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Politics & Government

Green Party's Howie Hawkins will Try a Run at Syracuse Mayor Once Again

Chris Bolt/WAER News

The Syracuse mayoral race grew to a total of 10 candidates Thursday after the Green Party’s  Howie Hawkins officially declared his plans to run.  He last sought the office in 2005, and says some of the ideas in his platform have since been picked by the last two mayors.  Hawkins calls his strategic vision for the city “Sustainable Syracuse.”

“What I’m talking about with sustainability, and this is the vision we want to go over the next 4 or 8 years, is a city that has a sustainable prosperity --  sustainable fiscally, economically and ecologically.”

One key component to get the city on better fiscal ground is progressive tax reform.

“Because if the city doesn’t have the revenues to carry out its programs, we’re just managing the decline.  Like this year cuts road repair in half, from $5 million to $2.5 million; we’ve cut fire stations; we cut the Ida Benderson Senior center.  I have a menu of things; probably the top one is a city income tax.  It would tax us residents, but also people who commute here and use city services but don’t pay for them.”

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Hawkins says some of the ideas he generated for a 2005 run for mayor, also called Sustainable Syracuse, cold still work. Though he emphasizes ideas should come from people in the neighborhoods.

But one area that hasn’t seen much progress is a publicly owned utility.  Hawkins says it could serve as an economic stimulus by simply lowering the cost of living and doing business in the city.  It could also be a way to make the city even greener.

“If we want to go to 100% clean energy, we’ve got to be able to build the generation.  And you can only do that with a public utility.  And you only have the power to make that choice with a publicly owned utility.  We want to get National Greed, as the people call it, out of here and have the city own its own power utility.”

Much of Hawkins’ vision is community-based to create jobs and lift residents out of poverty.

“That’s where a community hiring hall comes in, strengthening these equal-employment, minority- contracting agreements and also where we have community-benefit agreements.  The longer-term strategy to create good jobs is to create community-owned enterprises, because then you can pay living wages. The worker gets the full fruit of their labor, because at the end of the year, the profit doesn’t go to an absentee owner.  It comes back to the workers in proportion to the labor they contributed.  And that way we can uplift the poor and working-class people, so they have assets.” 


  • Raymond Blackwell (Dem)
  • Alfonso Davis (Dem)
  • Chris Fowler (Dem)
  • Marty Masterpole (Dem)
  • Andrew Maxwell (Dem)
  • Joe Nicoletti (Dem)
  • Juanita Perez Williams (Dem)
  • Laura Lavine (GOP)
  • Howie Hawkins (Green)
  • Ben Walsh (Ind)

Hawkins says reform is also needed on public safety.  He says more than 9 in 10 officers live outside the city, and the department is still falling short in hiring minorities.
“We had a federal consent decree in 1980 saying we should have 10% black officers in all the ranks.  Today there are only 7% officers who are people of color, including not just blacks, but Latinos, Native Americans and Asians.  This is 37 years later; it’s unacceptable.  I think one of the most important decisions of the next mayor is hiring a police chief who will change the culture of policing.” 

…and incentivize officers to live in the city they serve.  Hawkins also has ideas to help lift out of poverty the many city residents that are struggling.  One way is to help them get positions in city services and projects.

“The city has a lot of those (jobs) that it funds, both directly in the departments and in contracts.  So a high priority for my administration is to make sure that our city residents, particularly our minority residents, get a fair shot at those jobs.” 

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News / WAER FM
Hawkins was joined by supporters at his campaign announcement

Hawkins has run for state, federal and city offices over the past 24 years.  He enjoyed some of his best success running for city positions… including garnering 48-percent of the vote in a common council race.  Hawkins believes his door-to-door, grassroots strategy – in what might be a 4-way race for mayor – can be successful.