• Malmgren Concert Black History Month
  • CSEA_Help Wanted_Labor Relations
  • Land Bank - Restoring Properties
  • Syracuse Stage Murder on the Orient Express
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Urban CNY-Survey 2.0 LinkedIn-530 x 75 px
  • 5 for CNY - Learn How

Celebrating Urban Life Since 1989

Menu Hamburger White
  • Syracuse Stage Murder on the Orient Express
  • 5 for CNY - Learn How
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Malmgren Concert Black History Month
  • Urban CNY-Survey 2.0 LinkedIn-530 x 75 px
  • Land Bank - Restoring Properties
  • CSEA_Help Wanted_Labor Relations

Khalid Bey: The Un-Common Councilor

Running for his third term, Khalid Bey has embodied the persona of the constituent legislator. For anyone who’s observed a Syracuse Common Councilor, they can barely move without someone stopping them. Being positioned closest to the people, they get it all; from job creation to gun violence people expect a lot from their locally elected representatives.

Khalid Bey approaches every question with an answer wrapped in a discussion, garnished with a solution.

Bey explained how he viewed his tenure on the Syracuse Common Council, “The biggest accomplishment so far and the most valuable thing in my opinion about being elected, is having the opportunity to re-educate and re- acclimate people to the process.”

During his first term in office, Bey took Commissioners of the major departments to meet with constituents in each ward within the 4th Council District; these included: Parks, D.P.W. Code Enforcement and Water; a lieutenant or caption from Police Department and Chief of Staff from the Syracuse City School District.  City officials were fielding questions from constituents. According to Bey, ”The constituents who attended appreciated it, especially for people who had been dealing with some issues for a long time, some had been dealing with issues for months, and received deliverables in 2 days. You’re not only empowering people, but to slowly restore people’s faith in government representation. “

Khalid stopped for a moment to reminisce about how politics has made an impact on those around him, and what he’s hearing, “Just yesterday, I was walking through Kirk Park (where I’m a coach) and I ran into three guys I went to high school with we started talking about Government.  It was satisfying just to see their excitement when they’re empowered with an understanding of how things work and about opportunities. People don’t think there’s opportunity here.”

The Role of a Common Council Member

Khalid wasted no time, jumping feet first in what he feels his responsibility is as a member of the council.  He’s quietly focused on legislation, as he explains, “Our primary responsibility is legislating; constituent services, which is not in the general job description is equally as important. I’ve done some decent pieces of legislation that I’m proud of because I think residents see it as a chance to restore the quality of life, and I’m talking about the Disorderly Property Law it was initially for residential properties, we rewrote it to be applicable to businesses also. It was a 100 year old law we stumbled upon”.

At opening of city's newest park, "Sankofa Park"
At opening of city’s newest park, “Sankofa Park”

Bey is most animated when discussing quality of life issues and what he’s proposed to address the issue, “This ‘Disorderly Property Law’ was on the books for over 100 years and therefore it pre-dates the Nuisance Abatement Law. The Nuisance Abatement Law allowed the city to take more aggressive action against properties. However, the original Nuisance Abatement Law to some was deemed not effective enough to deter some of the issues they’re dealing with surrounding not just stores, but problem properties period. “

Adding more detail Bey continues, “For so many years people have been frustrated with nuisance abatement enforcement. We restructured the old Disorderly Property ordinance to fit today. It was initially intended for residential properties we amended it to include commercial properties, obviously to deal with some of our issues around corner stores and similar businesses. This is a different kind of approach, instead of the same old targeting the individual which Police would do anyway if they’re disruptive or committing a crime.  It invokes the support of the property owner and makes them responsible for the behavior or activity on their property. It applies to owner occupied properties and well as rental properties.”

Khalid Bey with Mayor Miner at Sankofa Park
Khalid Bey with Mayor Miner at Sankofa Park

The Nuisance Abatement Law allowed the city to take more aggressive action against properties however; it required a high standard before the city can act.

