Resident Hiring Ordinance Seen as a Path out of Poverty for Some in Syracuse

Sep 23, 2015

Syracuse Education Commissioner Mark Muhammad addresses the crowd as Common Councilor Khalid Bey, right, listens at a rally to push a proposed residential hiring ordinance.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

  A coalition of Syracuse-area community organizations has launched a push for a city ordinance aimed at giving unemployed residents a share of the jobs on large projects contracted by the city.  The resident employment ordinance is being spearheaded by the Urban Jobs Task Force and District Councilor Khalid Bey.  It would set a 20% hiring goal, with half of that reserved impoverished neighborhoods.

"The city as a legal entity has a right to enter a contract, and with that right, we have the right to add whatever considerations we choose to that contract.  The other contractor has the right to say yes or no, period. That is not something I made up yesterday.  Every lawyer in this room knows that.”                                               

Advocates say the measure can provide opportunities to those who might routinely be ignored.  Clifford Ryan says young people tell him they’re heartbroken.

"The young man specifically said to me, 'We don't have any hope, nobody cares about us, and we don't have jobs.  So if there's anything you want to bring to the table that you want to help us with, that would be to go back and tell them that we need jobs.'"

That’s why Ryan says he supports the task force and the proposed ordinance.  It would also target those in a database of an organization that provides workforce development and placement for low-income residents.  Councilor Bey knows there are plenty to choose from, which he says disputes any notion that the candidate pool is unqualified.

Clifford Ryan addresses the crowd on city hall steps.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"There's hundreds of guys and girls walking around this city with all kinds of certifications who can't get jobs.  They sit in programs all day at EOC or other neighborhood business organizations...they have the certification.  They're not any list that government has or oany list that private business might  be aware of.  So to keep saying there's no talent is a fallacy.”                                                

The public debate over the resident employment ordinance could begin October 6th…pending the common council’s vote on Monday.