Six Questions with the Future of Syracuse in Mind

I originally compiled a list of questions that I would ask the mayoral candidates if I ever got the opportunity to moderate a debate. I never would have imagined that I would receive responses from any of the candidates, much less all three. My six questions and the candidates’ unedited answers were as follows:

Question #1 – Community Development

It appears that there are quite a few housing and commercial developments in the works around Syracuse’s surrounding suburbs. The only projects I ever hear about within the city involve the Downtown Syracuse area and pricey condominiums, despite numerous vacant residential and commercial properties on the city’s east and south sides. What are your plans to revitalize those areas of the city, and improve the sense of community in those areas?

Question #2 – Economic Development

Large corporations are getting all of the breaks with bailouts. Syracuse is a city that thrives on the health of its small businesses. Ideas aren’t the issue in my opinion. Mounting startup costs, credit issues, and taxes seem to discourage people from starting something new. What plans do you have to help small businesses stay afloat or expand, and what incentives are available directly from this city?

Question #3 – Education

As a mentor of a 2009 Nottingham High School graduate, and someone who attends and keeps track of Board of Education meetings on a regular basis, I’ve found myself very concerned with the district’s plans to eliminate the school diploma and make passing the Regents Exams mandatory for graduation. According to “The New York State Report Card Accountability and Overview Report 2007-2008” for Fowler, Nottingham, Henninger, and Corcoran High Schools, students of color are struggling with passing the English and Mathematics Regents Exams. If the students can’t graduate, then programs such as “Say Yes to Education” become useless to them. What programs would you put in place to assure positive graduation rates within the district?

Question #4 – Environment

The whole country is engaged in “Going Green.” What makes you think that the city of Syracuse can lead the country in groundbreaking initiatives? What’s the draw?

Question #5 – Social Atmosphere

At this stage of my existence, my social life is just as important as my career. I grew up in Buffalo, attended college in Baltimore, and moved to Syracuse for job opportunities. Of the three cities I’ve lived, it appears that Syracuse has nothing to entertain its young professionals of color. After work, I would love to dress up and go hang out with my friends for Happy Hour, listen to some R&B and jazz, or sip on a cup of coffee while listening to some poetry. Armory Square does not offer these options. I’ve explored the 40 Below organization, and diversity within this group does not appear to be a priority. Have I missed something? How would you convince me that Syracuse has my social interests in mind?

Question #6 – Race Relations

What is your opinion on the Human Rights Commission Removal debate?

Steve Kimatian

Question #1 – Community Development Response:

There is nothing more detrimental to community development and expansion than abandoned buildings and urban blight. I realize that this is a major challenge for the next mayor that must be addressed directly. Investigation and adoption of a Land Bank similar to the one in Flint, Michigan would allow the city and developers to cut through all the red tape involved in acquiring abandoned and long-term tax delinquent properties so that they can be developed for use. I agree with the theme of your argument that renovation and use of these vacant properties, as long as it is done efficiently and economically, is the best solution for Syracuse.

Improving the sense of community has been a central part of my grassroots, door-to-door campaign. There are two aspects of my approach to this that are worth highlighting; better codes enforcement and emphasis on not turning a blind eye to petty crimes, and my plan to create a Department of Neighborhood Advocacy. Stricter enforcement of zoning codes and quality of life crimes creates a stronger sense of community accountability, similar to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s implementation of the “broken-window theory”. The Department of Neighborhood Advocacy would be comprised of a commissioner reporting directly to the mayor and neighborhood advocates representing neighborhoods to city hall. In so doing, City Hall would be more receptive to the needs of individual areas of the city than any other previous administration, because neighborhoods would have a direct line of access to the mayor, empowering neighborhoods to do what’s right for their communities.

Question #2 – Economic Development Response:

As a successful businessman, this issue is my strong suit. The status quo in Syracuse has been to act as a hindrance to business and economic development, and unfortunately my opponents are a part of that status quo. One aspect of my answer to this issue is the creation of a Municipal Venture Capital Fund to invest in local companies so that they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. In addition, projects such as a city-wide Wi-Fi network, called “Syracuse Everywhere,” would create a wireless infrastructure bringing broadband and high speed Internet access to small businesses, offering a common utility to businesses.

