All posts by Ken Jackson

Ken Jackson

Can a Longtime Syracuse Activist Transition to Elective Office? 19 African American Religious Leaders Endorse Walt Dixie for Councilor-At-Large


It was an early Spring Day, June 2nd in the parking lot of Price Rite Marketplace where local political activist Walt Dixie placed himself in contention for Councilor-At-Large on the Syracuse Common Council. Unlike district representatives the Councilor-At-Large position is representing the entire city.

This election year is of particular interest as there are several people in competition for the Syracuse Common Council. An unprecedented number of African Americans are running for political office.

“We are here today as faith leaders to put our support behind our candidate for the Common Council position which is going to be Walt Dixie” – Pastor Derrick Galloway, Connect to Christian Church

Galloway continues, “One of the reasons why we’re here is because this particular candidate put together the necessary steps in order for our community to be better. We are standing in the parking lot of Price Rite which was in response to his vision to remove to title of “food desert” from this part of town, when a large grocery store had departed from this area. We’re also working to bring back community opportunities such as the National Urban League which left of community over 20 years ago we’re working to bring that back so that our youth that are in our community will have something to hold on to, will have something that can actually put them forward and help them get to the next level of life.”

Dixie then takes the microphone and says, “I’m a child of the IMA and the birth of Time of Jubilee and the development of Jubilee Homes. I am quite aware of my responsibility in this community.  From the leadership of Rev. Howard, Rev. Carter, Rev. Reid in particular; and my good friend Pastor Stephens who has always been an anchor for me and my community. I’m not a person that asks for people to do something for me, I’m always doing for others. We have 19 ministers that have endorsed this campaign. I’m appreciative of that, but not only do I need their blessings, I need their voices to reach out to this community. We need a spiritual awakening in this community, we can’t do it without God in your life. We hear about the mental health issues; we hear of women struggling. We gotta have faith in ourselves and faith in the Lord. That’s why this endorsement is really important to me.”

“At the end of the day I know how to do this work. We gotta get to a place where how we eradicate poverty, it’s all in our head. Government can be a partner, but it’s the message we give to a community to get them to transform their lives.”

Ending his announcement Dixie reminds those gathered “I’m excited and grateful for the support and I want you to support Twiggy Billue for the School Board.”

  • Rev. DeCarto Draper Jr.
  • Rev. Bryant Gerald
  • Rev. Nebraski Carter
  • Elder Kenneth Reid
  • Rev. Johnathan Stephens
  • Rev. Joe Burton
  • Rev. Daren Jaime
  • Pastor Eric Eure
  • Bishop H. Bernard Alex
  • Rev. Steve Walker
  • Rev. Brian Seymour
  • Rev. James Patillar
  • Rev. Lateef Johnson-Kinsey
  • Rev. Jimmy Smiley
  • Pastor Derrick Galloway
  • Pastor Cyrus Thornton
  • Rev. Maxwell Jones
  • Rev. Frank Bostick
  • Rev. Carl Washington

After an introduction, several pastors gathered made brief statements in support of Walt Dixie for the Syracuse Common Council, Councilor-At-Large position.  Several Reverend’s noted that Dixie has done the work. At the end of the presentation Dixie took to the microphone to announce the transformation of the old B & B Bar into a Seafood restaurant. A 60-unit market rate apartment complex is being proposed for the South Ave. corridor.

After decades of working to empower others through Time of Jubilee, Alliance Network, National Action Network, and the initiative to bring Price Rite Marketplace to South Ave. Dixie has stepped out as a candidate on his own.

The support of the Syracuse area clergy is rare, as most religious leaders in local churches stay out of politics. However, this is a different time. Dixie has managed to get the attention, not only of the people used to being led by chants of, “No justice, No Peace”; he’s got the attention of the Syracuse Black community. Now, all that’s left is the voting.

 


Community Folk Art Center presents an Outdoor Paint Party

Syracuse, NY (June 9, 2021): Community Folk Art Center will be organizing an outdoor paint party led by artist Nada Odeh (https://www.nadaodeh.com/)  on June 10, 2021. The rain date for this event is June 24, 2021. It is a great opportunity for everyone to embrace nature and feel the art.

Nada Odeh is an amazing Syrian artist who is talented at painting with acrylics. Acrylic is the most popular art medium in the world now because it can make your artwork water-resistant, permanent, and vibrant. Odeh has been painting for over ten years. She gives a voice to the refugees through her excellent artwork, which has been exhibited many times. Odeh says, “When I paint, I feel the world around me is muted”. Odeh will demonstrate how to use acrylics to create a one-of-a-kind painting.

The last time the Community Folk Art Center held an outdoor painting event was in the Fall of 2020 during the height of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. “We always look forward to opportunities to connect with the community in-person, and we are so excited that we can engage with others through creativity,” said Dr. Jackson, the executive director of Community Folk Art Center, “we hope there will be more people joining us because we are committed to spreading more art to the community.”
The outdoor paint party will last an hour and a half, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm on June 10 or on the rain date, June 24.  People will have a perfect experience of feeling nature and art here. Tickets are $30 per person including all supplies and can be purchased using this link Register here.

Nada Odeh is a Syrian artist, activist, humanitarian, and modern-day poet. The medium she works in is acrylics on canvas and  Arabic miniatures; Middle Eastern colors and small details of her heritage influence her art. The key theme in her artwork is Syrian refugees in camps and the Syrian people. Nada got her M.A. in Museum Studies from Syracuse University and her B.A. in Fine Arts from Damascus University. Nada has exhibited her art in Damascus, Dubai, New York City, Detroit, Toledo, Tiffin, Washington D.C., Syracuse, Albany, and Auburn, New York. She lives and works in Syracuse, New York.


