All posts by Ken Jackson

Ken Jackson

“More Than a Market” Westside Neighborhood Health and Wellness Fair takes place at the Brady Market

Being “More than a Market” has benefited the neighborhood by not only providing much needed employment. Brady Faith Center also looks out for their employees by offering supportive services and activities. There’s a recognition in some neighborhoods that people need more than a “job”.

On Saturday, Sept. 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the first-ever Westside Neighborhood Health and Wellness Fair took place at the Brady Market, located at 307 Gifford Street in Syracuse. Featuring more than 30 vendors, who provided a range of services and information, such as COVID and flu vaccines, blood pressure checks, cardio kickboxing, cooking demonstrations, CPR demonstrations, activities for kids and more. Video Interview For those with mobile devices use this link

Brady Faith Center “Our Mission” an interview with Executive Director, Kevin Frank

The atmosphere was festive as residents of the Near West Side participated in the event designed to connect people with available services. While events were being held outside in the parking lot. Inside the markets dedicated, Health & Wellness section children (with permission from their parents) were able to receive free eye exams.

Free and open to the public, vendors at the fair included ACR Health, Aetna Health, the Alzheimer’s Association, Black Health, Empower Parkinson, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, Interfaith Works, Meals on Wheels, On Point for College, Syracuse Community Health Center, Wegmans and Westside Family Pharmacy. Video Interview  For those with mobile devices use this link

Brady Market Interview: More Than A Market

Opened in 2021, the Brady Market is a grocery store with retail, deli/catering, wholesale grocery operations, job training, and wrap-around healing support services. It operates within a certified not-for-profit (Brady Social Enterprises) and was inspired by the 70+ year history of Brady Faith Center’s witness and engagement with generations of individuals and families in some of the most disinvested and impoverished neighborhoods in the nation.

Being “More than a Market” has benefited the neighborhood by not only providing much needed employment. Brady Faith Center also looks out for their employees by offering supportive services and activities. There’s a recognition in some neighborhoods that people need more than a “job”.

According to Executive Director, Kevin Frank, “We started employing people at the Brady Faith Center. We started an urban farm, called the Brady Farm located on Ford Ave, off Valley Drive. The more people we employed we realized, ‘this is hard work employing people. It’s really needed and it’s really necessary’. We weren’t quite equipped to take care of all the different needs that people had, who were working for us. So, we went out to Los Angeles, and we visited an organization called, “Home Boy Industries” in LA. They work with ex-gang members and long-term incarcerated brothers and sisters. They were on a similar path, just 30 years before us.  They found; the best was out of a gang was a job. The best way out of incarceration, was employment. But then when they would give people jobs, life would come around and knock ‘em down and they’d lose the job. So, they realized that just a job alone, as important as it is; isn’t the whole solution. Next to the job, you need community supports and services. We all need healing. So, they started a community that under the same roof had employment and healing. And we decided to bring that model back here to Syracuse.” Video Interview  For those with mobile devices use this link

Interview with Brady Faith Center Management Team Member Zakeem Rutledge

Co-sponsors are the Center for Aging Resources and Enrichment (CARE) at Le Moyne, the Syracuse Housing Authority, Humana,  and the Brady Market.

Patti LaBelle’s Powerful, Soulful Performance Didn’t Disappoint Chevy Court Fans

A little rain didn’t stop Patti LaBelle from taking the stage by storm at the New York State Fair (see photo gallery below) 

Recently picking up a new title “The Godmother of Soul,” one of the most influential voices in the Rhythm and Blues, Pop and Soul musical genres, Patti LaBelle returned to the Great New York State Fair. LaBelle performed on August 31 at 6 p.m. at the Chevy Court.

Patti first rose to fame in the 1960s as lead singer of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles (later, their name changed to Labelle) Best known for the number-one hit, “Lady Marmalade.” Patti’s solo music career churned out hits including, “You Are My Friend,” “New Attitude,” “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)” and more. Post LaBelle, Patti has morphed into the Godmother of Soul, recording soulful love songs including the 1986 duet with Michael McDonald, On My Own.

Fairgoers might also recognize her from popular films and television programs, including A Soldier’s Story, American Horror Story, and more recently, Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer. Patti has also guest starred this past season on the CBS sitcom, The Neighborhood playing Cedric the Entertainer’s hard to please mother. In addition, there was a camera crew from the CBS television network documenting her performance in Syracuse.

