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Onondaga County Legislature GOP reflects on aquarium vote

This is a rendering of the aquarium.
QPK design
This is a rendering of the aquarium.

Members of the Onondaga County Legislature's Republican Caucus are reflecting on the rationale behind their votes supporting the aquarium at Tuesday's session. The final vote was 9 to 8, with one democrat joining eight republicans in favor of spending $85 million in taxpayer dollars on the project.

In a release, Chairman Jim Rowley says the aquarium will be a "huge benefit to the community." Earlier this summer, he was still on the fence.

Mark Olson didn't decide until the vote was taken, but ultimately voted in favor.

"I feel this project will have a huge positive impact for all of Onondaga County” he says in the release. “The aquarium will create something new for families to do and many opportunities for new partnerships with local higher education institutions and the chance to further educate the children of our community. Economic development is also a critical part of this project.”

Legislator Deb Cody supported the aquarium from the beginning.

"This was not an easy vote, but ultimately, the vote is about using surplus funds, on an educational and tourism attraction that I believe will grow and enhance our community, so I am choosing to put my faith in this vision for Onondaga County.”

It's notable that GOP majority leader Brian May was one of three republican no votes, as was democratic floor leader Chris Ryan, whose district includes Syracuse's Inner Harbor where the aquarium will be located.

Legislators heard from thousands of people since the project was first announced last fall. Many publicly and vocally came out against it. But the release notes that many also "shared their support with legislators in personal conversations, phone calls, and emails."

Many wondered why there was virtually no opportunity for public comment on such a large expenditure. Chairman Rowley called for the community to rally around the aquarium.

"I think everyone needs to respect the process and respect the Legislators decisions. Let’s
come together as a community and enjoy this new attraction that we’re going to have in a couple of years.”

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