Green Party candidate for Syracuse City Auditor Howie Hawkins is getting support from three former city officials, all democrats. Hawkins knows former Common Councilors Lance Denno and Pat Hogan, as well as former Deputy City Auditor Lawrence Bott are taking a bit of a political risk.
"The fact that these guys are coming out, putting their conscience and the interest of the citizens of Syracuse in their view before party loyalty means a lot. This has consequences. We sometimes say go green, not machine. There is a political machine here, and there are consequences if you buck it.”
That doesn't seem to bother former councilor Hogan, who says their identity as Syracusans supercedes any party loyalty.
"We need somebody who actually does the job as city auditor, especially with the fiscal challenges facing the city everyday. We need somebody with energy, and who will dig in and do the job. This is a very important office that has served as a check on many administrations."
Lawrence Bott has served in the city budget office and as deputy auditor under five mayoral administrations, from Lee Alexander to Stephanie Miner’s first term. He says Hawkins represents a distinctly independent voice.
"I think he has the most enthusiasm, competence, and integrity for the job. He can bring objectivity to it. He's clearly interested in doing a good job. Overall, he represents not a change in government, but better government."
Hawkins hopes that message resonates with voters. He thinks the office of auditor is virtually free of political labels, which could help him at the polls.
"Everybody is interested, whether they're republican, democrat, or green, in efficiency of government and analyzing the consequences of the policies we adopt. So, this is not so much an office that's affected by the difference in philosophies of greens, democrats, and republicans."
Hawkins says voters tell him on the campaign trail that they stick with their party when voting for president, but split their ticket when it comes to local offices.
Hawkins held his press conference in Clinton Square to illustrate quality differences in audits by current auditor Masterpole and his predecessor Phil Latessa.
"One in 2005 by Phil Latessa was detailed, made 6 findings and recommendations. The one in 2013 by Marty Masterpole was very perfunctory, basically said everything's fine, nothing to see here, and move on. It made no references to those 6 recommendations from years earlier, even though Masterpole said it was a follow-up."
Hawkins says as important as the decline in audits is the priority of the reports.
"Nobody's leaving the city because of the ice rink, because the money from the beverages is missing or something. People are moving because the schools are struggling, crime is high, and infrastructure is failing. Those are the kinds of things the auditor ought to be looking in to."
Which Hawkins says also includes environmental audits.
"The city has environmental goals such as reducing carbon pollution. I would like to set up a system of indicators of public welfare and environmental sustainability that we could track over time to see how we're moving toward reaching our goals o reducing carbon, or reducing unemployment, or reducing poverty. We might bring some new wrinkles, but I think for most voters, this is a question of is the office independent, are they working hard, and are they professional. We're not getting that from the current auditor."
Hawkins questions why the city school district ran a nearly $20 million surplus for fiscal year 2013-14, and put at least some of that money into the classroom or a much needed playing field at Fowler high. he also wonders why the city’s police department had a surplus of $7.5 million for the same year while residents called for more police to walk the streets. Hawkins says his concern is it doesn’t appear the city has a clear enough financial picture to know if it can meet payroll, and instead resorts to hoarding money to cover unexpected expenses.