In addition, Syracuse has a flux of new immigrants. These immigrants have the spirit of entrepreneurship. These immigrant groups not only bring wonderful diversity to our city but offer fresh business ideas. My administration will work with these groups to help them start small business and make their hopes and dreams come true.

Additionally, we need to utilize what we have right here in Syracuse to help our businesses and draw attention to our community. For example, the current Turner to Cezanne exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art, of which I am board member, is projected to have 58,000 visitors, 20% of whom will be visiting from out of state and spending $4.3 million in Syracuse. This city needs to foster more projects of this nature, and be a place where those who want to organize such things feel encouraged.

Question #3 – Education Response:

I actually organized a press conference just this past Wednesday to address this very issue. Our graduation rate is appalling and unacceptable. That is why I propose several initiatives to get our school district back on track.

First, I will bring the superintendent into my cabinet and have greater coordination between my office and the school administration, especially on financial issues. 56% of our city budget goes to the schools, and that means we need to have a strong partnership to ensure that money is used as effectively as possible. As a corollary to that I would push for a change to the city charter so that of the 7 Board of Education members, 5 would be elected by district and 2 at large, rather than all 7 at large as it is currently. This would help give fair and equitable representation of all neighborhoods, which we currently do not have.

Adding more charter schools and specialized programs relating to vocational, trade and technology would also help improve our graduation rates, and that again goes back to changing the status quo. There is a perfectly viable building in the former Syracuse Central High School waiting to be renovated into Central Tech, but the stumbling blocks laid by the common council and the inaction by the Joint School Construction Board have left renovation projects such as that as nothing more than good ideas. Expediting these projects will improve our school system and show students that we care about them and want them to excel.

Question #4 – Environment Response:

The draw is that Syracuse is hard working city that has the potential to corner this market if properly approached. I think the city is poised to do so because of the environmental technologies and research infrastructure that is already in place and growing. Between the research done at SUNY-ESF, the well funded work at the Syracuse Center for Excellence, which just received $1.4 million in grants in June, and the loans available and jobs created to do energy-saving repairs, our city is on the cutting edge of this movement. What we need to do is be smart about all of this and not get so caught up in the fervor over “going green” that we make unsound investments. As mayor I would bring rational judgment to this debate.

Question #5 – Social Atmosphere Response:

I too have lived in Buffalo and Baltimore – and I found Baltimore particularly full of local character and charm. As a matter of fact, when I first moved there I lived in a row house downtown. When I first moved to Syracuse, I lived in a condominium in Armory Square. I did this so that I could get a feel for the tone of the city. My feeling is that Syracuse has a great deal of potential but I do agree we need to drawn out that charm. The festivals that celebrate our diversity are wonderful but we can’t contain this celebration to a few weekends during the summer months. In addition, the history is immense. For example, I am always so taken when I learn something new about the rich heritage Syracuse has in the suffrage, emancipation, and civil rights movements. Yet, again, we can’t contain this to a few placards around downtown and a few museums. We need to get the word out, open the doors to our cultural organizations and invite people in. Once we get the energy flowing and breath life into our Syracuse pride, we need to market Syracuse around the nation as a destination place. In order to get there, we need young people to stay in the City and keep asking these hard questions, remain in organizations where you feel underrepresented and make your interests known. Rest assured, you will have a supporter in City Hall.

I feel strongly that Syracuse is the great city it is because it is the home of Syracuse University, LeMoyne and OCC. The City needs to drawn upon the energy and youth of these institutions. I intend to drawn upon the expertise of those affiliated with these universities and I intend to encourage internships and externships in City Hall with these institutions. Ideally the city would provide an enjoyable enough experience during these students times here that they would want to stay in Syracuse, and make our city their home. Representation of our young people will beget new and fresh ideas and can color the tone of our City.

