The late Syracuse Post-Standard Columnist Robert Haggart once stated, the Common Council is “Syracuse’s most deliberative body” according to Columnist Dick Case,“while tongue firmly planted in cheek”, in an 18-year-old missive about the legendary columnist. Dick Case died in December 2019. And the Syracuse Common Council is still deliberating. The latest “deliberative” action attributed to the Syracuse Common Council comes from a review of the selection process for the recently vacated position of Councilor-At-Large. The position represents the entire city of Syracuse on the council.
When the position became vacant, there was the usual perfunctory “call for resumes” from interested democrats in Syracuse. And as usual, in good faith an impressive group of individuals placed their names in for consideration. After a review of submitted vita, finalists were selected, the final two. What was astonishing to many is not who’s on the list, but the number of people “dissed” that had no opportunity to present to either the Syracuse Common Council or the public via Webex.
Now, there are accusations that the process had a pre-determined conclusion. How and why? Accusations that there has been outside influence by the person hired by the Council to look over the city of Syracuse official affairs. The Syracuse City Clerk is in charge of how documents are filed, official city processes and procedures, who receives resume’s and more importantly, reviews and assists the Council in the presentation of any candidate.
Instead of the term applying only to Republicans rushing through a nominee to the US Supreme Court. The scenario becomes equally applicable to Democrats in the city of Syracuse, rushing through and selecting nominee finalists, bypassing long-time active members of the urban community.
Multiple sources have reported that the process was “fixed” from the beginning and that any application for a position on the Council was an “exercise in futility”.
Who’s Running the Common Council?
Is it true that our “brother’s and sister’s” on the Syracuse Common Council aren’t’ really running the legislative arm of the city? Is it true that they are not even drafting their own legislation? If not, “other’s” have filled that function, and that creates a shadow government, an extra invisible vote in an election we never witness. This alleged clandestine government is in violation of Open Meeting Laws that were put in place to prevent officials from informally stacking the deck, enabling secretive actions inevitably codified by an entire elected body.
What’s more amazing about the list from which the Council had to choose, is the fact that these candidates won’t even get an interview. We the residents, will not get to listen to the ideas presented by Philip Prehn, an advocate for the disabled, decades long community activism through Syracuse United Neighbors. Frank Cetera, a man who has Syracuse dirt under his nails; as he’s planted gardens, shoveled snow on South Geddes calling attention to the lack of passable sidewalks, a board member of the Syracuse Federal Credit Union. Frank, constantly works to improve life in Syracuse through his direct action in the aforementioned areas. Walter Dixie, Executive Director of Jubilee Homes, responsible for the addition of dozens of new homes and has been involved with economic development initiatives including Blueprint 15. That’s just a sampling of those who submitted their names for consideration. It doesn’t matter, the most deliberative body in Syracuse has spoken, or has it? As one applicant stated, “Looks like the Council’s lawyered up”.
What happens to activists in Syracuse is simple. Established political leaders use activists’ bodies as protection, draping them over the political barbed wire, as they make their way to a political destination. Your chances are better submitting your name to Publishers Clearing House, “You Too, Can Be a winner!”; Then applying to fill a vacancy on the Syracuse Common Council.
This is the list as posted by syracuse.com Ronnie White, Jr. and Adam Crowley are the finalists.
- Bob Andrews – Andrews spent two years as director of intergovernmental affairs for Mayor Walsh. Prior to that, he held the same position for the Onondaga County Water Authority. He briefly served as an Onondaga County Legislator.
- Kristen Andrzejewski – Andrzejewski is the former owner of the Armory Square dessert spot Sugar & Co. She’s detailed plans to run for the council in 2021 on a platform based on supporting small businesses.
- Rasheada Caldwell – Caldwell is the mother of Rasheed Baker, who was gunned down at 21 years old in 2017. His murder is still unsolved and has left many struggling to find answers. Caldwell started an organization called “Let Me Be Great,” that helps young people succeed. She’s spoken out often against gun violence in the city.
- Frank Cetera – Cetera works for New York Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College, where he consults for small and medium sized businesses. He’s also board president of Cooperative Federal Credit Union. Cetera has run for council several times on the Green Party line.
- Adam Crowley – Crowley is a lawyer who has worked for Legal Services of Central New York and practiced corporate litigation in New York City. He’s currently an academic advisor in the Renée Crown University Honors Program at Syracuse University.
- Alfonso Davis – Davis is a Syracuse insurance agent who sought the Democratic Party line for mayor in the last three mayoral races.
- Walt Dixie – Dixie is executive director of Jubilee Homes, a non-for-profit that has built nearly 100 homes mostly on the city’s South Side.
- Alexandra Dukat – Dukat is the marketing and outreach coordinator at CNY Fair Housing and a founding member of Vera House’s Survivor’s Network. Dukat helped organize the Clothesline Project, which gives voice to victims of sexual assault.
- Isaiah Jones – Jones is a counselor at the SUNY Educational Opportunity Center with a law degree from Syracuse University.
- Maureen Polech Marion – Marion is a spokeswoman for the United States Postal Service in Upstate New York, New England and the Caribbean.
- Jordan Pagan – Pagan is a recent graduate of SUNY Binghamton who worked last year as an intern in the Syracuse Planning Division. Pagan has a degree in urban planning and is currently working as a Covid-19 contact tracer.
- Philip Prehn – Prehn is a disability rights advocate who works for ARISE Inc.
- Michael Sgro – Sgro is a leadership coach in downtown Syracuse who helps people develop their professional skills and careers.
- Jay Subedi – Subedi is a small business owner who ran unsuccessfully against Joe Carni for the council’s 1st district seat last year. Subedi was born in Bhutan and came here as a refugee. He has been an active leader in the refugee community for years.
- Ronnie White Jr. – The council hired White, an attorney, this summer as its own legal counsel after a spat with the city’s top lawyers over the Right to Know law. White is a solo practitioner who previously worked for Mackenzie Hughes law firm and for the Onondaga County law department.