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Miner should follow Tom Young’s example of leadership

I congratulate Stephanie Miner in her victory in the recent mayoral contest. My letter is an observation from what could be considered an African-American’s point of view. Not representative of any group but my opinions formed as I moderated an event at People’s AME Zion Church on behalf of Urban CNY News. I also participated in a meeting where Ms. Miner appeared without staff persons or handlers to discuss concerns of African-American contractors and their access to business
opportunities in the city of Syracuse.

In a meeting with contractors held at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Miner listened and responded to specific concerns expressed by those in attendance. She pledged to be open to ideas and offered
individual representatives access to people who’ll be in charge of various parts of city government.

As someone who’s spent years in positions supporting and or monitoring Minority and Women Business Enterprise performance and development I’ve always been concerned for the role these businesses play in our city. When I worked for the Office of Minority Affairs under Mayor Tom Young some of the most sweeping and innovative programs were enacted that made the city an active participant in making sure that opportunities to get involved were present in the Department of Community Development and promoted through the now disbanded Office of Minority Affairs.

What we have in place now doesn’t work and it was clear from the contractors meeting and our mayoral forum that some people need to be sent packing as soon as the ball drops on New Year’s Day in Time
Square.

There are people serving in positions that were meant to assist minorities and women, without naming names a few of these individuals are miserable public servants who don’t believe in the constituent
groups they were employed to assist. One black mayoral appointee went as far as telling me that, “I wish black people would get out of construction and do something like sell pencils something we could do better than construction.”

He’s been there long enough to cause the dismantling of a generation of contractors who went to city hall for help and all they (contractors) got was an attitude.

Major portions of the city’s Minority and Women Owned business initiatives are dysfunctional. At one time there was a Working Capital Loan program for those small businesses participating in city projects
where the city provided an initial stream of working capital in order for these businesses to pay costs associated with a given project. The city would be paid back each time there’s a payment made for the
progress of work completed.

There was once a concept called “Principle of Agreement,” which encouraged non-minority firms to collaborate with (MWBE’s) Minority and Women owned Businesses in exchange for a reduction in their contract percentages and equal employment opportunity goals. The thought was if the smaller business could learn by working with a larger company then perhaps they could work together on many of the city’s projects as a team. No one wants to be forced to work with another man or woman due to an edict from government. The cooperative arrangement would have provided growth opportunities for many small businesses and a future of cooperative engagement instead of confrontation and frustration, the program was never pursued in earnest.

There is no aggressive city monitoring of contracts especially in the area of Equal Employment Opportunity, which insures that there’s compliance with employment provisions established by state and federal funding sources.

Twenty years ago Onondaga County was a non-entity when it came down to monitoring Minority and Women owned Business Contract Compliance on county projects. But thanks to the Onondaga Lake Cleanup project, funding sources made special trips to Syracuse just to audit the county’s efforts. Fast forward to now and you’ll find that thanks to Herman Howard of the soon to be defunct Human Rights Commission these projects were finally being reviewed and their compliance aggressively administered.

The first thing Ms. Miner needs to do out of respect for the African-Americans she sought out for their vote is to be inclusive, diverse and effective as she prepares to take our city to the Post Matt Driscoll era.

Tom Young left us, Armory Square, Carousel Center, Franklin Square, vintage street lighting on downtown streets just to name a few of his many accomplishments. Roy Bernardi left us Clinton Square, Mayor Driscoll will leave us with a yellow brick road (Creekwalk) and changing our nickname from the Salt City to Emerald City and a big empty box by the lake.

What will the Miner legacy bring?

Learn from the best mayor we ever had, Tom Young.

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