How to Resolve our Teen Violence Problem? Put Air in our Societies Flat Tire


As we review possible solutions to our teen violence challenge, I can’t resist looking at my youth growing up in Syracuse. Being a child of the 1960’s and being in Syracuse, we were on the front lines in the War on Poverty. Based on our size and demographics we were ideal for testing new products and government programs. We had a network of community centers that employed people from poor neighborhoods, providing much needed support from our government.

P.E.A.C.E., Inc. had a network of centers some small some large, they provided clothing, a small food pantry, a place to get surplus foods such as cheese. Home Energy Assistance type program applications were also available if you were having problems with your utilities. Centers were also a resource center for job postings, health information and at times social events. Most of these P.E.A.C.E., Inc. centers were within walking distance to our distressed neighborhoods. All but a few are now closed, casualties of budget cuts.

A local Bank had a program in our public schools. Tuesday was Banking Day where you would get out your little bank book and note the deposit you were making; it may only be $1. We learned about banking in elementary school.

School in the 1960’s and 70’s had, high school athletics, gym, art, and music; for some kids, these amenities were the difference between staying in school and dropping out. Don’t forget Metal and Wood Shop classes as these were also eliminated. In elementary school, I recall at lunchtime going outside when the weather was nice, even if it were only for 15 minutes. Most kids walked to school, as only those displaced by Urban Renewal were being shuffled to different corners of the city.

During the summers, I remember Thornden Park and the recreation programs. Children with adult supervision staged plays at the amphitheater. We had structured time in the parks with Arts & Crafts where we made Boondoggles, Popsicle stick Jewelry Boxes, and Ash Trays to bring home. As I recall the parks were staffed with young people, assisting young people.

We lived on Harrison Street, one block away was Grace Episcopal Church, one block away from there was University Methodist Church. There were so many children in the Madison Street area that there was programming for us. Between 10 am – 2 pm; as pre-teens and young teens, we started at Grace Church and after a snack we went to University Methodist Church. Having these places to go as young teens gave us something to do, some place to go. We weren’t “free range children.”

When it was time for High School, we had Upward Bound at LeMoyne College, Syracuse was one of the first in the nation to receive this “opportunity program” that focused on getting young people to complete Highschool and college. During the summers, we spent 8 weeks at LeMoyne College living in the dorms, coming home for the weekend. Each Friday there was a field trip, usually, it was to a place that we’d never seen before, Letchworth State Park, Niagara Falls, or some other educational adventure. We even had an Upward Bound Band as we had music classes. Mario DeSantis and company taught most of us how to play instruments. These skills culminated with a grand performance at Convocation when the program ended in mid-August.

There was also Soul Generation, followed by Jr. Soul Generation, where kids got to perform and expend some of that creative energy. All volunteers, people like Eleanor Russell and others introduced us to theater. Speaking of theater, Salt City Playhouse was like a second home to me living a block away. I spent lots of early evenings rehearsing for an upcoming play. By 17 myself, Thomas Grimes, Rick Torrence and others had taken over the Second Theater. We were writing and producing our own one-act plays.

On the city’s North side, Our Lady of Pompeii Parish under the direction of Monsignor Charles L. Borgognoni produced Broadway Plays that had long since closed. The neighborhood groups was called, “The Pompeian Players”. These shows were performed on the Loew’s (aka Landmark) Theater stage. Somehow, “Father Charles” managed to get discarded original sets to hit shows which were now closed. The entire church was involved, if you weren’t on stage, you were backstage doing something. Rehearsals started in the summer with production in early September. An entire section of this Northside neighborhood was involved.

We don’t require new programs to change our city. We only need to revisit the past, what we defunded. What we decided we couldn’t afford as a community. What was finally cut in the 1980’s, as the nation embraced “Trickle down economics”.

Review all of those program cuts we’ve suffered at the hands of Federal and State budget reductions. Look at the job program cuts; the P.E.A.C.E. Inc. Community Center cuts, the City Parks & Recreation budget cuts, School staffing cuts, the list can go on and on. The point is that we’ve cut and or gutted the very programs that made us a community. The only way to reverse the trend of violence among today’s youth is to invest in their future as we once did. This is not reinventing the wheel; it’s putting air in our societies flat tire.


Teen Deaths Stuns Community: Mayor Walsh and City Leaders Respond to Tragic Deaths


Leaders Assembled in front of Syracuse City Hall demonstrates the gravity of the situation in Syracuse

Situation is not isolated as Gov Cuomo  Sends New York State Troopers to Albany,NY

While this isn’t the first violent teen death recorded in Syracuse, this was the second murder in 48 hours. The regularity of shootings was responsible for the visceral response from the Syracuse community including its leadership, community activists, area clergy and residents at-large. This constant barrage of violence centered on the area’s youth, is not a phenomenon. According to the Associated Press, “from 2014 through June 2017, 48 youths aged 12 to 17 in Syracuse were killed or injured in gun violence.”  Information compiled by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive identifies Syracuse rate of teen shootings “per capita is more than double those seen in the vast majority of U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more.”

On June 20, 2020, at the Rye Day celebration held on the Near Westside, according to published reports, at least 10 people pulled weapons; at the end, 17-year-old Chariel Osorio was dead, another victim of gun violence in Syracuse. Syracuse has faced so many incidents of violence, it has become routine to see reports of stabbings and shootings, in many cases they are teens engaging in violent acts.

