Consent by Silence

As the beginning of Fall arrives there’s an air of confusion – and at times confrontation – in our city, state and nation.

Look at the small encampment of people protesting Wall Street and the influence and impact of big money. In New York City and other communities across this land, people are acting out the catch phrase from the movie “Network”: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.’

In Syracuse, a group of activists worked with senior citizens in an effort to make their voices heard. The same is happening on the corner of Colvin and South Salina streets, where business investments could be hampered by closing the U.S. Post Office there. This postal station attracts customers from beyond the business district and could be the anchor and catalyst for revitalizing of the area. But not if it’s closed.

We watch in awe as properties once deemed unlivable (when they were under the banner of “affordable housing”) become prime real estate, as University Hospital converts these units into housing to address expanding needs near their facility. The African-American community that once extended almost to the War Memorial and all along the East Washington Street Corridor, Harrison, Madison, Adams, Almond and Townsend streets were all affordable housing at one time.

The poor, black, brown and urban residents have begun to merge into this uncommon alliance with activity unseen since the anti-war protests of the past. Those reading this column may think I’m engaging in hyperbole, exaggerating the impact of future events and actions.

But the landscape is about to become thick with activism. Especially since the consensus of the average citizens is that government doesn’t work for them, or it’s always the well-connected that get the breaks, regardless of how hard the average people may work.

The upcoming local elections will be a barometer of how the public is feeling. This is the first measure of the temperament of people locally in two years. While turnout may be light, those showing up will be the voters most energized and motivated by their candidate. With the right combination of newly elected Common Council members and incumbents, the Syracuse Common Council would be the epitome of what Bette Davis said in the movie “All About Eve:” ‘fasten your seat belts its going to be a bumpy night.’

Over the next four years people and businesses are going to be displaced from their homes to make way for future development and displacement. No one will hang a sign saying, “this is the site of future gentrification,” but follow the money and investment and you’ll see upper income people flocking to newly developed apartments and condos.

Downtown will be transformed and you’ll need money to live there. Those who remain in the way of development will be hidden out of site at a bus transfer site and other business owners will be priced out of their sites, complicated by the fact their customers may not walk the three blocks for a donut.

The old 15th Ward is now among the most valuable real estate in the area. People from the old urban renewal areas were scattered, many landing on the South Side along a strip that runs parallel to Route 81. With a 1-mile strip of housing occupied by working class people along with voluminous traffic that runs down that street every day you’d think there would be more economic development. All the elements of success exist in these locations, including a population that spends more than $3 to $5 million out of the area each year. People in the city have the opportunity to affect change by voting next month. Are you going to say, “we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore” or sit at home and simply consent by your silence?

October 10,2011