The stage was set, her shoe collection graced the stage next to a white grand piano and a purple cushioned chair. The concert was threatened by rain as Patti LaBelle took to the stage, she announced the rain would “go away in 10 minutes”. The first few songs were performed in the rain, as the crew placed carpets on a wet stage.

Patti LaBelle’s Powerful, Soulful Performance Didn’t Disappoint

Ken Jackson photos (“click” on image to enlarge)

The show was classic Patti LaBelle, as she powered through some of her greatest hits. At times it was like an old-fashioned Baptist revival as LaBelle, her band and featured singers, “took us to church”. While one critic commented about the “78 years-young” artist not hitting certain notes in a song, the performer known for her signature high powered vocals showed no signs of slowing down.

Anyone who’s followed Patti over the years, and seen multiple performances may have noticed that she does not sing all the words to Lady Marmalade, any longer. It’s intentional.

Clearly a woman who’s embraced Christ, she has been reluctant to perform certain songs from the old days of “LaBelle”. In some cases, she allows an audience member to help sing the song which turns into a celebration of the monster hit from the 1970’s that propelled the group, formerly known as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells into superstardom. What the audience is treated to is a sing-along that satisfies the longtime fans from the era when the group LaBelle was singing rock, soul, and sexually infused songs like, Far As We Felt Like Goin’ along with lyrics by Nona Heyndrx that carried a direct political message. 1975’s Messin’ With My Mind is as relevant today as it was when it was recorded.

While many were focused on the record-breaking crowd at the Nelly concert taking place at the other end of the Fairgrounds. At Chevy Court, this was Patti LaBelle’s audience, young and not-so-young, the crowd reflected the multiple decades she’s performed.  And the appreciation was returned from the stage as she took off her shoes and gave the large Chevy Court crowd a show they’ll certainly remember.

The Interview: Sam Roberts – Candidate Democratic Primary for Congress (NY-22)

Ken Jackson Publisher of interviews Sam Roberts, candidate in Tuesday’s Democratic Primary for the 22nd Congressional District. Early voting has already started, with Tuesday August 23rd being Primary Day.

A native of Syracuse, Sam Roberts involvement with community extend back to the Westcott Youth Organization as a youth and a teenager. This included getting involved in the Democratic Party as a committee person block captain.

Serving on the Onondaga County Legislature in 1989 serving into the 90’s. Roberts went on to the NYS State Assembly, into his third term he became New York State’s Commissioner of the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance.

Roberts then transitioned to SUNY Oswego as Special Advisor to the college president; when she retired, Roberts retired. Which gave him plenty of time to run for the seat being vacated by John Katko (R-22).

 “Do you sit back and just complain and let things go down the way they’re going down?  And I said no.  And so, I talked with some folks, and we decided that I was going to run, and here I am.  So that’s the long version of why I’m running for Congress and again, it’s to try to make a difference.” Sam Roberts Candidate Democratic Primary for Congress (NY-22)

video for mobile devices “click here”

The Interview: Sam Roberts – Candidate Democratic Primary for Congress (NY-22)

Sam Roberts is endorsed by the following Business and Labor Organizations


Mary Nelson Annual Supply Giveaway: Backpacks, School Supplies, Healthcare and Community Barbeque – August 20th 11 am til 6 pm

The 21st Annual Back-To-School Supply Giveaways; there will be backpacks, school supplies and of course, the barbeque. This year’s event will be held at the corner of S. Salina & Wood Ave. August 20, 2022, 11 am until 6 pm.

Mary Nelson organized the first Back-to-School Barbeque as part of an effort to reduce violence in this Syracuse neighborhood. In addition to school supplies, The Mary Nelson Youth Center hosts children, and their families to a full-scale outdoor barbeque. In 2002, the first year the event was held, there were 850 youth and their parents in attendance.

Every year thereafter, the event has grown. Every year under the leadership of Mary Nelson, the community comes together to make sure our children were ready for the upcoming school year; the center has collected backpacks and school supplies. However, this is more than a Back-to-School event, as representatives from various groups and organizations attend to increase community awareness of programs. There are Health related services offered on-site, the Upstate Medical Hospital’s Mammogram Initiative along with other needed services.

“Click” to enlarge image.