What Happened: Two Teen Deaths in 48 Hours

In 2021 the violence in Syracuse continued, on Friday, May 21st, a 15-year-old Radames Francisco was shot on Shonnard Street. He was later pronounced dead at Upstate University Hospital. Sebastian Oliver, 14, was arrested last week for Ramades’ shooting death.

Within 48 hours on May 24, Syracuse Police Officers responded to the 1200 block of W. Onondaga St. for a stabbing call. Upon their arrival, they learned that a 13-year-old female   identified as Naj’ee Wright, (13 years of age, of Auburn, N.Y.) had been stabbed during a fight. She was transported to Upstate University Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Detectives have arrested Xomara Diaz, 16, and charged her with stabbing Naj’ee to death. Diaz faces the charges of Manslaughter 1st degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon 4th degree. The suspect was subsequently lodged in a juvenile detention facility in Erie County.

Violence is not isolated Governor Cuomo Sends New York State Troopers to Albany

Just this week Gov Andrew Cuomo deployed New York State Troopers to assist Albany Law Enforcement. Cuomo said, “The recent surge of gun violence that has taken the lives of too many innocent bystanders and injured even more individuals in the City of Albany is deeply unsettling. Our communities need to be safe places where New Yorkers can live, work and raise families without fear of senseless violence and crime.

At the request of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, I am directing the New York State Police to assist the Albany Police Department with any available resources. This effort will include increased patrols and deployment of the State Police Community Stabilization Unit – a new initiative designed to strategically address known issues, in partnership with the local police and the community, to prevent crime before it occurs.”

A Full-Throated Response from Syracuse City Hall

Syracuse City Hall addressed the situation as the shock of multiple teen deaths appeared to hit a chord with the community.

2 days after the incidents there was a response delivered from the steps of Syracuse City Hall; Mayor Ben Walsh, Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens, Police Chief Kenton Buckner and Syracuse Common Council President Helen Hudson appeared before the public to address the situation.

Mayor Ben Walsh was first to speak to those gathered on the steps of City Hall.

“The reason I’m standing here with the chief of police, with the SCSD, with the Council President, with the Deputy Mayor is because we cannot do this alone.” Mayor Ben Walsh

Police Chief Kenton Buckner, Mayor Ben Walsh and Council President Helen Hudson

Walsh, “We’re here to discuss the stabbing death that occurred yesterday on West Onondaga Street and also to discuss other recent tragedies involving teenagers in our community. The reality is that we are a community in crisis. We lost a 13 year-old girl and a 15 year old boy within the past week, that is not normal, it can never be normal. And we as a community need to do more to protect our children and to support our families. It’s difficult to find the words. But we know that we need to support our children.

They’re not getting sufficient support in their homes.   Which means that we need to give them their support in their schools, we need to give them support in community centers, in places of worship and in the streets. We need to teach our children how to value their own lives and how to value the lives of others. Something is fundamentally broken; something has been lost in communication with our children.

So, we need to hit the re-set button and we need to come together as a community. I can assure you that we’re doing everything within our power here at City Hall to address this issue. But I’ll be the first one to tell you, that it’s not enough. It’s the reason we talk about the importance of jobs for young people, we need to give our young people alternatives. We have hundreds of jobs available this summer for our young people. We need employers to help fill those jobs, that’s why we talk about the importance of summer youth employment. “

“That’s why Chief Buckner has prioritized among the many things that the Police Department has to do, is create a Police Athletic league. It’s another opportunity to bring our kids in, to give them the support that they need, that’s why we renovated the Westmoreland Community Center. We need to give our kids safe havens. That’s why we’re going to continue to invest in parks programing to support our kids. That’s why the Syracuse City School District is working every day, not just to address the basic educational needs of our children but to address all of the other needs that aren’t being met. From nutrition to mental health to overall healthcare. As a community we need to wrap our arms, around not just our children, but our families that are in need. “

“The reason I’m standing here with the chief of police, with the SCSD, with the Council President, with the Deputy Mayor is because we cannot do this alone. And behind all of us, we need everyone else in the community. Because this is a societal problem, this is not a city problem this is a problem as a society we need to fix because we are broken.”

This is a community challenge; we need a community response and an entire community accountability of what’s happening- Police Chief Kenton Buckner

Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner

Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner spoke, “This is a community challenge; we need a community response and an entire community accountability of what’s happening. I can tell you from the police standpoint we are certainly doing and trying everything within our power to protect our city. But as we all know we can’t arrest our way out of this because we are arresting people everyday for a variety of things. But we’re certainly going to need the communities help in securing our city. If you are an organization or an individual that has the capacity to be able to help someone, I always encourage people to start with the youth to gain traction on some of the things that we’re seeing. In addition to our victims being juvenile/youth the suspects that we are arresting for these crimes are in many cases have been juvenile.”

Chief Buckner in his presentation also promoted the Police Athletic League, which provides ways of interacting with our law enforcement community using sports as a catalyst. Identifying stakeholders in the group gathered, reinforcing the gravity of this occasion.  He also acknowledged neighborhoods, schools and other community assets assembled, and their importance.

Buckner continues, “Everyone needs to do as much as we can to try to address many of these issues that are going on in our community; none of which are simple, there is no simple solution as a response to this. But we’d certainly appreciate the public giving us some assistance.”