Question #6 – Race Relations Response:

I publically opposed the proposed effective elimination of the Human Rights Commission stating in a press release, which can be found on my website, that it would have a detrimental impact on our community, most specifically the City of Syracuse. First, this elimination communicates a terrible message throughout our community and beyond, that diversity, tolerance, and acceptance of differences are not of critical priority to residents of Central New York.

Second, this elimination will have a detrimental impact on local efforts to offer and promote diversity training and enhance capacity and support for communitywide tolerance initiatives. Further, this elimination could possibly impact efforts to support business development and new economic opportunities within our minority communities. In this economy, local government should be doing all it can to support and assist economic development, especially in less advantaged sectors of our community. I recognize the dire fiscal situation that confronts the County of Onondaga, and I do support the County Executive’s initiative to spread budget cuts fairly and judiciously throughout County government. Consolidation and cuts to wasteful spending are important tools, but we must be considerate of their long-term consequences. We can cut costs without cutting important services. As a current candidate for Mayor of Syracuse, I pledge to you that once successful in November, the County will have a more willing partner in City Hall to support the work of the Human Rights Commission. Central New York is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic community. We must keep the Human Rights Commission and make a statement that we as a community embrace that heritage. I respectfully ask that the Legislature accept the County Executive’s proposal and maintain the Commission as an important function of County government.

Otis Jennings

Question #1 – Community Development Response:

Strong community-policing is necessary and I will implement a program after the City of Jacksonville, Florida, where the police serve as community ambassadors, as well as law enforcement officers. We need to develop the contacts that law enforcement needs to weed out the bad element. We have one of the best Police Departments in the country and we will work will the community to bring a closer cooperation between the two.

Syracuse will receive $3 million in Federal Stimulus funds to add 14 police officers. Department officials have said those officers will go into patrol, community policing, narcotics, criminal investigations, and crime reduction.

The city must make sure the extra police officers stay in place after this two-year temporary stimulus funding ends. All too often, extra officers disappear into the ranks used to fill slots left open by retirements and other departures. That’s a budgeting gimmick that won’t be used. Understaffing the police department weakens the department, reduces response time, and leads to a rise in crime.

There will be new ways for the police to connect with young people. A Police Athletic League (PAL) will be created to foster friendships and respect. I grew up in New York City and the local Police Athletic League helped me understand police officers are more than just law enforcement. They became friends and mentors.

The gangs have done a better job of mentoring our young people than the schools. There are 5,000 middle school students at risk of joining a gang-our proposals will help to change this. The U.S. Department of Justice has shown that the majority of serious juvenile crime occurs between the hours 3pm-8pm. There will be a call for a community-wide drive to create outstanding 3pm-8pm programs for kids to be kids; where they can learn the civic skills they need to become future adults in our society. Our plan will reduce the temptations of the gang lifestyle that are being offered to our youth.

We will implement programs that will address quality of life issues plaguing our city. The city will work to stop people placing graffiti on businesses, highway entrances and on personal property. We will work to end violence and the gang culture in Syracuse with our initiatives.

My plan to revitalize those areas are going to be to follow an ESF study that concluded selling vacant homes to individuals with guarantees that the owner will fix up these properties. By improving these homes it will make the area more desirable when new people start to move into these homes. To further improve the city we need to change the attitude towards the police. We will move them from their cars to walking the street. This will mean that people will get to know the police who patrol their neighborhoods and will be able to form a coalition against crime.

As mayor I will also work on quality of life issues affecting the community. I will work to enforce nuisance laws including noise levels, loitering, littering and verbal harassment so people feel safe and can have a good quality of life living in the city.

Question #2 – Economic Development Response:

New Federal and State money is available for the renovation of historic buildings. Development costs can be reduced by 30%, but the money must be used within 5 years. The new Mayor must make decisions and make things happen efficiently, not like what has occurred with the school building renovation project.

I would build an aggressive partnership with leaders in business, education and county government: Collaboration, not confrontation, is vital to completing projects.

