Mayor Walsh outlines "next level" priorities in his State of the City address
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh outlined several priorities at his state of the city address Thursday night that he says will take the city’s growth to the “next level.” Before he began his otherwise upbeat message, he acknowledged the violence that has gripped the community in recent weeks, especially the murder of 11-year-old Brexi Torres-Ortiz.
"The arrest of those responsible for her murder represent an important step toward justice for Brexi," he said. "But we still have much work to do to heal our community and secure the safety of our children and families."
Walsh announced that his Office to Reduce Gun Violence has completed its Community Violence Intervention plan and will begin implementing it this year. He says it will go after the leading cause of deadly violence in Syracuse: conflicts between gangs and groups of young people.
Walsh also introduced a new plan to improve the city’s aging housing stock: A one million dollar housing trust fund that has three goals.
"First, support the repair and improvement of small and mid-sized rental properties," Walsh said. "Second, work with our existing home financing partners to increase mortgage and home improvement loan approvals for homeowners. And third, increase mixed income development to deconcentrate poverty."
Walsh says they will pilot the first projects in the New 15th Ward neighborhood.
He also wants to make the city safer to get around..with or without a car. It’s a strategy called Vision Zero, and aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable mobility.
"It is a comprehensive approach to traffic safety that considers everything from lane widths to land use to lower speed limits," Walsh said. "As a first step, we will bring legislation to the Council to improve safety for our youngest and most vulnerable road users by enforcing speed limits, without relying only on police traffic stops. We will introduce Speed Cameras and Red-light cameras in school zones. We will also work with the School District to install Bus Stop Arm cameras which issue tickets to people who put our children at risk by ignoring bus stop signs."
That prompted cheers and applause from several common councilors. But what drew the most applause was the mayor’s steadfast support of a community grid replacement for I-81 in the face of legal challenges.
"I’m dismayed by the misguided legal action by Renew 81," Walsh said as applause began filling the auditorium. "It is creating confusion and delaying the inevitable. It must be concluded as quickly as possible."
In his speech, Walsh also promised ongoing support for successful youth hiring programs, a third phase of district-wide school renovations, and a commitment to addressing stubborn poverty by reducing crime and improving opportunity, housing, and transportation.