Syracuse Mayoral Democratic Primary Series: Marty Masterpole



Introduction

Marty Masterpole is a lifelong Tipperary Hill resident, living several doors down from where he grew up on Coleridge Ave. His political resume gives him a perspective from a variety of public offices, spending 4 years as 2nd district common councilor, 4 years on the Onondaga County Legislature, he then successfully ran for Auditor. He’s in his 6th year as Syracuse City Auditor. A graduate of Bishop Ludden High School he and his wife Heather, a teacher at Corcoran, they have two children.

Masterpole’s experience on different political bodies gives him perspective, he believes that his Onondaga County Legislature experience helped in that capacity of hammering out a tax agreement where he had to work across party lines.

In 2010 Masterpole sat on committee for Sales Tax Reapportionment, which is a 10 year agreement and will be up in during the next mayors’ administration in 2020. According to Masterpole, “A very important revenue stream for the city of Syracuse, I know that sales tax agreement inside and out.”

With his understanding that Insurance is a huge cost to the city, as City Auditor, Masterpole used his insurance back ground. “We were able to make changes in our health insurance and we’ve cut no coverage to city employees, we saved 2 ½ to 2 million” according to figures provided by the candidate.

He’s blunt on the city’s current limitations, “Property tax revenue does not cover our health insurance costs. So, before you plow a street or pay a salary or fix a pot hole or whatever the case may be. All of the property tax money is gone. Where does that money come from, federal aid sales tax, state aid.”

Masterpole continues, “50% of our properties are tax exempt, from hospitals universities nonprofits, churches government buildings etc.  If you double that you’d still need 780 million, we’ll always need state and federal revenue.”

The candidate is amenable to working with Onondaga County where they can seek common ground, “If we combined health insurance all of the employees, city and county we could save money. In the long run you save money. We can run a better city more efficient because I have that background from both government and business.  Having a young family, understanding the needs of a young family with parks and schools, and making sure the playgrounds and the little league are taken care of and basketball and sporting events, arts and crafts and music, all the things that a young family wants and needs.”

Masterpole’s optimism is tempered by a dose of reality as he states, “We all know what our poverty levels are, the times doing the travel baseball, the expensive things that happen in the county, we don’t have that luxury. City tax payers don’t have the money, they rely on city government to provide some of those services through parks and others and thorough the school district.”

Masterpole’s response to municipal austerity is somewhat different, “I’ve heard people say that the city needs to reduce their spending, I think we need to spend more, but you can’t spend what you don’t have, we have a revenue problem”

Questions to Candidates for Mayor of the City of Syracuse

  1. Why do you want to be Mayor of Syracuse?

In 1957, my father – who had gone to college on the GI Bill – opened a small insurance company on Tipp Hill. Today, it’s a thriving business whose success today supports our local economy. A vibrant community was there for him and helped that business succeed. Too many working families struggle to make ends meet today because the deck just feels stacked against them. Syracuse is not that kind of community; we have been there for one another, despite our trials and tribulations. And we must be a stronger community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, building that better life for them and their families. To paraphrase the old proverb, we did not inherit this city from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children. And we need to give that next generation and the generations after that a stronger, more vibrant community where they can thrive.

  1. Name a few people that helped shape your political vision today?

New York has produced a string of incredible public servants, and sharing a home state with these leaders has turned them into personal heroes. First, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan — a fellow Irish-American, he was a scholar who believed in the power of government to do right. Second, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first woman of color to run for president, who was truly fearless and never stopped fighting for her community. Third, and more locally, is Mayor Tom Young, who compassionately believed in this city and brought a servant’s heart to all he did.

  1. Without funds from the state or federal government, how do we handle our crumbling infrastructure?

The state and federal government are no longer in the business of funding infrastructure projects, the way they once were. As Mayor, I will be a vocal advocate for Syracuse in Albany and Washington so they enact a meaningful urban agenda, including funding our infrastructure projects. I will also seek to use programs developed by the Office of Innovation to smartly use our dollars, ensuring the taxpayers are receiving the best value for the work being done.

  1. With Federal funds through CDBG currently allocated to fight blight and poverty, what would you do differently with CDBG that we aren’t doing now?

There is a crisis in CDBG funding: the Trump administration, combined with Republicans in Congress, continue to threaten this vital program’s existence. I will work with my friends Rep. Katko and Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand to make sure cities like Syracuse are receiving this critical funding. I believe the city’s CDBG program is run well and I commend the Miner administration for reducing administrative expenses — but we can always do more. I will use my experience as Auditor to implement even better performance metrics to ensure our funded organizations are doing the most work possible with the dollars they receive.

  1. Why can’t we set a base level of taxation and/or fees that all developers must pay municipalities regardless of “their” investment?

The city must do more to ensure we generating new revenue and growing our tax base. I do support incentivizing projects that make sense — those which will create jobs, rehabilitate historic buildings, and promote development in currently underserved sections of the city. We must do more to ensure major projects receiving tax incentives are using city-resident labor and MWBE contracting to get the jobs done, and I will hold them accountable for that.

  1. How would you handle snow removal on sidewalks, this includes both commercial and residential?(It could be said that current methods aren’t working.)

Sidewalk snow removal is a challenge in neighborhoods across the city. The first step to addressing it will be empowering Code Enforcement, rather than just the police, to issue tickets to people who do not clear their sidewalks. This common sense solution was proposed several years ago but shot down by Common Councilors. Code Enforcement officers are in neighborhoods addressing housing issues every day and this just makes sense.

  1. Why can’t the city handle sidewalk snow removal like Rochester?

FYI-Rochester has an “embellishment fee” based on your property frontage. (They begin plowing sidewalks at 4 inches) Average “Homestead charge” $35.13 annually. http://www.cityofrochester.gov/sidewalkplowing/

I will task the Office of Innovation to use the science behind behavioral economics to examine what solutions will be most effective for Syracuse. We need all ideas to be considered and the famous “Rochester Model” will certainly be included, but we need to study scientifically what will work best in our community.

  1. How do we attract higher paying jobs to where the underemployed and unemployed in Syracuse live?

We need to build on the potential of the awesome human capital which exists in this community. From elementary school, our students need to be trained to be college, career and civic ready. Say Yes is doing great work making college affordable, but we need to ensure there are opportunities to attract these young men and women back Syracuse. We must develop stronger partnerships with our higher education institutions to help enterprising young people start businesses and train them for the jobs that exist in our community – in healthcare, education, and technology. We also need to build off the vibrant energy downtown to make Syracuse a start-up capital. The city needs to do more to connect our entrepreneurs with our workforce. Also critical is deploying a network of reliable, affordable, high-speed internet service across the city so businesses and homeowners can have faster access to the world.

  1. Price Rite on South Avenue appears to be a success. How would you promote more projects that bring jobs and entrepreneurs to our neighborhood commercial centers?

The key is building on the success of existing small businesses and helping visionary entrepreneurs start new enterprises. The city recently had a successful funding program for neighborhood business districts called the Main Street Program, targeting portions of the South and North Sides which, while small, was successful. I want to refinance that program and make more funding available through the Syracuse Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO) for grants and loans for small business projects.

  1. How long would it take to make these inner-city commercial centers a priority?

I will assign our Neighborhood and Business Development staff to work with neighborhood business districts on improvements on day one.