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Onondaga County Democrats say money for proposed aquarium can be better spent

Legislator Bill Kinne is joined by his democratic legislature colleagues in front of the county court house proposing a different way to spend money that is proposed for an aquarium.
Katie Zilcosky
/
WAER News
Legislator Bill Kinne is joined by his democratic legislature colleagues in front of the county court house proposing a different way to spend money that is proposed for an aquarium.

Around two dozen people gathered in Columbus Circle Tuesday in opposition to Onondaga County building an aquarium. County Executive Ryan McMahon's proposed 2022 budget included $85 million for an aquarium on Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. McMahon argues the project would create jobs and support the tourism industry.

However, his critics in the County Legislature argue the money can be better spent.

“I mean I’d love an aquarium, provided we took care of our families first and provided that the private sector was involved and paying for this,” Legislator Bill Kinne said.

Kinne said the money that would go to the aquarium could instead go to initiatives directly aiding Onondaga County’s families. This includes addressing the long-standing issue of lead poisoning in the county. Oceana Fair from Families for Lead Freedom Now says the county could use this money to better equip local contractors to take on lead remediation projects

“Otherwise qualified contractors…either cannot afford the insurance or don’t have capital reserves to purchase the windows and doors for HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] remediation work. These are minority contractors that live within our city, that live within the affected areas. They should be employed and making the change,” Fair said.

rally for our kids 2
Katie Zilcosky
/
WAER News
A sign displayed at the "Rally of Our Kids" advocating for more county funds to go toward lead poisoing preventoin.

And fund a comprehensive lead testing program for children

“Currently, we are missing over 50% of our children getting tested for lead poisoning. Those children are falling through the cracks,” Fair said.

According to county health department data, the number of children to test positive for elevated blood lead levels increased in 2021. Most of those children live in the City of Syracuse, where 10.5% of children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels.

Democratic county lawmakers also proposed spending funds on school security measures, youth mental health initiatives, and community health enhancements. Legislator Kinne says by partnering with agencies that already exist, the money can be used to not only strengthen the non-profit sector, but improve the lives of children and families.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, poverty, and identity.