Mary Nelson’s Youth Center has been a leading force in the greater Syracuse area – according to their website, “inspiring youth to embrace their true identity while unleashing their inner potential.  Their programs help our youth shape their own values, while providing them with all the tools, resources and support they need in order to evolve into confident leaders tomorrow.

On Saturday August 20th the community is welcome to learn more about how the Mary Nelson Youth Center makes a difference in children’s lives.

There’s a lot going on all-day at what will be a festive occasion with entertainment, food, fun and people from the greater Syracuse Community gathering on the corner of S. Salina and Wood Ave.

Mary wanted to do something about the violence affecting children in the community. This is just one of many things the Mary nelson Youth Center does to have an impact of people’s lives. Year-round the center is open to the community as it has been equipped with a Computer Lab in addition to a totally renovated center thanks to donations from Lowe’s, the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, Wegmans, The Hartford, Upstate Medical Hospital and many more. The event is also given an assist by Abundant Life which handles logistics, as you will find the method of supply distribution is quick and efficient, they have things organized right down to the last pencil.

When Nelson began more than two decades ago, there was little attention given to the needs of children returning to school. In many cases children began the school year with few supplies if any. Since then, other organizations have begun doing similar activities in an effort to help students returning to school.

But this is special, it’s more than a giveaway, it’s more than a barbeque; the Mary Nelson Supply Giveaway is about embracing the entire community and its needs that extend far beyond back-to-school.  You’ll see the Center in operation when everyone has gone home, as the newly renovated space has so much to offer the community. Their expanded kitchen, their capacity to handle food distribution with commercial refrigeration, space for meetings, an area where young people who may not have access to a computer or the internet, now have a gateway to the world.

Scenes from the Mary Nelson Supply Givaway from August 2019 

The community is invited to the event, which promises to be a good time as people gather to celebrate not only the giveaway, but rekindling the spirit of neighborhood and helping each other, in the city of Syracuse.

A Review of Onondaga County’s Plan for Spending 89 Million in American Rescue Funds: An Interview with Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon – Part 2

Taking a look at Onondaga County’s American Rescue Plan Fund spending. This fund is designed to address concerns of those who demanded more attention to Human Service needs. A Lacrosse themed Sports complex, White Pines land purchases are among the projects Onondaga County has chosen to support with American Rescue Plan dollars.

The recent heated debate over the Syracuse Inner Harbor Aquarium project may have passed over the elephant in the proverbial living room. There’s been little discussion about the spending of 89 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Funds. If the rules are correct, this is the fund that offers the most flexibility in allocations to small businesses or even individuals impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic. In the statement that defines the purpose for American Rescue Plan, the phrase, “Flexible aid to every county in America to support their response and recovery” sticks out. Rarely do you see flexible aid as a term in implementing a program.

What is the American Rescue Plan – the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 authorized the $350 billion State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund (Recovery Fund), the act provided direct, flexible aid to every county in America to support their response and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The city of Syracuse received 124 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan and through transparent procedures between the Mayors Office and the Syracuse Common Council. They’ve repeatedly announced via their dashboard and/or press release what they’re spending the pandemic relief funds on. Usually accompanied by an announcement documenting that the legislative branch of city government had a direct hand in how these allocations were going to be distributed.

Onondaga County’s allocation was for the county, as the City of Syracuse has its own pot of money from which it can draw for programs. What stands out from Onondaga County’s spending plan is the amount of money invested in projects that gamble on the future. Interview with Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon American Rescue Plan Spending Could you tell us what Onondaga County is doing with their share of the American rescue plan funds?

Ryan McMahon: So, we received $89 million with the American Rescue plan funds, and anyone can go to our county website and see the whole plan. We have designated three main categories where we’re making investments. The investment started last year in 2021. One, in areas of poverty and recovery from a human capital standpoint, to infrastructure.

We used money last year to do more infrastructure, to get more money into the economy when unemployment rates were very high.  Think about; we did the most and paved the most roads and bridges than we ever have in the history of our Onondaga County last year. We made purchases for road equipment from local vendors to help stimulate that. And then, we’re preparing for the economy of the future.  We put a lot of money into site development related to our white pine site. We have a sports tourism project to help draw visitors. That is still going to be considered at the County Legislature. We did a broadband initiative $15 million to make sure that we can bring high speed Internet to every corner of the county.

