Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Perhaps it’s time to revisit remnants of past City of Syracuse mayoral administrations as we deal with the issues of diversity, nooses and vocalized anger rising from the Black community.

The administration of former Syracuse Mayor Tom Young, once again, has proven to be ahead of its time.

The concept of an “Office of Minority Affairs” was a plan of action, which monitored the city’s compliance with the MWBE Ordinance, reviewed plans of developers receiving city funding to ensure minorities and women were part of the construction of this city.

The office was enhanced following the city’s firing of the previous director of the program due to disagreements regarding enforcement issues. Armed with a mandate to do something, George Kilpatrick was chosen to run the office.

During that time the city of Syracuse invested funds to retain our program once the Supreme Court tossed out Richmond Virginia’s minority set-a-side law. The court mandated that only municipalities which were able to show a pattern of discrimination in construction would be able to continue enforcing Equal Employment Opportunity provisions.

The study determined that a long-standing pattern of discrimination existed in the construction industry in the city of Syracuse as well as Onondaga County.


In addition to creating an office that became a quiet advocate for minority issues, Mayor Young created the Mayors Minority Affairs Advisory Council (MMAAC). The council had regular monthly meetings with the mayor. There are those who’d argue that the only accomplishment of the MMAAC was the Jerry Rescue Monument. But regular meetings and access to the chief executive of the city was a major accomplishment.

Some of the greatest challenges Syracuse faced were handled during the Young Administration, a crumbling downtown infrastructure, porn infused Armory Square, a reinvention of how neighborhood residents communicate with their leaders through a watered down version of Rochester’s neighborhood Community Dev.communication model.

When it got hot we danced in the streets with “Summer in the City.” The junkyard by the lake was transformed into Carousel Center and surrounding residential and commercial development precursor to Destiny USA.

We need to go back to some of the truly progressive policies of Tom Young, who seemed to get it right, when he started senior staff meetings with WHYD or What Have You Done?

When it comes to the real challenges of diversity and race relations, I ask our elected leaders in both Onondaga County and the city to engage the minority community in more than hackneyed platitudes.

The Diversity Training outlined by Mayor Driscoll is a good step in the right direction. The Onondaga County Legislature and Onondaga County employees should be next.

As a former member of the republican legislature, and one who hears minority Onondaga County employee’s workplace horror stories, there are some attitudes that need to be adjusted on the county level. Blacks and other minorities have a better chance at hitting lotto than landing a professional level job in any of our governmental administrations.

Putting a sheet over the issue isn’t enough.