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Politics & Government

Syracuse Common Councilors Set Their Own Legislative Agenda for 2020

Scott Willis

Syracuse Common Councilors are hoping to flex some of their legislative muscle over the next several months with their own specific agenda.  Councilor-at-large and President pro-tempore Khalid Bey has been trying to formally lay out a set of priorities since he was first elected eight years ago. 

"When you talk about legislative priorities, these are things that we think need to be done.  It's not anti- in any direction for anybody, but when you talk about an effort to make the city better, it's necessary as far as I'm concerned that the legislature show some will."

Now he says councilors and priorities have aligned.

"No discredit to anybody who's been here before. But I think sometimes habit and conditioning has a major effect on what people do.  In government, we have a lot of established custom, but custom is sometimes mistaken for a rule.  You have a lot of independent people in this body who understood the logic, who came in with the intent to do work in a different way, so that made it a lot easier to organize."

Some of the issues they hope to tackle go back decades.  Council President Helen Hudson says one of them is amending the public officers law, which exempts police officers, firefighters, and sanitation workers from a residency requirement.

"We're working on a 1946 law that was put in place by New York City.  When you talk about police and fire, we're not Manhattan.  I don't think it'll be a real struggle for them to fire decent housing in [Syracuse] city proper.

Councilor Bey continued the thought.

"When you talk to mayors across upstate from Buffalo to Yonkers, they all make the same complaint:  That they take a hit because of the lack of obligation for public safety to live in their cities."

Bey says the Taylor law was unnecessarily applied to upstate cities.  Amending the measure would require a statewide referendum…a process that could take at least a year.  Other council priorities are already in motion.  They’re working with the Walsh Administration on a proactive lead ordinance to fight the ongoing lead paint health crisis; and, they’re also creating an independent redistricting commission, which voters approved last fall.  Councilors will also continue to review business license fees, and they’re pursuing a one-year moratorium on the sale of city owned vacant land to non-profit organizations.  We’ll explore other priorities in the days ahead.