsing him, I would have said go get your head checked.”
Both men were viciously attacking each other during the mayoral election nearly two years ago. Sayegh credited McKoy for the re-development of the Route 20 corridor and bringing in a new medical marijuana facility.
McKoy thanked the mayor for his endorsement.
“We value each other. We recognize the difference between campaigning and governance,” said McKoy. After the bitter mayoral campaign, McKoy became a reliable Sayegh ally on the City Council. “I support him 100% when he is right. When he is wrong, I put him in the backroom and tell him he’s wrong.”
McKoy, 63, spent a good portion of his speech reminiscing about the past.
“It has been a long journey, 20 years is a long time, but we’re committed and it’s just as fresh as yesterday to me. I have not lost any energy. I’m still focused and there’s still work to be done,” said McKoy.
He checked off a list of his key accomplishments: creating the conditions on Route 20 to bring in the big box stores, demolishing the Leader Dye factory, and removing the crime-ridden old Alabama Projects to make way for the Heritage at Alexander Hamilton housing development. He said the dilapidated housing complex at the 5th Avenue project is being torn down to make way for new housing.
McKoy was elected to the City Council in 2000.
McKoy also reflected on his early life in the United States. He arrived in the United States from Jamaica in the 10th grade. At John F. Kennedy High School, teacher Sharon Smith, who attended the kick-off event at the Bonfire on Market Street, set the young McKoy on a trajectory for success. Without Smith’s direction, he said, he could have fallen into juvenile delinquency.
McKoy finds himself in a four-way race in the May election. Three other men picked up petitions to run against him, among them are former councilman Alex Mendez, Sharrieff Bugg, and Rafael Toribio
McKoy took aim at Mendez’s campaign promise to “lower taxes.” Without mentioning the former councilman’s name, McKoy said, Mendez is running on a series of clichés. Mendez’s campaign flyer mentions “lower taxes” and “improved services” and “safer streets.”
Mendez served as a councilman from 2014 to 2018. He had to forgo defending his council seat to run for mayor in 2018. He was a distant second place finisher behind Sayegh.
McKoy said Mendez couldn’t answer how a councilman can lower taxes. It’s nearly impossible to reduce taxes. Municipal officials apply for state financial aid every year to balance the city’s budget. State requires the city to raise taxes 2-percent every year. However, nearly three years ago, mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ managed to keep the taxes flat.
Mendez did not respond to a call for comment on Thursday morning. On Thursday afternoon, he called McKoy a “yes man for the administration.”
“Andre is campaigning for McKoy because he needs a yes-man,” said Mendez.
McKoy said the way to stabilize taxes is to grow the city’s tax base through economic development. He said if Mendez doesn’t know that he should “ask about it.”
Mendez and McKoy fought for the 3rd Ward seat in 2012. McKoy managed a narrow win. Mendez is seen as much weaker than eight years ago. He faced intense scrutiny in the mayoral election which placed his campaign, personal, and campaign finances under the microscope.
Many of McKoy’s surrogates are using the news stories from 2018 to attack Mendez on social media.
“He is ready for a re-match,” said Sayegh of McKoy. “He’s going to win by a knockout because he’s got me in his corner.”
The mayor’s support is a double-edged sword, according to political strategists. His popularity has dimmed over the past year and half — so much so that just before a press conference on the steps of the Danforth Memorial Library earlier in the day a man passing by in a vehicle yelled out, “the mayor sucks.”
Mendez said the mayor’s support is unlikely to help McKoy.
“I think that’s going to hurt him because of the mayor’s reputation,” said Mendez. He said Sayegh has developed a reputation for raising taxes and sewer bills. He criticized the mayor for the big increase in shootings and killings last year.
Sayegh led the 150-strong audience in a chant, “Bring Bill back! Bring Bill back! Bring Bill back!”
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Updated 2:50 p.m.