Mental Health initiatives in schools. We know that remote learning had a tremendous impact on our young people and it’s going to take a long time for us to get them back. So, we’ve partnered with every school district with the exception of one.  And we’ve provided a three-tiered level of support with more caseworkers, social workers in full blown mental health clinics in our school districts for our kids, right there.  So, they don’t got to get out of school and go to the doctors, they can go right into their own building and see a mental health professional.  To help our kids recover from this.

In addition, we invested in the Catholic Charities new men’s shelter. Where we’re going to spend millions of dollars, that leverage more millions of dollars to bring dignity to people.  To have workforce development there, areas for more social services.

So, we’ve invested in people, we’ve invested in infrastructure, and we’ve invested in things that will provide economic opportunity for our people. Because the way out of poverty is a job and a career, not a government program.”


How Is Onondaga County Using Its American Rescue Plan Funds? *

Onondaga County received $89 million in American Rescue Funds which we are using to make historic investments in our infrastructure, our economy and most importantly, our people. Over the last two years, our team has worked in collaboration with county residents and community partners to stabilize our lives in a safe, healthy, and responsible manner.

Critical to that effort has been the American Rescue Plan funds. Onondaga County has used these funds to build off the foundation we established prior to the pandemic to ensure that every member of community, no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, or neighborhood they call home, has had an equal and fair chance to recover and grow. These funds have been invested in our infrastructure, our economy and our future, but more importantly, these funds are being invested in our people. We know that our greatest asset, our greatest tool for experiencing a full, thriving, and inclusive economy recovery is by investing in the residents who call Onondaga County home.

The Central New York Community has risen to the occasion time and time again through the last two years  as we have banded together in a way that only Central New Yorkers know how. We will continue to prove every day that we can live our lives, go to work, shop and even travel in a way that is safe, healthy and beneficial to our economy. These funds, and the subsequent plan enacted will ensure that our community enjoys growth and success for years to come.

Our team has put together a comprehensive plan that has incorporated our core platforms to address Poverty, Infrastructure and Economic Development.

*Onondaga County has a comprehensive plan to address the areas of Poverty, Infrastructure and Economic Development. (Information provided by Onondaga County)

The following is an example where Onondaga County ARP funds will be spent. According to the Onondaga County’s website detailing their American Rescue Plan, “Onondaga County has a comprehensive plan to address the areas of Poverty, Infrastructure and Economic Development.”

Total Stimulus Projects – (“click” on the funding link, scroll to category for spending details)

Stimulus Projects: $89,455,921.94

Poverty Investments


Economic Development Investments

The county’s fiscal position is partially because of reimbursements allowed under ARP. The belt tightening also generated what now appears to be a substantial surplus. While funds deemed “surplus” create a different political set of hurdles to traverse. American Rescue Plan Funds are a clear path to perhaps doing some of the more innovative things allowed under this once in a lifetime opportunity. ARP has the potential to bring about lasting change to all of our communities, rural and urban.

To review information on how Onondaga County is authorized to use the American Rescue Funds please click on this link: Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds

The following describes in basic terms how these funds can be allocated.  The rules apparently give counties flexibility on how to respond to the pandemic in their specific area of the country.

Use of Funds

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provides substantial flexibility for each jurisdiction to meet local needs within these four separate eligible use categories.

Recipients may use SLFRF funds to:

  • Replace lost public sector revenue, using this funding to provide government services up to the amount of revenue lost due to the pandemic
  • Respond to the far-reaching public health and negative economic impacts of the pandemic, by supporting the health of communities, and helping households, small businesses, impacted industries, nonprofits, and the public sector recover from economic impacts
  • Provide premium pay for essential workers, offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors
  • Invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure, making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, to support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and to expand affordable access to broadband internet

Syracuse Inner Harbor Aquarium Proposal: Take the Suburban Money and Run

As I let the idea of an aquarium rattle around in my head, I began to wonder about the cost, the logic of the proposal and if it will be a drain on Onondaga County taxpayers. Or as critics point out, there are so many pressing human-service needs, why not invest there? First, the overwhelmingly Republican Onondaga County Legislature would never agree to allocating direct payments to families with children.

Then I started thinking like a resident of an impoverished city that has to negotiate Sales Tax distribution with Onondaga County. The amount of sales tax revenue received by the city of Syracuse from Onondaga County is negotiated periodically. During that time there’s collective breath holding of city leaders, hoping that our share isn’t decreased.

