Merit Badge

Khalid Bey was attacked by the Onondaga County Executive for not doing what he can to create jobs in his district. Ms. Mahoney went on the say that was the reason why she was supporting his opponent, Mary Nelson. However, Ms. Nelson was absent during her campaign for the 4th Common Council District. Initially, Nelson’s candidacy provided an opportunity to present options to voters of the 4th District, but that never occurred. The attack on Mr. Bey was unwarranted. He has worked hard for his district. The criticism begs a question, is it the role of the Common Council to create jobs and if so how?

What is more disturbing was the lack of support from black leadership in the City of Syracuse. While he was being attacked, Black democrats were at Drumlins doing the Stanky Leg at a Joanie Mahoney re-election event. No one came to his defense.

Poverty Map of Syracuse's extreme poverty

Map of Syracuse’s extreme poverty

If you were to sit down with Khalid, he’s full of ideas for what can be done. In addition, he’s reaching out for more answers to address our perplexing economic plight in Syracuse.

Recently, Bey proposed an ordinance that includes as its centerpiece a requirement to hire City of Syracuse residents. It doesn’t go into details, but it’s a start.  Even if you disagree, give him the tools to submit legislation that will move the African-American community forward.

As statistics have indicated, African-Americans in Syracuse are in economic crisis with 65.2% living in “extreme poverty”.  And yet, based on our numbers the development potential is enormous. It doesn’t have to be in construction. We consume millions of dollars in basic goods and services that can be developed in the heart of our poorest communities. This in an underdeveloped country in the middle of a city, time and time again we’ve attempted trite and hackneyed approaches to development, they haven’t worked  for “us”.  Give the company some New York State money and hopefully they’ll create a job and hire a guy from Hope Ave.

Construction and Enforcement of EEO

If Syracuse and Onondaga County aggressively enforced Equal Employment Opportunity standards on their contracts, we’d have more minority workers on these construction jobs. Most of these publicly funded contracts have provisions that call for the Sub or Prime Contractor to present a letter from the union indication that there are no minorities’ available to work. However, that clause is not enforced as it should be.  When pressed, a contractor will come back a week later with a minority hire. This is enforcement of clearly stated provisions in their contract documents.

Hidden Economic Potential

Sankofa Business District banner

Sankofa Business District banner

We have few restaurants, convenience stores and other good and service providers that are Black owned.  It’s not that the talent isn’t here, the funding isn’t. By the time people have navigated the maze of supposedly helpful agencies, the dream has died, and hope is gone.

And yet, we read on a regular basis millions of public dollars going to companies in an effort to “create jobs”. If you live in inner-city Syracuse the fruits of that employment tree never reach you.

There are dozens of community-based, worker owned enterprises that can be built right here in Syracuse, in our poorest communities. These require far fewer dollars than the traditional method that basically rewards those who come to the table with money.

To grow Black businesses we need some incubation with a subsidized rent structure. Modern state-of-the-art commerce delivery capabilities, a CDBG and County funded retail plaza or series of neighborhood commercial center facilities. These spaces would be constructed primarily to help businesses stabilize and build a clientele.

Failed Food Co-op

South Salina Street Food Co-op (now closed)

South Salina Street Food Co-op (now closed)

Focusing on what we don’t have creates the framework for developing what we need and will support. For example, The Food Co-op on South Salina Street failed because it did not deliver what people wanted in that neighborhood. You have to compete with that corner store, therefore products have to be included that may go against the “meaning” of the co-op. Grocery stores make lots of money on prepared foods.  Local bakers could have provided cakes and pies, a small fast food area with pizza, wings, soul-food-to-go, etc. Foods developed at the Southside Innovation center could be packaged for sale there.

It would be nice to have a restaurant with an atmosphere that will compel you to put on a tie and jacket.  Why can’t we have to borrow a term a, “Connective Corridor” approach connecting our neighborhoods to nearby commercial centers?


Khalid Bey is noted for saying, “I’m not trying to get a badge or attention for what I’ve done”. Well, in the game of politics, it’s all about badges. Political leaders acquire badges, for example; Merit badge, it means distinction, worth and value. I’m not talking about superficial ego builders profiling just to get in the news, but the ignition of substantive discussion and action on issues. Even at the risk of getting into a dust-up with the Onondaga County Executive. Get those badges and wear them proudly.