Councilor-at-Large and President Pro Tempore Khalid Bey’s Repose to Mayor Walsh’s State of the City Address 2021

The COVID pandemic has made government operations tough and this year’s State of the City Address was not exempt.

Most of my Council colleagues missed at least the first nine (9)minutes of the address, because the links provided did not take us directly to the live feed. Nevertheless, I listened to the Mayor’s address and would like to point out the following in my response:

  1. The Mayor began with a discussion on police reform citing his Executive Order that he claims satisfied all of the expressed public concerns. Despite what was arguably a misuse of the Executive Order, Efforts by the Council to pass the Right to Know act not only met with major opposition from the administration, but to date is more than a month delayed in its implementation.
  1. While we appreciate the mentioning of the sales tax agreement with the County, the Steam School, Syracuse Build and Syracuse Surge, this appeared to be no more than a repeat of ideas presented in the previous year’s State of the City Address. There has been no recognizable movement to date.
  1. Though the efforts by the Administration and select members of the Council to bring the JMA Project to the South Side is to be applauded, it was not a part of the Syracuse Surge plan but is indeed a bonus and will be an absolute benefit to the city.
  1. The Mayor’s mentioning a $1.5 Million surplus prior to COVID -19 was disingenuous. The $1.5 million was a projection and not actual. The City was already facing a deficit pre COVID and as a result of COVID accumulated an even greater deficit. As a result this Administration requested a greater use of the City’s reserves, furloughed workers and cut services.
  1. The fact that this Mayor still argues in favor of a Police contract that even our State Delegates thought was troubling further validates this Administration’s tendency toward questionable ideals.
  1. The promotion of an idea to build 200 brand new one- and two-family houses is exciting, except the City does not have access to capital to complete such a massive project. Furthermore, I mentioned to this Administration a couple years back that former HUD Secretary Ben Carson had given $30 million to Norfolk (VA) to improve its failing housing infrastructure. When Former Secretary Carson visited Syracuse, this Administration sat by in the meeting and allowed the County Executive to speak on behalf of the City. The County Executive secured $9 Million for lead removal, which is sorely needed, but what a missed opportunity.
  1. The Mayor mentioned that ReZone will be presented to the Council this year, but to my knowledge concerns about gentrification which could be caused by the new have not been adequately addressed. It instead appears to push poor people out of their neighborhoods, in the name of neighborhood revitalization. This idea is too similar to the past Urban Renewal that resulted in the displacement of the old 15th Ward residents and the construction of a viaduct that has proven to be more detrimental to the health and well-being of those living in close proximity.

Considering all that was mentioned, issues that are most important to residents like jobs, neighborhood safety, and a practical housing revitalization plan are not detailed. Instead, what we heard was a repeat of previously presented ideas. We need more action.