The largest share of revenue from retail is collected from our wealthier suburban neighbors. Some of those same “neighbors” dislike Syracuse, and don’t want a dime of their money going into what some describe as an unlivable city. Destiny USA despite the prayers of some suburban dwellers, isn’t dead and the city of Syracuse is experiencing an unprecedented surge in economic activity.

I then realized that any funds invested in the city of Syracuse is a win-win for residents of Syracuse. As the city rebuilds, so will our tax base. But for now, we have to consider every dime and dollar coming from Onondaga County coffers being spent here, in Syracuse.

The 84-million-dollar aquarium will be built in Syracuse. Think of it. How many Onondaga County dollars are invested in Syracuse? And if this aquarium is built, the businesses that will want to be nearby will be Syracuse businesses, paying both city and county taxes.

I’ve surmised that surplus funds of Onondaga County would never be invested in human capital, it’s something that this county will not do as it’s beyond the responsibilities of Medicaid and other mandated expenses. The investments negotiated for the city’s Southside business corridor, additional funding of housing initiatives, in addition to other concessions being requested by Onondaga County Legislator Garland have convinced me to support this project.

We built a highway and 60,000 people got up and moved. Now, the highway is coming down, but not the anti city of Syracuse attitudes that flourish in the ‘burbs. Therefore, take the 84 million dollars of mostly suburban funds and spend it on a world class Syracuse Inner Harbor Aquarium.  Take the money and run.

The Interview: Part 1- Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon and the Inner Harbor Aquarium Proposal

I took the opportunity to speak with Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon about the proposed Aquarium at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. The 84-million-dollar price tag for the project has been a conversation starter, to say the least. The proposal has been controversial from the start as advocates for the poor have stated their opposition to the Aquarium. Along with those that simply say, “we don’t need an aquarium”.

It’s been a tough sell for Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon, he’s had to fend off critics that have suggested replicating the Federal Governments Child Tax Credit and give money directly to families with children.

According to critics, there are human service needs that should come first. Onondaga County 7th District Legislator Mary Kuhn held a protest event  where about 20 people gathered to listen to reasons for not supporting the proposal and their suggestions for distributing the surplus cash.

Some members of the Democratic Caucus have complained that they don’t have enough information and aren’t in favor of the aquarium. Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland appears to have negotiated a deal the County Executive in exchange for his support. Garland’s argument is about the numbers. The republicans have their expansive majority, according to Garland, “they could flip, and our community is left with nothing”. (for mobile devices click here Urban CNY News Youtube Channel)

The Interview and Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon 

In an effort to obtain more information about the aquarium proposal, I sat down with Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon. The interview is being edited into 3 segments. Part 1 is about the proposed Aquarium in Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. Other topics discussed include American Rescue Plan spending; how do we include inner city residents in suburban job creation? And McMahon’s response to the alternative spending “wish list” released by opponents of the plan. OK, we’re speaking with County Executive J. Ryan McMahon and in this interview, we’re going to talk about a variety of things. We’re going to start out with a topic that’s on many people’s mind(s), would be the aquarium project. So, could you explain the aquarium project so that people will know from you directly, what is this about?

Ryan McMahon: “One of the things we do is entertainment infrastructure. We run the zoo, we are in charge of the ballpark for the Syracuse Mets, we are in charge of the War Memorial for the Syracuse Crunch, we have the amphitheater which provides entertainment infrastructure on the lake. We are in charge of the Convention Center which brings thousands and thousands of visitors to downtown.

So, in 2019 when I got this job, the zoo came to me with an idea about an aquarium project, the friends of the zoo. And we looked at it and we loved it as an expansion on the zoo. At the time we didn’t have the money. Because if you have to borrow the type of money for that, you’re never going to really make enough money to pay the bonds.

So Fast forward, we enter into 2020 the global pandemic and we have to make very difficult decisions budgetary wise and really estimate very conservative revenue growth. And what happened was in 2020, we ended up producing a large surplus a $30 million surplus, and we prepared for the worst in 2021 and produced an even larger surplus.

For a unique moment in time, when we’re looking at how do we come out of the pandemic and what are some opportunities to come out stronger. Bring more visitors into county [government] because our largest revenue is sales tax. It’s not property tax, it’s sales tax.

