In 2015 Syracuse, NY became known as the city with the most stubborn, concentrated, and segregated area of poverty in the United States. (http://brissioni.com/more-on-poverty-in-our-city-centers/ ) And yet our County Executive used sales tax dollars she virtually stole (https://draft.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=453069755357542576#editor/target=post;postID=2600004978752663093;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=4;src=postname from city residents to build a fancy outdoor amphitheater that is empty half of the year and which charges prices for tickets that few can afford. There was never a referendum on this project. By the time I knew of it the construction vehicles were already on site.
Joanie Mahoney, our County Executive has let her office go to her head. She has said that she wants to merge the City of Syracuse with the County of Onondaga. While it is possible that there could be financial advantages to ending duplication of services the last thing this area needs right now is to put more people out of work. Such a merger cannot be a move engineered by one person without some careful planning and ways to make up for lost jobs. In Washington our reps are always asking for ‘pay-fors’. If you wish to spend you must tell how you will pay for it. The same should be true of jobs. If you back a policy that puts people out of works you should have a plan for where those people will be employed in the future.
I think that all the power implications of such a merger have not been worked out either. Will there still be a mayor in the city? How will tax monies be shared under such an arrangement? Will the government in the city and county remain the same? It is true that the county has had to extend infrastructure such as sewers, water, roads, signage, upkeep of roads to subdivisions ever more distant from the city center and that these subdivisions generate more tax dollars than the City of Syracuse properties do. In fact, an article in today’s Post Standard (1/3/2016) says that 50% of properties in the City of Syracuse are tax exempt.
When the city recently made a deal to sell land to a developer called COR this developer agreed to forgo a PILOT agreement (payments in lieu of taxes) then turned around and signed a PILOT agreement with our out-of-control County Executive, the same Joanie Mahoney. (This feud was recently the topic of an article in the Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/two-upstate-new-york-officials-clash-1451092007)
What games is Ms. Mahoney playing? Perhaps she is trying to starve the city of money so that the city will have to make the merger with the county that she has been pulling strings for. She may very well win this city-county power struggle but that same Post Standard article I read today entitled “Blind Allegiances to Tax Breaks Can’t Meet Today’s Economic Challenges” by Tom Buckel, Jr., a former Onondaga County Legislator shows that employment numbers in Onondaga County have gone down under Ms. Mahoney’s reign, and not by just a little bit either, and that our employment figures are the lowest in the entire state at least as far west as Buffalo and as far east as Albany.
It is difficult to see what Ms. Mahoney’s power trip is based on but she was recently reelected (not by me). I am not really against a city-county merger if that will save money and be beneficial in other ways. I just believe that in this case we have a County Executive who has grabbed the wheel, even from the very people she represents, and has gone rogue to throw a high end, gentrified patina over an area that is actually occupied by the poorest of Americans. (See my editorial in the Post Standard entitled “Gentrification and Transparency? http://thebrissioniblog.blogspot.com/2014/12/local-politics-gentrification-and.html)
Ms. Mahoney has lost the thread of Democratic governance and has gotten enamored of her own judgement, taste and self-importance. Indeed, she just got herself a 27% raise and she said that if “we didn’t like it we shouldn’t have reelected her”. (I didn’t.) I suggest that she either adjust her attitude or take a hike. But that’s not the way this works. She can, if she wants, give us the royal wave for several more years.
There was another article in today’s Post Standard which suggested that Syracuse might survive if we have the cooperation of city, county, Syracuse University, and Upstate Medical Center (SUNY). Can Joanie Mahoney be persuaded to stop driving the bus and to take a seat on the bus while some impartial party drives? Let us see what happens next…cover your eyes.
By Nancy Brisson