“We have a problem with our Young People… We have to work together to save our babies.” – Helen Hudson

Helen Hudson Syracuse Common Council President

Next Syracuse Common Council President Helen Hudson said, “I think we are all standing here today because, we see that we have a problem. We have a problem with our young people.” Hudson then extended condolences to families of both deceased teens.

Hudson in a somber tone continues, “We are burying our children, that is not normal. Community: we need you, we need your help, we need you to stand with us, we need you to help us save our children. I’ve gone to over a hundred funerals and hundreds of wakes. It’s not normal to see the pain that these mothers and these fathers and these siblings leave behind, that’s not normal. So, I’m asking everybody in the Syracuse community, let’s stop finger pointing, let’s stop talking about who should do what. We all play a part in this, we all have to get out here, we all have to get our children because they are our children. Our children are dying, and we are the one’s that need to step-up and start being responsible. You can’t see these kids out here fighting, videotape it and think it’s funny, not Funny. You can’t see these kids out here fighting and give them a weapon, not funny.”

Our babies are dying and until we stand up, stand firm, let’s hit these streets and get our children. If you have any kind of idea, any way to help us, reach out. Reach out to me, you can reach out to the mayor, you can reach out to the Chief, you can reach out to the Deputy Mayor. We have to be able to work together to save our babies. Because too many of them are going to Oakwood (Cemetery) and that’s not the way the order should go.”  Ms. Hudson’s message was clear, “We have to work together to save our babies.”

City Hall cannot do it alone, SPD cannot do it alone, SCSD cannot do it alone, all of us must come together to address these issues. Myra Ortez Syracuse City School District

SCSD Central Offices

Myra Ortez, Director of Student Support Services for the Syracuse City School District, continued at the podium where she stated, “I work directly with our community agencies and SCSD student support staff to provide support to students, families and our staff throughout the year, and especially in times of crisis.  The recent incidents of violence have once again rocked this community, and we at the district are willing to partner, to come to the table and try to find ways to help these young people in crisis.

Whenever something happens in the community it inevitably finds its way into our schools, so it is imperative that we are part of the solution. SCSD has a multi-tiered system of support, this involves all of our student support specialists, as well as our community partners. The community partners encompass about 15 organizations, and we meet regularly to discuss the issues involving our students and families and to identify solutions and support. This has to be a community-wide effort. City Hall cannot do it alone, SPD cannot do it alone, SCSD cannot do it alone, all of us must come together to address these issues.”

Next to speak is Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens. Prior to becoming Deputy Mayor, Owens was Director of Community Connections aka Southwest Community Center and worked with Neighborhood and Business Development for the city of Syracuse.

In his introduction, Mayor Walsh spoke of her overall experience stating, “Deputy Mayor Owens has been on the front lines for so many of the most significant challenges facing our community. And I think, often times on topics around crime specifically violent crime, there becomes this dichotomy, it’s all about supporting law enforcement, or it’s about supporting community organizations. As we said from the beginning, we have to do it all, we need the Syracuse Police Department and our Police Officers, but they cannot solve these problems for us. We need to look beyond Law Enforcement, look at our other partners in our community, engage them, support them, and the Deputy Mayor is a critical partner in City Hall to bring these parties together.”

Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens Channeled our “Angry Auntie”

Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens

Ms. Owens, perhaps had the most direct, rip the scab off the sore, comments of the entire event. Mincing no words, the Deputy Mayor didn’t hold back, as she stated, “The word crisis was used, we are in a crisis. It’s the culture, it’s a crisis of violent culture. When people hear that and say, ‘Sharon, I’m not out here shooting people, I’m not out there stabbing people with knives.’ But we are out there going after each other every day. So how can we expect, as Helen puts it, ‘babies to be able to process the anger that they’re feeling, when adults can’t do it.” When adults don’t do it. The model that we’re asking for, for our children is a model we have to set ourselves.

I’m glad that the mayor talked about the work I’ve done in this community for 30 years on the ground and working with my sister (Helen Hudson) for many, many years and many other people out there. So, to all of those individuals in these crisis times, there’s a question of ‘what’s being done?’ Let me say this. To all those youth workers that are in those community centers, and in those agencies doing the work with our youth. For all of those who go to their homes after program is over to check on them. For all of them walking the neighborhoods and have built relationships with young people in our community. We say thank you for everything you’re doing out there. And we know you are doubling down on those efforts. The question comes for the rest of us. I said a long time ago. If you ignore the plight of your neighbor, it is going to come knocking on your door at some point. “

“So, ‘my child is fine, my child goes to school, my child is in church, my child is engaged in programming. My child is on the path to college, my child is doing okay.’ Is every child you know doing, okay? Is the child living next to you, okay? Is the child in your own family that you’re not directly raising, okay? That is the culture that we have to create in our community.

My part as a parent, my part as a community member is to care for those I’m responsible to, but my ultimate responsibility is to care about our community as a whole. “

“Another child is dead, another child her life has been changed for the rest of her life. They all collectively are victims and they’re looking to the grownups to help figure it out. And this handful of grownups standing up here at the podium don’t have all the answers. I told you in the beginning, I’m overwhelmed with grief. But I’ll never give up the fight. Helen put out the call, and we’re prepared to meet you at that call. “

I offer to anyone in the community, if you have solutions, if you have ideas, talk to us, share them, nothing is off the table.-Mayor Ben Walsh 

Mayor Walsh

Mayor Walsh ended by saying, “We lost two young lives in a matter of a few days, and that trauma reverberates across this city. I want to offer my condolences to the families involved. That trauma is long lasting, and we need to find a way to stop it. We will continue to do everything within our power here at City Hall. I promise you that every waking hour I will spend working with the partners behind me and all of you in front of me to help save our children and save our families.  We will identify resources wherever they’re available to invest in solutions.