We then looked at the aquarium project and we said we have the ability to pay cash. So, what we did next, is we hired the market expert in the field to tell us if it would work, is it feasible. Is this idea possible to have a successful aquarium here that will draw thousands of visitors, that will be here as a magnet for STEAM and STEM education for our young kids. But also, research and development opportunities for our higher Ed partners.  And what the study said was “yes, all these things are possible.“

And then the second piece of it was well, where do we do it? And do we do it at the current zoo footprint? Do we do it somewhere else? And so, the market experts studied where to put the aquarium and they came to a location at the inner harbor.  And the inner harbor is a really unique spot for a couple reasons. One, aquariums on water are more successful than those which are not. If you look at the New England aquarium, if you look at the Chattanooga aquarium, if you look at the Baltimore aquarium. Two, aquariums have been the stimulus for potential waterways that are underdeveloped in vacant property, and that’s kind of where we are with our own inner harbor.

And so, when you look at the project going to the inner harbor, there’s so many different synergies for what this project is. One, it gives us the opportunity to continue to tell the cleanup of Onondaga Lake story. It gives us the opportunity to talk about the history of Onondaga Lake with what has happened there before we were all here, with the Haudenosaunee.  It gives us the opportunity to have that research component with our higher Ed partners and give our children here and out of the county the ability to have a world class experience.  How many of our kids have actually been to an aquarium? So, then you look at those aspects, but then you look at, what are the other aspects?  It’s a jobs project. When you look at the construction jobs with this. Hundreds of construction jobs for over a year. It’s a jobs project for permanent jobs in the community, at the aquarium, but for the businesses that this project will support.

It’s an opportunity to be a catalyst for redevelopment in that area which will create more jobs, create new neighborhoods and more tax revenue for both the city and the county. So, when you look at all these factors, it is something that is going to support the industry that was hit hardest by the pandemic, which is still struggling, our hospitality industry, our hotels or restaurants, our traveling partners. It will allow us to build off of the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, and the investments around Onondaga Lake, the investments at the State Fair, the investments at the amphitheater, the investments at the new ballpark. And it will give us an opportunity to help support across the street, Destiny USA which is starting to come back from what was a very difficult pandemic.

So overall, there’s so many good pieces here; redevelopment of a neighborhood, cleanup of Onondaga Lake. To tell that story of freshwater and saltwater aquarium, here. The ability for STEAM and STEM education for our young people. But also, that research component. The economics behind it, the new revenue that will be generated for governments and the new revenue that will be generated for businesses so they can hire back people and come back. There’s so many good things about this project, and it’s what we do in county government. That’s the thing too, there’s many things, ideas that come across our desk that we’re looking to do.  But this is something that we do at the local level.


County Legislator Charles Garland Secures Commitment Supporting Various Southside initiatives from Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon

When Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland 16th District was sworn in, the newly minted Legislator hit the ground running. There are many issues facing the 16th Legislative District which he represents. From the beginning he pledged to work on behalf of the people living in the 16th District. Already, he’s informing his constituents of meetings, he’s identified issues that he’s become aware of as a member of the Onondaga County Legislature. Asking for feedback, which he then will use to stake out his position on the legislature.

Garland has been passionate about his role as a legislator, embarking on factfinding missions by attending meetings of various community groups. Has also been steadfast in bringing issues before the community. Sending regular emails, being a conduit for information, as he shares what he’s doing as a legislator. As a Syracuse political leader, he’s been different. Instead of blindly following his Democratic Caucus, which is clearly against the aquarium project at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor; Garland is in discussions to bring additional Onondaga County resources into the South Side.

County Legislator 7th District Mary Kuhn

There’s a lot of discussion about, “what to do with the money?” As community groups and a plethora of individuals sent a letter to the County Executive demanding more assistance for the poor. County Legislator, Mary Kuhn held a press conference where she, along with those gathered in opposition to the Aquarium project. At the event Kuhn made the case that we have large numbers of people living in poverty stating, “we can use these funds to address poverty in our community. Syracuse is one of the poorest communities in the nation, we don’t need an aquarium.” Kuhn’s plan calls for Onondaga County to replicate the Federal Government’s Child Tax Credit by giving county funds directly to the poor.

Garland hasn’t publicly announced how he’ll vote on the Aquarium project. However, as details of negotiations emerge, it looks like a deal in the making.  According to Garland, “We all know he needs 9 votes. With the county legislature, there are 17 legislators 11 of them are Republicans. So, at any moment that could all be swayed, and they could all vote yes. So, we had a window of opportunity. It’s all about leverage. What we discussed, we met with him, we gave him a list. It was a large list, we talked about Housing, we talked about lead abatement, we talked about jobs, we talked about air quality, a whole lot of things. “

The first indication of a deal was the announcement of $4.5 million for the Southside Housing Initiative. The County Executive appeared at an event of W. Kennedy Street to make the announcement regarding housing funds specifically for the Southside of Syracuse.  These are separate from the funds that are being allocated county-wide.