I would hire an economic development specialist to work with a newly created position of construction manager to make sure projects are completed. This will help preserve present businesses and make the City business and job friendly. I would also pursue absentee landlords who neglect their property.

To help businesses stay afloat and entice new businesses to come to the city we will work to create a partnership to support and foster these businesses. As a small business owner, I understand the difficulties in starting and running a business. We will work smoothly and efficiently so businesses can use the current federal, state and local grants available. Rather than hampering efforts by tying them up in a long difficult process we will work to ensure that city hall does not stand in the way of business development.

The Syracuse School Renovation project has slowly been watered down from $180 million dollars in January 2008 to $136.5 million to date. Originally, the renovation project was to be an economic engine to provide jobs and training to city residents. Instead, with a union-only agreement, local citizens as a whole have been left on the outside looking in.

Not only has there been a number of broken promises because of the types of work to be paid for by NYS instead of the taxpayers (local share), but this project could have been underway years ago if the mayor would have appointed some construction professionals to the Joint School Committee Board instead of his fellow Democratic leaders. Not only is the JSC Board filled with politicians as opposed to construction experts, but they also made a political decision to have the project under a Project Labor Agreement (Union agreement), which historically drives the price of the project up 20% and rarely uses local workers.

My first action would be to change the board totally. I would include a Construction Manager from City Hall and a number of representatives from area developers and architects. I would look for an escape clause in the Project Labor Agreement and take the projected 20% savings and use it for a revolving loan fund for small business and equipment for a vocational school that the city needs. I would start work immediately on Blodgett School, which was the first to be renovated under the original plan and have that completed prior to the start of the new school year.

If I am able to terminate the Project Labor Agreement, I would then have the project bid both with a PLA and without a PLA, and I would choose the cheaper price. Those savings would be put into other schools for classroom renovations that have been removed because of the previous budget shortfalls.

Question #3 – Education Response:

As mayor improving the city schools are the corner stone of my administration. When elected Mayor of the City of Syracuse, I will go back to school with your kids and spend one day a week in school with your kids, their teachers/staff, parent/teacher groups, and administrators so I can build an dynamic partnership between City Hall and the Syracuse City School District to improve the graduation rates and give our kids the skills and the tools to be successful. I will take responsibility and work with the superintendent to improve our graduation rates. We must improve the graduation rate from 50% as this is unacceptable. If you have two children in school, one of them is not likely to make it to graduation. You don’t want that for your child, I know I don’t want my child in that precarious position, unable to go to college, underprepared to find a good job, unqualified for military service, and facing a dismal future.

The “Say Yes to Education Program”, which offers a free college education to Syracuse high school graduates is a good start in that it is a good incentive for students interested in college, but we also need a stronger program for students interested in the skilled trades so they can find good jobs or start their own businesses. Recently, I met with students engaged in a training program for jobs in the skilled trades operated by the Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors at their Construction Training Facility on 813 Genant Drive. There are jobs available in skilled trades like plumbing, heating, electrical, masonry and carpentry – and these are good paying jobs. We need to give more Syracuse residents an opportunity to make a decent living.

Participants receive 4 weeks of introduction into the skilled trades (e.g. plumbing, electrical, carpentry and masonry) with a hands-on look at whatever craft interest them. Most people in the class aged 21-45, have little or no construction experience and limited educational background. Students are required to attend class 5 days per week from 7:30 thru 4:30pm. Nowhere else in the city of Syracuse is any similar training taking place. As a member of ABC, I see the value of this training program and I want to expand it when I am elected Mayor in November because this will produce real jobs, right now and we have a lot of people who need that opportunity.

I will develop partnerships to bring in more funding to create a citywide, neighborhood-focused integrated youth service delivery system that goes beyond the traditional school day. We need stronger community centers where our young people can be mentored in a safe environment so they aren’t being enticed into a life on the streets. We have over 5,000 middle school kids that are latch-key children. Many are from single parent homes where that parent is working. We need to develop a program to mentor these kids from 3-8pm when they are most vulnerable to being influenced by the streets. These programs will keep kids occupied during this time frame and this will help to reduce the influence gangs have on our kids. Such programs will also work to help struggling students and work with them to be able to pass the regents exams.

