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Councilors-At-Large Don't Plan To Advance All Of Mayor's ARPA Funding Proposals

Khalid Bey asking questions during the July 28th, 2021 Common Council study session.
City of Syracuse
Khalid Bey asking questions during the July 28th, 2021 Common Council study session.

Two members of Syracuse’s Common Council say the full council will likely pass only a few of the long list of remaining items in Mayor Ben Walsh’s $123 million American Rescue Plan Act spending plan. The pandemic aid provided by the federal government is seen as a transformative way to make the city stronger. The items include high speed broadband for underserved residents, improving neighborhoods and housing, and investment in jobs and economic opportunities. Councilor-At-Large Michael Greene says they’re still considering the remaining items closely.

“There’s some items in there that I think are wise investments for our city. One example is planting $2 million worth of trees,” said Greene. “So items like that, that I think there’s broad agreement for the council will likely move forward. And then some of them that may have linger questions will probably be for a future meeting.”

He says the Council also previously approved the Sidewalk Improvement Plan, but they’re playing catch-up with the mayor’s full proposal because there was a delay in getting the proposal to the Council. Both he and Councilor-At-Large Khalid Bey say the Council must ensure the money is being spent responsibly. Bey calls it a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“The number of businesses that supposedly are to receive ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] money from this administration have 501(c)(3) sponsors,” said Bey. “And so, we’ve never done this before, and I think it’s a slippery slope if you’re not monitoring effectively how this money is used as we would any other project.”

Bey who is challenging Walsh in the Mayoral race agrees with the administration’s proposal to direct $5 million to the Greater Syracuse Landbank to address the city’s distressed properties. However, he feels the amount spent should be closer to $20 Million.

“It's only about maybe 70 to 80 houses, one- and two-family homes. But it does a lot in terms of giving people opportunities for homeownership. You know, it gives people a shot at beginning to build that generational wealth, and right along side that improving our tax base performance,” said Bey

He also wants to ensure the federal funds the city receives from American Rescue Plan Act will target underperforming areas, as defined in US Census tracts. The Common Council’s full meeting is Monday.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.