Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Aquarium and Redistricting Maps To Be Taken Up By Onondaga County Lawmakers Tuesday

 County legislators and other attendants sit in pews and behind desks throughout a court room at the Onondaga Supreme and County Courts House.
Scott Willis
County lawmakers approved the first redistricting maps Nov. 4 along party lines.

It’ll be a busy day in Onondaga County legislature chambers Tuesday, where lawmakers are expected to take up two very controversial issues.  The proposed aquarium project for Syracuse’s Inner Harbor and the final redistricting maps are both on the agenda.

Let’s start with the $85 million aquarium. Lawmakers are being asked to approve the county’s 30 million dollar share. David Bottar is Executive Director of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board.

"The Inner Harbor needs a jumpstart. Things have languished in recent years. We think the aquarium has the ability to jumpstart additional development."

He and other officials have been citing a feasibility study that projects nearly half a million visitors a year will generate tens of millions of dollars in economic impact.

"This is the third consulting firm I have worked with in the past 25 years on a plan for an aquarium in the Syracuse Inner Harbor. The first one was in 1995; the second group was in 1998 and 2000. This is the third firm."

But legislator Chris Ryan has his doubts.

"The consultants have put together some numbers, but how do we trust them? I wouldn't hold them to all that because they don't have a crystal ball. But at the same time, it's a lot of money, and it's a big decision for sure."

Also on the agenda is redistricting. Both republicans and democrats have proposed their own revised maps after weeks of intense debate that included accusations of racial gerrymandering against the GOP’s drafts. There has also been deep disagreement over the interpretation of deadlines outlined in the county charter. Republican chairman Dave Knapp has insisted clock is ticking.

"The charter says we have to get this done before petitions are passed for the next election, which is in February. So, when you start doing the backwards planning for that, we're coming up on a hard deadline here pretty fast."

Democrat Mary Kuhn says her caucus is proposing a measure to clarify that the next election refers to when lawmakers are up for election in 2023.

"The new local law will exactly say that...we want more time. We asked for more time. They said we have this hard date of the 21st. We're saying no you don't, you really don't. It's poorly worded."

She says lawmakers aren’t alone in their concerns.

"So many of the comments were, 'this is a failed, rushed process. And now you're doing it again.' So, it's like insanity, right? You do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It seems like that's what we're doing, and we're making an attempt to slow it down."

Session begins at 1:00 pm. A public hearing on the redistricting maps is set for 11:30 am.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at