The commitment of our school administrators and teachers to creating a top-notch school system is undeniable. But they need help and I promise there will be a concentrated and aggressive effort from Syracuse City Hall to bring that help. There has been too much talk and not enough action. Our teachers and our children deserve decent, up-to-date facilities and no school should be left behind. I believe that renovation projects such as Blodgett School can be accomplished with an alliance between Syracuse and Onondaga County. We need to be aggressive and creative.

Politically, I would propose that the SCSD Board of Education move from elected seats city-wide, to district seats, ensuring true representation from all parts of the city. I would also propose that additional training and support be provided for the professional development of school board members.

Question #4 – Environment Response:

As “The Emerald City”, Syracuse continues to lead the way in environmental and energy technologies and sustainability in New York State. As mayor, I intend not only to strengthen existing partnerships, but to also seek alliances and more ways to grow our collaboration with Syracuse University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the Syracuse Center of Excellence, the Green Building Council and Tech Garden. I also want to work with upstate interests on a collaborative effort to promote our entire region as the as the “Green Capital” of the Empire State. Ultimately, I want to generate new sources of green revenue, to create a viable green workforce, and to ultimately position Syracuse and the region to prosper in the global economy.

A Jennings administration will continue to take advantage of the available brain trust and wealth of resources, many of which I’ve already mentioned. That includes exploring more opportunities to collaborate with New York’s Creative Core – working with university professors to solve technical problems we encounter. Working together with leaders and representatives of county, regional, state and federal governments is essential to the success of our city, county, state and nation. As mayor, my goal is to join forces with the county and regional governments to identify and develop greater resources to help employers – green and traditional – to survive and succeed, and to expand opportunities for those who need jobs.

Syracuse can lead the country in groundbreaking initiatives due to one of our biggest assets the universities and technology centers we have located here in Syracuse. To lead this there has to be an effort to persuade companies to come and entice them with our facilities.

By maintaining, repairing, and expanding our city’s infrastructure, we make it possible to enrich our quality of life – residentially, commercially and economically. Capital investments build the framework for prosperity. Let’s determine the benefits and feasibility of proposed solutions for downtown, the Lakefront, Erie Boulevard, the Connective Corridor and our neighborhoods; as well as modifications to Interstate 81. Let’s make sure that these proposals have merit and then let’s make them happen. Let’s transform Syracuse into a viable, more attractive venue for residents and an even more desirable destination for visitors who stop – either on route to or returning from lakes, nature centers and other attractions.

As a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner for the City of Syracuse, I believe the livability of our urban areas and certain neighborhoods can be improved with increased residential density. Higher-density neighborhoods enhance neighborhood appeal, which can in turn boost revenue for maintaining parks and recreational centers. Mixed-use development and mixed-income housing can provide an affordable quality of life that reflects and supports the diversity of our community. Our beautiful city parks and gardens, our cultural, artistic and entertainment offerings, as well as sports and seasonal activities and events should be actively promoted as part and parcel of our regional offerings – highlighted by the fact that we are just an hour away from many other popular destinations and attractions.

My Quality Neighborhood plan seeks to maximize the value and accessibility of our parks, libraries and community centers – using models such as Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today, Mayor Matt Driscoll’s 2025 Master Plan, and input from a wealth of pro-Syracuse initiatives, organizations and interests.

Question #5 – Social Atmosphere Response:

To be quite honest, it never has. The City of Syracuse has always lagged in social and cultural areas of the African American experience.

The African American community has not been able to sustain the social life within our communities in most instances due to the lack of oversight within City Hall. What I mean by this is that to start a business you need the government’s cooperation. The Department of Codes plays an integral part in opening a business establishment whether it is the license or the inspections of the property. Most believe that it is having the monies that is the problem, but typically it is being lead in the wrong directions-whether it is buying unnecessary items that “inspectors” claim that you need, or paperwork continually being rejected that discourages folk from fulfilling their dreams.