4th District Common Council member then dove into policy and the attempt to enforce the law, “The struggle with enforcing Nuisance abatement was the inability to track and capture the violation. You have to have 3 felony arrests afforded to your property in a year. Disorderly Property Law, if your property receives 1 arrest and 2 additional emergency calls. You will get a letter from the Chief of Police requesting a meeting to take corrective action. If the property owner doesn’t comply, they will be taken to court, where there they can be held in contempt. The value of this is it makes Nuisance Abatement enforceable.”

Workforce Development

There have been recent reports that Syracuse’s poverty rate among African-American has risen at an alarming rate.  What can the Syracuse Common Council do to address this crisis?

Bey talks about investing on the people, “There’s no way to improve our city’s financial health absent an improved workforce. The governor and president both are calling for municipalities to be more self-sufficient. In order for cities to get stronger they need to improve their workforce.”

Sounding fiscally conservative, he weighs in on the current financial health of the city of Syracuse, “We’ve been guilty of corporate welfare. We’ve been heavily dependent on state and Feds, to the point where when they pull the money out, we can’t function anymore.”

“Quality of life, is the ultimate goal overall. No matter whether you’re talking about jobs, reduction in crime, nice neighborhoods, or snow removal, you’re talking about quality of life; that’s the crux of the issue. As an elected official, if it’s not your intent to improve quality of life and leave money in your constituent’s pocket, then you’re in the wrong business. If you’re a banker, you don’t get into banking to lose your clients money. They hire you to make adequate investments. “He continues explaining the impact of Syracuse’s high number of tax exempt properties, “56% of our properties are non-taxable which means 44% are carrying the load”

The Case for Empowering Local People

Bey echoes the concerns his constituents have about Syracuse and the use of public money. His solution is to invest directly in residents who are in need of a job, “The best use of public money is worker responsive training, because you (the people) are the government’s resource of revenue. We have a habit of putting Band-Aids over open wounds.  We seek new talent without dealing with existing talent. We ignore people who are committed to living here, they can’t get jobs and opportunity, but you want to attract new people; it’s like putting a new roof on a termite infested house. The house is still falling down; you have to deal with the crux of the issue. We have to empower the people who live here and plan to remain here.”

Khalid Bey
Khalid Bey

This year each District Councilor was allotted $7,000 from CDBG funds; an idea suggest by Bey during last year’s budget discussions. Other Councilors simply added money to existing CDBG recipients. Bey took his funds and requested that the Administration write an RFP which he believes Rural Metro may have won, to train 10 people. Bey hopes that this effort will produce a match by another agency which will net 20 jobs.

Bey pivots to numbers describing Syracuse’s dire economic situation, “Last year in 2014, we were 3 points higher than the state average in unemployment at 8.9., that’s about 12,500 people unemployed. Our per capita Income rate for 2014 was $17,600. I know it sounds simplistic you’ll never get everyone into the workforce, but you only need a 3% reduction to see a real change.  Image if we were able to get 12,500 people jobs and paid them at the then per capita rate of $17,600, that would have been $226 million in taxable income. This would have produced 18 million in revenue, which happens to have been our city’s budget deficit last year. “

Bey’s solution to our greatest challenge in our city’s history is to be innovative, concentrate our efforts on job creation and worker education, “The greatest thing we can do to improve our city, is improve the conditions of its people. If I can make you and your family sustainable, our city would eventually become sustainable. “

While upbeat about the city’s future, Bey recognizes the public’s frustration and desire for quick solutions, “We don’t have the patience for incremental victories. That’s what we don’t have, absent that we’re in trouble.”

Giving one example, Bey has proposed restructuring the workday for some city workers, “some people have become experts at squeezing a 7 to 8 hour work day into 4 hours. What’s left undone during the day then becomes work for overtime pay. By reconfiguring their workday, the city would reduce overtime costs to the taxpayer.”

Khalid Bey has a saying, “If we see different, we’ll think different, and we’ll be different. If those elected see Government differently, then it would be different. Public office is not your badge or means of validating your existence. “

 

 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE

A Celebration of Black Icons in Dance

Community Folk Art Center 805 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, NY, United States

Join Classical Dance Trailblazer, Charles Haislah, The Creative Arts Academy, and CFAC-DanceLab for an evening of captivating performances and dance history. This event is free and open to the community!

Free and open to the community

Local, State & National


Resources

Neighborhoods

Features

Contact Us