Going Rogue in Syracuse, NY

In 2015 Syracuse, NY became known as the city with the most
stubborn, concentrated, and segregated area of poverty in the United States. (http://brissioni.com/more-on-poverty-in-our-city-centers/
from city
residents to build a fancy outdoor amphitheater that is empty half of the year
and which charges prices for tickets that few can afford. There was never a
referendum on this project. By the time I knew of it the construction vehicles
were already on site.
Mahoney, our County Executive has let her office go to her head. She has said
that she wants to merge the City of Syracuse with the County of Onondaga. While
it is possible that there could be financial advantages to ending duplication
of services the last thing this area needs right now is to put more people out
of work. Such a merger cannot be a move engineered by one person without some
careful planning and ways to make up for lost jobs. In Washington our reps are always
asking for ‘pay-fors’. If you wish to spend you must tell how you will pay for
it. The same should be true of jobs. If you back a policy that puts people out
of works you should have a plan for where those people will be employed in the
I think that
all the power implications of such a merger have not been worked out either.
Will there still be a mayor in the city? How will tax monies be shared under
such an arrangement? Will the government in the city and county remain the
same? It is true that the county has had to extend infrastructure such as
sewers, water, roads, signage, upkeep of roads to subdivisions ever more
distant from the city center and that these subdivisions generate more tax
dollars than the City of Syracuse properties do. In fact, an article in today’s
Post Standard (1/3/2016) says that
50% of properties in the City of Syracuse are tax exempt.
When the
city recently made a deal to sell land to a developer called COR this developer
agreed to forgo a PILOT agreement (payments in lieu of taxes) then turned
around and signed a PILOT agreement with our out-of-control County Executive,
the same Joanie Mahoney. (This feud was recently the topic of an article in the
Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/two-upstate-new-york-officials-clash-1451092007)
What games
is Ms. Mahoney playing? Perhaps she is trying to starve the city of money so that
the city will have to make the merger with the county that she has been pulling
strings for. She may very well win this city-county power struggle but that
same Post Standard article I read
today entitled “Blind Allegiances to Tax Breaks Can’t Meet Today’s Economic Challenges”
by Tom Buckel, Jr., a former Onondaga County Legislator shows that employment
numbers in Onondaga County have gone down under Ms. Mahoney’s reign, and not by
just a little bit either, and that our employment figures are the lowest in the
entire state at least as far west as Buffalo and as far east as Albany.
It is
difficult to see what Ms. Mahoney’s power trip is based on but she was recently
reelected (not by me). I am not really against a city-county merger if that
will save money and be beneficial in other ways. I just believe that in this
case we have a County Executive who has grabbed the wheel, even from the very
people she represents, and has gone rogue to throw a high end, gentrified
patina over an area that is actually occupied by the poorest of Americans. (See
my editorial in the Post Standard entitled “Gentrification and Transparency? https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/local-politics-gentrification-and/)
Ms. Mahoney
has lost the thread of Democratic governance and has gotten enamored of her own
judgement, taste and self-importance. Indeed, she just got herself a 27% raise
and she said that if “we didn’t like it we shouldn’t have reelected her”. (I
didn’t.) I suggest that she either adjust her attitude or take a hike. But that’s
not the way this works. She can, if she wants, give us the royal wave for
several more years.
There was
another article in today’s Post Standard
which suggested that Syracuse might survive if we have the cooperation of
city, county, Syracuse University, and Upstate Medical Center (SUNY). Can
Joanie Mahoney be persuaded to stop driving the bus and to take a seat on the
bus while some impartial party drives? Let us see what happens next…cover your
By Nancy Brisson