We solve this by having a diverse workforce throughout City Hall. The ability to have an African American Mayor of Syracuse results in having someone that share our experience is huge when dealing with cultural populations. What is wrong with government taking you by the hand and helping you to become an employer within your community? It is done in Little Italy and on Tipp Hill.

What we have to do is change the mentality of City Hall. African Americans are viewed as “clients” of the social and not-for-profit world. Millions and millions of dollars are generated to be used to house, medicate, instruct and incarcerate African Americans. Social programming is a huge industry in CNY.

Once we become citizens instead of clients, we can become educated with the proper school systems, and then we become viable employees who earn dollars in a paycheck. Then we become consumers who want and need the cultural experience that you speak of, and that void allows someone to open a place where you socially network. Then we need the restaurant, the clothing store, the shoe store, etc.

There has always been the demand for this type of social atmosphere, but government has set the policy for dealing with the African American population, and businesses have followed the example. We are not wanted and we don’t have the economic means to fill that void on our own because government stands in the way.

Question #6 – Race Relations Response:

First of all let me state emphatically that the Human Rights Department should remain within City / County Government. Noting that Human Rights entails both City of Syracuse and County of Onondaga.

The Human Rights Commission provides an internal mechanism for “check and balances” for County Government. Currently, the HRC is the only means by which employees can address issues of discrimination, workplace harassment, racism, etc. If placed in another department, the HRC or its intentful function presents a conflict of interest for the organization. The question of how can an employee of the Personnel Department file a complaint regarding the violation of his/her rights within its own department is a valid one? This is a very impractical way to do business. Additionally, the emerging work and partnerships with the US Department of Justice around conflict resolution, mediation, conciliatory strategies, refugee and immigrant communities; the SCSD on Student Code of Conduct, School Resource Officers, and most recent “taser” incident; will be adversely affected. The complaints from the community and the justice center are continuous and almost daily occurrence.

The Minority Contract Compliance position will be moved to the Purchasing Department (go figure) bringing with it the oversight of millions of dollars of MWBE designated monies. That alone is cause for alarm as one would be lead to believe that this move would only dilute the power of that position.

All this has happened after the Contract Compliance position has had enhanced support from the Exec. Director. Attending meetings with other Department Heads that assist in the facilitation of contracts. Also, facilitating meetings with the County Attorney’s Office regarding the language of the MWBE program, developing a checklist to ensure that Utilization Plans have been approved by the HRC office, meeting with prime/general contractors to discuss with them how we can assist in them meeting their goals, and proactively addressing the issues associated with non-compliance.

So, in my opinion, this is a continuation of the dismantling of those structures put in place to aid the communities that are continually ignored or as they say in the construction field “Last hired, first fired”.

Stephanie Miner

Question #1 – Community Development Response:

It is true that our downtown area has seen the majority of our market rate housing and commercial development in recent years. While it is encouraging that downtown is beginning to see stronger positive market momentum, it is critically important for the future of our city to see true revitalization in our more challenged, inner ring neighborhoods.

We are lucky to have agencies in our city that have been focused on developing quality affordable housing in these neighborhoods including Home Headquarters, Jubilee Homes, Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corporation, the Southeast Gateway CDC, Housing Visions Unlimited, the Northeast Hawley Development Association, Empire Housing, Christopher Communities, and other advocacy organizations. It has been my pleasure to work with these agencies as a member of the Common Council and by working to coordinate and support the efforts of these agencies through the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs, and through comprehensive and strategic planning efforts we can continue the work of lifting up all our neighborhoods.

The following are some steps I would take to promote the revitalization of our neighborhoods:

∙Create a Planning Office that can provide the kind of cross-departmental, interdisciplinary coordination of effort and resources that City government so urgently needs to capitalize on catalytic revitalization efforts.

∙Make civic engagement a critical component of all city operations.

∙Immediately begin working with housing agencies and our neighborhoods to develop a housing plan that articulates our principles and priorities regarding housing in order to properly guide funding and planning for housing efforts in the City of Syracuse.

