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Mayor Miner Hears Ideas About Poverty, Housing, Education and More at Clinton Initiative Conf.

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  Infrastructure might not be Mayor Stephanie Miner’s favorite subject.  But she got to hear about ways to improve water, transportation and other assets from lots of smart minds... as a participant in last week’s Clinton Global Initiative.  Miner heard from other civic leaders and major project financiers that the need for investments is widespread…but the political mood is stalling progress.

“We as a country used to dream big dreams about infrastructure.  Whether on the West it was dams, or on the East coast it was subway systems and public transportation.  And I talked about water systems and of course led with the biggest dream of all, the oldest dream of all in infrastructure, was the Erie Canal, that runs right through my city.  And what happens to an economy when we stop doing that.” 

She heard comparisons with transportation advancements being made in China and shared her own observations from London about huge investments countries are making to modernize.  Miner says one great think about the Clinton meetings is the brainstorming on solutions.  And she got some perspective on thinking that fixing Syracuse’s failing water systems is so expensive.

“So our water system, we think a back-of-the-envelope with a pencil sketch (to fix) costs a billion dollars.  But in comparison with what New Orleans needs for their water system or what Los Angeles needs, it’s a fraction of it.  So the scale of the city of Syracuse is largest enough that you can test an idea to see if it would work in a place like Los Angeles, but it’s small enough that it’s, relatively speaking, affordable.”

Countless Civic leaders, she says, emphasize the link between better infrastructure, whether its water, transportation or power, and its effect on the economy.  

IDEAS TO IMPROVE EDUCATION, MODERATE INCOME HOUSING, AND REDUCE POVERTY

The C-G-I meetings allow policy makers to meet with colleagues and experts in broad fields to share experiences and to brainstorm.  (Latest Developments from Recent Denver Meeting)  Miner heard that there's widespread agreement among economists on the left and right that the Earned Income Tax Credit works...and that got her thinking.

“Do we have a high enough utilization rate in the city of Syracuse?  Do our folks know that this is a tool that can help them?  Obviously we struggle with issues of poverty and here is one proven tool that everybody seems to unite around.  I want to make sure that we in the city of Syracuse are having a high enough utilization rate sop it’s a tool that we can help people get out of poverty.”   

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Miner heard ideas that might lead to action on housing affordability and fighting poverty.

Another issue that caught her attention was affordable housing versus income for the working poor. 

“The HUD Secretary was talking about a  study that if you work 40 hours on minimum wage you can’t afford a 2-bedroom apartment in any place in the United States.  And that got me thinking about well let’s figure out what minimum wage for 40 hours is and what the cost of a one-bedroom, two-bedroom, studio apartment is  so that we can start to benchmark how much people are paying toward housing costs which  then impacts their ability to do other things.”  

Miner also sat in on meetings regarding education.  They included ideas about early childhood education funded through 'social impact bonds'.  She was also able to share thoughts on common core education standards, failing schools and teacher assessment to hear what might be working elsewhere.  

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.