In addition to the above, according to Garland, progress was made with the Syracuse City School District regarding Asbestos Removal certification training. They’ll offer a class that can possibly make them employment ready. The list of “requests” are as follows. (To view the interview on mobile devices click Urban CNY News Youtube Channel)

The following video is Onondaga County Legislator Charles Garland’s Update to the community on his discussions with Onondaga County Executive J. Ryan McMahon.

This wide-ranging interview touched on several topics of interest to the Southside Neighborhoods. Garland takes time to discuss pending issues before the legislature.


Charles Garland’s List of proposed Initiatives as presented to Onondaga County Executive, J. Ryan McMahon

This is in addition to what we asked for and were given:

1. $10 million Housing Initiative for contractors and developers (to be ongoing). At first we thought it was going to be for just the 16th.

2. $3.7 million for Lead Abatement. Does not include plumbing. They said theirs is a Federal program for plumbing.

3. $1 million for S. Salina St. businesses facade work (to be ongoing)

4. $4.1 million grant from the Restoring Communities Initiative for The Castle. The money is for existing buildings. There will be more money for other targeted buildings in the 16th.

5. I reached out and met with Carl Hummel, the SCSD and directors of the Fowler PSLA program in 2019-2020 to suggest a partnership with the Syracuse City School District CTE trades programs and the County because my Electrical instructor, Chet Brosztek, an instructor at WEP told me they need to hire people. Then McMahon said there was no workforce to remove lead. I arranged and agreement between the school district and county to add a Lead Abatement Module to the construction trades at Fowler PSLA serving 1,800 students in 28 career pathways. These students will be certified in Lead Abatement. The school district is partnering with known contractors (including minority ones) to hire these kids to do lead abatement, giving them hope, a living wage and reason to stay in Syracuse. It will also encourage the kids following them, that there is a pathway.

6. Guaranteeing a certain percentage of MBWE’s and minority workers on County projects and putting graduates of Syracuse Build directly into jobs. Also, for minority contractors and service providers mot registered as MWBE’s of DEE’S to be able to bid on these projects.

7. Addressing the “Spatial Mismatch” of all these newly created jobs in the suburbs Amazon Liverpool and Kirkville and the massive proposed White Pines and minority workers in the city. They directed Rob Simpson of CenterstateCEO to do a study to see how many inner-city workers have been hired at these jobs. I’m waiting for the results.

8. $4.5 million for our Southside Housing Initiative to build houses in the many vacant lots and where abandoned houses are. Developers other than Housing Visions will have the opportunity to bid on building the housing. We wanted homes for the families who will be displaced from public housing and realize we have to start building now.

“We cannot wait for the Republicans to flip their votes and lose out on everything. We can only have so many moral victories in our losses.” – Charles Garland

Onondaga County Legislator Mary Kuhn Hosts “No Aquarium” Protest Event – video

Onondaga County 7th District Legislator Mary Kuhn, on July 25th at 12 noon, held what was billed as a “No Aquarium” protest and press conference.

According to Kuhn,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon continues his curiously persistent campaign to lobby politicians for support for his Aquarium. It is expected to be considered at a Legislature Ways & Means meeting on Tuesday, despite bipartisan opposition and the lack of community support.”

Kuhn continued, “Recently the County Executive announced an additional “Science Advisory Committee”, as if more committees were what was needed. We are gathering today to expose this charade as the County Executive refuses to listen to the voices of the taxpayers of Onondaga County.”

The proposed aquarium has become controversial as advocates want more resources allocated to human services. The County Executive has maintained in statements that the project would be good for Onondaga County.

That being said, Mary Kuhn called for those that are against the aquarium gather at Columbus Circle.

The suburban legislator capsulizes her opinion in one sentence,  “This is not a sustainable project, this is theft of tax payer dollars”. – Mary Kuhn

The following is a portion of statements by Legislator Kuhn during the press conference.