∙Develop progressive zoning policies that place an emphasis on walkability, mixed-use, quality place-creation and strong urban design.

∙Develop a proactive approach to preservation that identifies historic properties before development or demolition is proposed in order to create clarity for property owners and members of the community while safeguarding our invaluable architectural assets.

∙Work with local agencies and institutions to fully market our neighborhoods, recreational assets, entertainment venues, and arts and cultural institutions.

∙Develop a program that involves city departments, public entities, private companies, and citizens to clean up and beautify key locations in our city.

∙Revamp the Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT) program to reflect a higher level of civic engagement and increase ownership by residents of our city government.

∙Pursue innovative options for improving our parks and public spaces and providing more robust recreational offerings.

Question #2 – Economic Development Response:

Having a sound economic development strategy that focuses on job creation is vitally important to our success as a city and as a region. We must give small businesses and entrepreneurs the best possible opportunities to locate and grow here in Syracuse. It is time that we begin focusing on how we can help small business flourish in the City of Syracuse. The City government and the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) along with our partners in economic development including the Chamber of Commerce, the MDA, MACNY and others must work in concert to package and promote incentives that will make this happen. As Mayor I would do the following to bring new opportunity for economic development and job creation in the City of Syracuse:

∙Work with the County, MDA, Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, MACNY, and others to forge a unified, coherent and marketable regional economic development strategy.

∙Work collaboratively with economic development agencies, local colleges and universities, and existing branding efforts to promote a coordinated and adequately funded regional marketing campaign to retain and attract businesses and young people to Syracuse and Central New York.

∙Leverage the human capital investments and research and development capacities of the Syracuse Center of Excellence, Syracuse University, SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY-ESF, LeMoyne College, Onondaga Community College and other educational and research institutions to create new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

∙Provide a platform for job creation and employee placement that links our educational institutions, our regional economic development strategies, our targeted growth sectors, and existing grassroots workforce development programs.

∙Use tax incentive and public financing agreements to encourage private sector investment in targeted economic development strategy areas.

∙Work to attract businesses and create jobs in the key clusters like environmental and energy systems.

∙Provide case-manager style positions within the City’s Division of Business Development to assist businesses with start-up, expansion, or relocation.

∙Package local, state and federal incentive programs, such as the New York State Rehabilitation Tax Credit, in order to quickly and conveniently present development options to those looking to do business in our city.

∙Use the City website to clearly outline and electronically facilitate the approval and permitting processes for new or expanding residential or business development projects.

Question #3 – Education Response:

Success for our schools and our children must be paramount to the next Mayor’s agenda. Making our schools stronger is sound policy for improving the lives of children, attracting and retaining city residents, and developing long-term economic sustainability and high quality of life. We must take steps to give all of our children a better shot. Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their dreams regardless of what their family’s income might be, what neighborhood they live in, or what race or ethnicity they are. We must continue to work to level the playing field for all children in Syracuse.

The City of Syracuse must continue to work collaboratively to bring sound educational, recreational, after school and other support services to the children of the city. We need to work in partnership to create a continuous network of programming that will keep our children from slipping through the cracks. The City of Syracuse, the Syracuse City School District, Onondaga County’s Department of Social Services and innovative and transformational programs like the Westside Community School Strategy and the Say Yes to Education initiative can help create this comprehensive network for our children. While the media attention given to the Say Yes to Education initiative has focused on the free college tuition, what is equally important to this program’s success is the support services that will come with this program. By providing the support that children need throughout their academic careers we will be giving them the attention necessary to overcome the barriers to walking across the stage.

Here are some steps that I would take as Mayor to support our youth:

∙Continue to fund the Say Yes to Education program at higher levels to create a fully integrated, robust program.

∙Take a lead role in the Say Yes to Education programming by working with the SCSD, Syracuse University and the Say Yes to Education coordinators to fully implement its programming and marketing.

∙Fully complete the school reconstruction project on a reasonable timetable.

∙Work more cooperatively with the Syracuse City School District administration and Board of Education to achieve more synergistic planning, budgeting, programming and curriculum.