I can assure you as we finalize our plans for the recent Federal investment we received, we’re going to make a robust investment in supporting and caring for our children and families. I offer to anyone in the community, if you have solutions, if you have ideas, talk to us, share them, nothing is off the table. We can’t afford for anything to be off the table. So, please join us in coming together; not as a city, not as a county, as a community as a society to wrap our arms around our young people and our families and help them.”


Healthcare Workers, Unions & Legislators Rally in Syracuse for the New York Health Act


Syracuse, NY – A crowd of fifty including members of 1199 SEIU, medical students, and patients rallied in support of the New York Health Act in Syracuse in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse. The New York Health Act has majority support in both chambers of the legislature. Activists across the state are hosting local rallies to urge Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousin and Assembly Speaker Carl Heatsie to bring the Health Act to a vote this year.

Based on conservative estimates on the economics of the NY Health act from the RAND Corporation, NY State will see $11 billion in annual savings compared to the current for-profit system.

By establishing a universal healthcare system, the New York Health Act will address the structural roots of healthcare inequity by makes healthcare a right guaranteed for every New Yorkers regardless of age, wealth, place of employment, or immigration status.

Participants included the following individuals who made statements in support of the Rally in Syracuse for the New York Health Act:

Marianna Pernia, MD: “The statistics tell a sobering truth – that 40% of covid deaths could have been prevented if only we had had a universal publicly funded health system for everyone. And we know that pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, which highlights the disproportionate lack of access to resources and healthcare that we must correct.  We have an urgent need in NY State to fund comprehensive universal healthcare for everyone in the state regardless of age, race, wealth, or immigration status.”

Star Lewis, Certified Nursing Assistant, Member Political Organizer 1199SEIU: “We’ve seen what it’s like to have free healthcare for the COVID-19 vaccine. None of us was asked to pay for this life saving vaccine. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that when we need healthcare services, we are covered for everything we need? With the New York Health Act we won’t need to worry about going into crippling medical debt or being denied coverage for medical attention.”

Rev. Eric Jackson, Plymouth Congregational Church: “As we start to turn the corner on the worst health crisis we’ve seen in the last one hundred years…we need to commit to taking care of one another. The time is now for our elected leaders to pass universal, single-payer healthcare.”

Rev. Bernard Alex, Victory Temple Fellowship Church: “We saw during the pandemic that black and brown communities suffered a disproportionate number of people dying. And our people were suffering before. It makes no sense that in the richest country in the world, we do not have guaranteed healthcare. We need our elected leaders to make universal healthcare a reality now.”

Elana Sitnik, President, Students for a National Health Program SUNY Upstate: “I first became interested in universal single-payer healthcare while working as a registrar in a large urban emergency department and I saw a patient being rolled off the ambulance screaming that they could not pay and to please let them go. I entered the medical field to take care of people. That’s why we are working so hard to become good doctors. We don’t want insurance companies between us and our patients. The time to pass the New York Health Act is now!”

Michael Greene, Syracuse Common Councilor at-Large, Finance Chair: “We have hundreds of employees and we are spending tens of millions of dollars to provide health insurance. If we were not spending that money to buy private insurance and healthcare was provided by New York State, we could invest in transportation, we could improve housing, we could improve the Citizen Review Board, all these things. When you look at the racial inequity in Syracuse, our healthcare system is broken and exacerbates the inequities. Medical debt impacts black and brown communities disproportionately. The time to pass the New York Health Act is now!”

Elaine Denton, Manlius Town Board: “In the town of Manlius, health care costs have nearly doubled in the last ten years from 1.2 million to 2.2 million dollars. Now imagine the savings when we pass the NY health act – savings we can return to you by reducing taxes, and funding services for our communities. The Town of Manlius could save approximately 1.8 million dollars every year. Onondaga county could save over 150 million dollars.”

Ursula Rozum, Co-Director Campaign for New York Health: “We have a historic opportunity in New York to respond to the pain and trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic by passing the New YorK Health Act to make healthcare a guaranteed right for everybody in our state, so that everyone has the peace of mind that they are covered, no matter our age, place of employment or immigration status. The New York Health Act has majority support in the state Assembly and the State Senate. It’s time for Majority Leader Stewart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Heastie to bring the Health Act to a vote!”

Credit: Ray Trudell pictures


48 Hours: 13-Year-Old Girl Dies After being Stabbed, 15-year-Old Boy Shot and Killed- A Statement from Mayor Walsh


2nd violent teen death in 48 Hours rock city of Syracuse. On Friday, May 21st, a 15-year-old Radames Francisco was shot on Shonnard Street. He was later pronounced dead at Upstate University Hospital. Today May 24, Syracuse Police Officers responded to the 1200 block of W. Onondaga St. for a call of a Stabbing. Upon their arrival, they learned that a 13-year-old female had been stabbed during some sort of physical disturbance. She was transported to Upstate University Hospital, by AMR Ambulance, where she was subsequently pronounced dead.

According to VCU Health, Facts and Statistics on Youth Violence “When not accounting for race, unintentional injury (57.6%) is the leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24 in the United States, with homicide coming in second (20.2%). But for black youth, homicide (55.3%) continues to be the leading cause of death.”

Syracuse has a long history of challenges with youth violence. According to the Associated Press, “from 2014 through June 2017, 48 youths aged 12 to 17 in Syracuse were killed or injured in gun violence.”  Information compiled by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive identifies Syracuse rate of teen shootings “per capita is more than double those seen in the vast majority of U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more.”