“We have a poverty we have 14% of our our citizens in the county live under the poverty line.  20% or one in five children live in poverty.  25% of our families earn less than $30,000 a year. so here’s something we could consider; a child tax cut, Republicans are always talking about tax cuts, right? how about a child tax cut that is modeled On the federal child tax credit.

Data proves that this kind of support for families helps reduce poverty. Everybody knows what’s happening with inflation right now. Groceries are high, gas is high, rents are out of control, clothing is out of control. We have one opportunity here to really address issues of poverty.

 The Republican Party in this community has a very bad track record when it comes to what, this aquarium supposed to be, “transformational”.  This is going to be transformational; it’s going to change everything in our community. we’ve had several of these, let’s look at a couple. How about the carousel center?

Our County Executive was on the City Council at that time and was supportive of that.  That was fun for a couple of years, but then we needed to expand it, we need to be bigger, we needed to have a Disneyland down there. With an expanded destiny, I think we all know what happened to that.

Right now, we have a mall that’s valued at about $170 million, that is in debt for over $300 million. That’s what happened to that. Then there was a hotel near the mall that was supposed to also . Now people can come and stay right there and go shopping, right there.

That hotel is now standing on land that is in bankruptcy. Oh, then there’s the film hub, you remember the film hub?

The film hub’s gonna be transformative, and recently a national publication had us in the top ten of government boondoggles. In other words, the waste of the taxpayer dollars.  We have the Solara light bulb factory. We’ve had a very bad luck with our republican transformational projects and this aquarium will be one in a long line of that…”

For the entire clip go to our You Tube link or Urban CNY News

Kuhn’s District is large, mostly suburban except for a sliver that touches parts of Syracuse. See Legislator District Map – Onondaga County 7th District


Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh Urban CNY News Interview Part Five: The Challenges We Face Moving Forward (Multimedia)

This story assembles the entire Five-part interview into one post. (Click on the corresponding links below to view section desired)

Urban CNY News is pleased to bring you the final installment of my interview. This was an 11-minute discussion/Interview with Syracuse Mayor, Ben Walsh.

I focused on several Topic(s): American Rescue Plan ‘How are we spending the ARP Funds? ‘. We began by asking about spending of the American Rescue Plan Funds. Then it branched off into several areas which are documented in this 5- Part interview.

As previously stated, there were several questions asked during our meeting, regarding the appropriation of funds from the American Rescue Plan aka ARP funds. In addition, we asked; What are we doing about Youth Employment and Housing? The city’s Justice Agenda; The Construction Boom in Syracuse; and there’s a conclusion regarding “Challenges” moving forward.

In Part 1, Mayor Walsh detailed American Rescue Act Plan funding and how the disbursement of these funds developed in partnership with the Syracuse Common Council.

Part 2 Mayor Walsh – What are we doing about Youth Employment and Housing?

Part 3 Mayor Walsh Topic: Could you tell us about the Justice Agenda and progress towards that goal?

Part 4 The Construction Boom in Syracuse

Part 5 Conclusion: The Challenges We Face Moving Forward

“The challenges that we face here in Syracuse in 2022 are largely the challenges that we have faced for decades. We have far too high poverty in this community, and it is concentrated poverty, both geographically and racially.  Related to poverty, we do have significant issues related to racism and segregation again, these are systemic problems that we are facing head on. 

But again, it’s systemic so it really requires us not to just change who’s sitting around the table, and we’ve worked very hard to make sure that those that are around the decision-making table do reflect the diversity of our community. But also, to make sure that we’re changing the systems that are in place, so long after I’m gone, or Deputy Mayor Owens is gone, or anyone that is currently in city government, we’ve made meaningful change. 

But again, we need to lift more people out of poverty. We need to create more neighborhood stability and economic opportunity in all of our neighborhoods in the city, not just some, but again these aren’t new challenges, they’ve been around for a long time. 

The same could be said for crime, we have far too much gun violence in our city, it is disproportionately impacting our young people that are growing up, being traumatized directly and indirectly from this violence. So, we need to continue to make progress there as well and give our young people an opportunity to succeed. 

So, the problems are many, but we are not letting that detract or deter us from continuing to make progress towards that vision of the goal is again. To make systemic change, so we ensure that we continue to move forward, towards that vision for years to come.

– Mayor Ben Walsh

The following links are to the various tools put in place by the city to be “transparent” about where these funds are being allocated.


Urban CNY  Ken Jackson Interviews Mayor Ben Walsh Video Parts  1 – 5