∙Further pursue the community school concept by using our schools to facilitate full-day programming including after-school activities for children, adult education and vocational training, workforce development, social services, community policing, and other City- and County-level public services.

∙Integrate school programming, community policing, truancy programs, and local youth programs to achieve holistic youth targeting to reduce dropouts, reduce youth violence, and improve school retention and achievement.

∙Examine how alternative administrative methods might achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in our City’s schools.

Question #4 – Environment Response:

Sustainability is not just about the natural environment. Good policies and practices in sustainability consider social justice, economic viability as well as ecological health. The decisions made at City Hall should always be with an eye towards these fundamentals. Becoming a more sustainable city is more than just following recent trends and hopping on the bandwagon. “Going green” needs to be more than just a catch phrase. We must choose to be a leader in sustainable practices, not just because it’s the wave of the future, but because following sustainability means creating a more environmentally friendly city, cultivating a higher quality of life and becoming more fiscally responsible.

The City of Syracuse must explore ways that we can move into the future with innovative strategies for reducing our carbon footprint, taking better care of our water resources, providing more sustainable transportation options, and promoting greater local food and energy independence. These are not easy steps. Governments are not used to operating this way. But these are important steps. We can not put these challenges we face off for our children and grandchildren to deal with. It is time for our city government to take bold steps in making our community a more sustainable place to live, work and raise a family – not just for today, but for generations into the future. The draw to “going green” is that we are striving for a more beautiful and livable city with a high quality of life that we can pass on to future generations:

As Mayor I would take the following steps to improve our sustainability as a community:

∙Equip city government with personnel that can explore and implement sustainability solutions for our government and our city.

∙Conduct a carbon footprint and ecological impact assessment for the city and for city operations and develop a long-term strategy for reductions.

∙Work with OCRRA and others to increase recycling options and capacity for residents, businesses and in public places.

∙Explore the development of “green codes” in the City of Syracuse to increase energy generation and efficiency options, promote urban agriculture and increase efforts to improve storm water management.

∙Make green infrastructure techniques, urban forestry and energy efficiency measures the first choice for City operations – not the exception.

∙Work with the Onondaga Environmental Institute, the Partnership for Onondaga Creek, the Onondaga Nation, Onondaga County, SUNY-ESF, the Syracuse CoE and others to begin implementation of the Onondaga Creek Conceptual Revitalization Plan.

∙Make the construction and marketing of the Onondaga Creekwalk project a priority.

∙Work directly with the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency and surrounding towns and villages to explore ways we can develop policies that reduce sprawl and its negative environmental and social affects.

∙Work with the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) and CENTRO to pursue new models for mass transit that will reduce energy consumption while also creating economic development opportunities.

∙Invest in public transportation, bicycle, car-share, and pedestrian infrastructure and accommodations to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve public health.

∙Provide incentives and other administrative implements that stimulate private sector investment in alternative energy, green building, green infrastructure, Brownfield remediation and progressive design.

∙Work with Syracuse City School District to make all aspects of sustainability a regular part of the curriculum and classroom activity.

Question #5 – Social Atmosphere Response:

Interesting cities have interesting places for people of diverse backgrounds. Having appealing and exciting public spaces, clubs, shops, music venues and restaurants is a vital part of the urban experience. The City of Syracuse, both in the short- and long-term, must throw open the doors to entrepreneurs, small business owners, and artists from all parts of our community and our region. By strengthening our schools, revitalizing our business corridors, making our city safer, connecting our educational institutions with our community assets, and providing a welcoming business environment for businesses of all sizes we can begin to fuel the creative and entrepreneurial efforts that will create more, and more diverse, social offerings.

Question #6 – Race Relations Response:

The Human Rights Commission serves a critical role. This small but essential staff helps ensure a more equitable and just environment for Onondaga County. Equal rights, fair treatment, and accountability should not be sacrificed to save a few thousand dollars. I urge the Onondaga County Legislature to take a harder look at funding priorities and the value placed on equal rights when making these tough budget decisions.