Recent violent deaths of teens have struck a nerve in this city and triggered a statement from Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh.  In his brief message he calls attention to what we are seeing,  “In Syracuse right now, we have children and families in crisis. They are living in constant trauma in circumstances made worse by the stress and disruption of the last year.” The Mayor’s statement ends by saying “We must and will do more.”

Statement by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh: 

Mayor Ben Walsh

“In recent days, we have lost two teenagers to acts of violence involving other teens. Tonight, the victim was a 13 year old girl. This weekend, we lost a 15 year old boy. My prayers are with the victims and their families, as well as all of those touched by these tragedies.

In Syracuse right now, we have children and families in crisis. They are living in constant trauma in circumstances made worse by the stress and disruption of the last year. As a community, we need to give them refuge. We need to teach our children to value their own lives and the lives of others. We need to show them they are cared for in our homes, schools, community centers, places of worship and even in our streets. The City and the Syracuse Police are working closely with our community partners to protect and support our youth. We must and will do more.”


Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh Vetoes ‘Mural Project’ Amendment in fiscal year 2021-22 budget


It appears that after consideration, the $75,000 Mural Project of sports figures will be vetoed by Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. There has been a spirited debate on social media and among  resident observers regarding the merits of this project. There were claims that it would be an “economic development boost” to downtown Syracuse.

6 of 9 members of the Syracuse Common Council voted for this amendment. The mural project was not unveiled to the public until the last minute. Initial calls from the Council were to take funds earmarked for Economic Development and allocate them to the mural.

The mural was not without its detractors, not unlike the famed American patriot, Paul Revere; local entrepreneur Rickey Brown sounded the alarm, “The Mural is coming, the mural is coming” figuratively riding a horse down the middle of S. Salina Street, ringing a loud bell.

An erroneous report on Fox News today, stated that the Council and Mayor had approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), funds for the mural project. Late this afternoon Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh issued the following statement:

“Today, I signed the budget ordinance for the fiscal year 2021-22 City of Syracuse budget. I thank the Common Council for its timely review and adoption of the budget. I am pleased to see my Administration’s budget enacted to help our residents and City continue their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In anticipation of funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), I signed amendments to address housing challenges worsened by the pandemic. I vetoed the amendment to fund a mural project using ARPA funds for two reasons. I have expressed reservations about the process used to prioritize the project since it was first presented by members of the Common Council.  In addition, upon reviewing the ARPA interim guidance issued after the Council’s budget vote, it appears unlikely the project is eligible under the federal guidelines. 

I continue to believe arts and culture should be assisted as a part of our recovery plan. I reaffirm my commitment to ensuring the local arts and culture community is provided equitable access to available resources through our recovery plan. I will also ensure that any expenditure using ARPA funds is made in compliance with federal guidelines and allocated, in accordance with the City Charter, as part of an open and transparent process.”


As New York State Adopts CDC Mask and Social Distancing Guidance, Governor Cuomo Announces 62% of Adult New Yorkers and 51% of All Eligible New Yorkers Have Received at Least One COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

109,748 Doses Administered in the Last 24 Hours   

800,437 Doses Administered Over Past Seven Days

845 Doses Administered on First Day of Expanded MTA Vaccinations Program

Vaccine Dashboard Updated Daily on the State’s Vaccine Program Here

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced 62 percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older and 51 percent of all vaccine-eligible New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 109,748 doses have been administered across the state’s vast distribution network in the last 24 hours, and 800,437 doses have been administered statewide over the past seven days. 845 doses were administered at MTA station stops on May 18, the first day of the expansion of the successful pilot program.

“As we hit a major milestone in reopening our state, it’s important to remember that our progress on vaccinations has been a key component in making this big comeback possible,” Governor Cuomo said. “Reopening does not in any way mean that getting vaccinated has become less urgent. As always, we are continuing to work with community leaders and organizations to make sure the vaccine is accessible to every New Yorker, and our providers are working around the clock to administer more shots. If you still need to get your shot, you just have to show up at one of our many sites across the state and roll up your sleeve.”

All New York State mass vaccination sites are now open to eligible New Yorkers for walk-in vaccination on a first come first serve basis. The walk-in appointments are reserved for first doses only with second doses to be scheduled automatically after administration of the initial shot. In addition, all vaccine providers are encouraged to allow walk-in appointments for eligible New Yorkers. People who would prefer to schedule an appointment at a state-run mass vaccination site can do so on the Am I Eligible App or by calling 1-833-NYS-4-VAX. People may also contact their local health department, pharmacy, doctor or hospital to schedule appointments where vaccines are available, or visit vaccines.gov to find information on vaccine appointments near them.

Statewide Breakdown

  • Total doses administered – 17,854,772
  • Total doses administered over past 24 hours – 109,748
  • Total doses administered over past 7 days – 800,437
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with at least one vaccine dose – 62.2%
  • Percent of New Yorkers ages 18 and older with completed vaccine series – 53.0%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with at least one vaccine dose – 50.5%
  • Percent of all New Yorkers with completed vaccine series – 42.5%
People with at least one vaccine dose
People with complete vaccine series
Region
Cumulative
Total
Increase over past
24 hours
Cumulative
Total
Increase over past
24 hours
Capital Region
598,675
4,178
513,854
5,011
Central New York
477,949
1,807
422,917
1,898
Finger Lakes
605,463
2,889
528,694
2,878
Long Island
1,309,576
8,165
1,063,590
13,898
Mid-Hudson
1,072,743
6,350
889,701
8,167
Mohawk Valley
234,812
1,064
207,605
1,359
New York City
4,611,038
21,766
3,832,833
25,427
North Country
215,151
734
195,390
627
Southern Tier
311,262
1,355
273,529
2,517
Western New York
643,242
2,226
545,644
3,758
Statewide
10,079,911
50,534
8,473,757
65,540
 
                                                                                               
1st doses fully delivered to New York Providers 
2nd doses fully delivered to New York Providers 
TOTAL
CUMULATIVE
Week 1
Doses arriving 12/14 – 12/20
163,650
0
163,650
163,650
Week 2
Doses arriving 12/21 – 12/27
452,125
0
452,125 
615,775
Week 3
Doses arriving 12/28 – 1/03
227,395
0
227,395
843,170
Week 4
Doses arriving 1/04 – 1/10
239,025
165,150
404,175
1,247,345
Week 5
Doses arriving 1/11 – 1/17
221,315
119,925
341,240
1,588,585
Week 6
Doses arriving
1/18- 1/24
250,400
462,395
712,795
2,301,380
Week 7
Doses arriving
1/25 – 1/31
260,150
239,525
499,675
2,801,055
Week 8
Doses arriving
2/01 – 2/07
321,850
220,720
542,570
3,343,625
Week 9
Doses arriving
2/8 – 2/14
320,000
244,500
564,500
3,908,125
Week 10
Doses arriving
2/15 – 2/21
356,990
265,525
622,515
4,530,640
Week 11
Doses arriving
2/22 – 2/28
393,530
305,780
699,310
5,229,950
Week 12
Doses arriving
3/01 – 3/07
1,020,660
290,500
1,311,160
6,541,110
Week 13 Doses arriving 3/08 – 3/14
618,880
526,415
1,145,295
7,686,405
Week 14 Doses arriving 3/15 – 3/21
699,790
584,775
1,284,565
8,970,970
Week 15 Doses arriving 3/22 – 3/28
828,000
737,080
1,565,080
10,536,050
Week 16 Doses arriving 3/29 – 4/04
819,800
569,905
1,389,705 
11,925,755
Week 17 Doses arriving 4/05 – 4/12
1,068,455
658,770
1,727,225
13,652,980
Week 18 Doses
arriving 4/12 – 4/18
763,825
774,825
1,538,650
15,191,630
Week 19 Doses
arriving 4/12 – 4/18
738,340
507,620
1,245,960
16,437,590
Week 20 Doses
arriving 4/19 – 5/02
757,005
662,790
1,419,795
17,857,385
Week 21 Doses
arrived 5/03 – 5/09
451,100
556,950
1,008,050
18,865,435
Week 22 Doses
arrived 5/10 – 5/16
417,070
509,380
926,450
19,791,885

The COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker Dashboard is available to update New Yorkers on the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The New York State Department of Health requires vaccinating facilities to report all COVID-19 vaccine administration data within 24 hours; the vaccine administration data on the dashboard is updated daily to reflect the most up-to-date metrics in the state’s vaccination effort.

New Yorkers who suspect fraud in the vaccine distribution process can call 833-VAX-SCAM (833-829-7226) toll-free or email the state Department of Health at STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov. Hotline staff will route complaints to the appropriate investigative agencies to ensure New Yorkers are not being taken advantage of as the State works to vaccinate the entire eligible population.


Mural, Mural on the Wall

There’s money available for economic development made possible by recent Congressional appropriation, spending it on a mural made by a millionaire is a gross misuse of “recovery funds”. This spending does nothing to get our community out of the pandemic induced recession. $75,000 could buy a lot when 31% of its residents live in poverty, only 68% with internet, our per capita income is only $23,090. We lead the nation in concentrated poverty. I have nothing against those being memorialized by this piece of art, or Mr. Malfitano. However, snatching money from Recovery funds for this project is fundamentally flawed. How many local people going to benefit from this? Was this the intention for the funds awarded by Congress? A $75,000 mural not even painted by a local artist, Jonas Never is Los Angeles based.

Spending recovery funds for this project is wrong when our children do not have basics. What about us? The residents of Syracuse? We have so many issues that we can afford to place pictures on buildings with public funds? I’m saying, no. If the project has merit and community support then they should be capable of raising the funds for the mural.

We’ve invested in a new stadium at Fowler High School in clear view S. Geddes Street. Large portions of the street suffer from urban blight.  And yet, a mural is going to give us a little more civic pride.

We have serious problems in this city, especially in Pat Hogan’s Common Council 2nd District. Raw sewage seeping into the basement of homeowners is not unusual. Junk yards in areas zoned residential occupy the 2nd District like tumbleweeds comingled with urine-soaked store entries at Geddes Street Plaza. While people are living in the nastiest housing conditions imaginable in some of our largest apartment complexes and yet a mural takes priority.

What’s the benefit to the city by having sports figures on a wall? No public hearings, do we have any say? How many Black owned businesses could be helped by that money? Hmmm? How many meetings were held? Any public meetings? No.

Mr. Hogan is quoted as saying the mural is good for…of all things “economic development.” 10 businesses could have received grants of $7,500 from the city for their pandemic recovery efforts. 3 minority businesses could be given grants of up to $25,000 for their business inventory or other ancillary business purpose. And let us not forget our brick-and-mortar arts community, they provide true economic development through their productions.

Common Councilor Pat Hogan is also quoted talking about these athletes as “pioneers for social justice” and that the mural will “allow the community to look forward to the future while remembering the past”.

There are so many other uses for $75,000 that could benefit our community, that would meet the criteria of recovery. Somehow this mural leapfrogged over other concerns and became a priority.  We had news coverage when the NAACP gave a city school 4 computers for needy students. $75,000 could have purchased 357 Chromebook computers for Syracuse City School District students. Instead, they can go look at a mural.


Is There Reluctance by African Americans to take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Urbancny speaks with Dr. Sharon Brangman of Upstate Medial University about the Covid-19 Vaccine

From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the announcement that the government would back efforts to develop a vaccine at “warp speed”. Black people were skeptical about a mass vaccination campaign. Initial rumor mill stories recalled the Tuskegee experiment purposely giving Black men syphilis, spending 40 years studying the effects. A recent Pew Survey indicates that 61% of Blacks either had already been vaccinated or are planning on getting the vaccine, this is an increase from earlier polling at 42%. This is a direct contradiction of anecdotal stories of massive reluctance by the Black community to vaccinate. Special efforts have been made to dispel the myth of conspiracy theories involving a multitude of unfounded chatter. Including Bill Gates (rumored) desire to place microchips into our brains to be activated by 5G signals. A tiny microchip will then be in our bodies for government tracking.

These aforementioned excuses according to authorities in the medical field aren’t behind the lack of participation by African Americans and Hispanic populations. Black & Brown people are not getting vaccinated at the same rates as whites. The concern among many in the healthcare community is the availability of the vaccine in the Black community. NPR reported in an analysis that “vaccine hubs especially in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama were not located in Black and Hispanic communities”.

Digital Divide: Registration Requires the Internet

Another concern among healthcare advocates is the fact that for many to register for the Covid-19 vaccine, registration by computer is required. That challenge is being handled by placing “pop-up” vaccination centers in areas where populations are difficult to reach. Many pharmacy chains, grocery stores, churches and stadiums have become alternative locations for getting the vaccine to populations that may otherwise be left out while wealthier whites commandeer the supply of available vaccine.

Special care has been taken to enlighten the minority communities of the importance of getting your shot, with a myriad of celebrities taking to the airwaves to reassure the public that the vaccine is safe and effective.

An African-American Healthcare Professional Dr. Sharon Brangman, Upstate Medical University discussing Covid-19 and the importance of getting the vaccine

According to Dr. Sharon Brangman of Upstate Medical University, “The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. That (Vaccine) was made quickly, but it wasn’t rushed. Our tax dollars were put behind the development of this vaccine and that helped streamline some of the processes that take years. With our tax dollars behind it, it helped push it through more efficiently. The process to make this vaccine has been around for about 30 years. So, it’s not like a new experimental treatment. When I tell people that it’s been around a while, then they feel a little bit better.

It is not like a standard vaccine which you might have heard of, where they incubate it in an egg and they wait several weeks or months to get the right amount incubated. This is made with a little piece of the genetic material from the spike protein on the corona virus, and since it’s made from a little bit of the protein, it’s not the whole virus, There’s no way you can get the coronavirus from getting this vaccine. What they do, is they use a little bit of that virus and they process it in a way so that when it’s injected into your body, your body sees it as a foreign object, and it starts to mount a response to it. So, that when and if you’re ever exposed to the virus again your body will remember it and will start to attack it. And It’s using a different technique that people are afraid that it’s going to change your genes or something. It does not change your genes.

Without getting too technical; this is a MRNA vaccine, but it does not change your DNA, and the DNA is what is our genetic material. This has nothing to do with that. When a virus is tested usually, the side effects that are going to happen are going to occur within the first 6 to 8 weeks. So, they did a study  starting in July of 2020 they gave it to 44,000 people across the country and across the world. Within the first 6- 8 weeks there were no serious side effects, some people had soreness in their arms where they got the injection. And no serious side effects. So, the safety was confirmed. And then they followed these people and found out that those that got the vaccine had significantly lower rates of getting covid, and if someone did get covid, they didn’t get it in such a severe way that they had to go into the hospital and be put on a ventilator.”

Disproportional Impact on African Americans

“It prevents you from getting that severe life threatening covid. And we know that covid has had a disproportional impact on African Americans. This is not because we have a genetic or a biological difference. It’s because of socio-economic status; where we work, where we live, what our jobs are, how we get to our jobs. Those are usually, jobs and living arrangements that put Black people on the front lines, in contact with the public in a way where you’re more likely to be exposed to the virus. So, here’s a chance to prevent you from dying from the virus.

Some people have been concerned that they’re “targeting Black people” Because some of the initial language was that they wanted to target African Americans. For some people when they hear the words “target African Americans” it’s usually not something good. I think that’s unfortunate language, that doesn’t mean this is a bad vaccine. Some people have said, ‘ yeah, they’re gonna bring a different load of vaccine to Black neighborhoods than they give out in the white neighborhoods in the suburbs.’  That is one of those trust issues. I don’t have any information that this is happening. You can get your vaccine in one of the big vaccine centers that take care of everyone. There are efforts to bring the vaccine into communities where people may not have transportation or have the ability to get out to the Fairgrounds. I don’t have any information that Black people may be getting a different vaccine than other people. “

Reduce Your Chance of Dying

“I think those are just trust issues. There are some validities to having some concerns about the healthcare system, because the healthcare system does not always treat Black people and people of color appropriately. But I think in the case of this vaccine; it’s safe, it works, it can significantly reduce your chance of dying and getting serious disease.”