The candidates for Syracuse’s only city race this election are facing long-term issues from poverty to education and more. Three people are vying for one Councilor-at-Large seat to finish the term left when Helen Hudson became council president.
Michael Greene was appointed interim. He’s running for the first time … and hears from residents about one problem over and over.
“We have certain neighborhoods in this city that have huge levels of concentrated poverty. That becomes very difficult for an individual born in those neighborhoods to rise out of that. There’s a couple of things we can do to address that,” Greene said. “One: we can do better transportation options. So people that live in the community that might not have a car, if we can have bus service that is reliable and dependable, that would be important. We are working on rolling out bike share, so that will be a better option for people.”
Greene also thinks the city’s move into a Smart City with more technology can offer people in poverty a better chance to find jobs and opportunities online. He’s being challenged by Frank Cetera of the Green Party, who also knows the city has to take concrete steps to deal with poverty.
“The long term solution to that is spending on education, spending on job development and job maintenance and sustainability here in the city of Syracuse, and more resources for mental health and addiction issues on the streets as well,” Cetera said.
Cetera also favors more code enforcement in order to improve troubled neighborhoods. However, he believes that many of the impoverished areas can bounce back with an influx of economic opportunity. One idea he hopes to bring to the city is the conversion of businesses to employee ownership.
“We’ve got the ability to work with small businesses to bring them on board with the idea of selling to their employees,” Cetera said. “As an employee ownership-worker co-op conversion, that maintains those jobs as well as decreases the equity gap not only in terms of income earning but also in terms of assets.”
But Cetera’s opponent also intends to bring innovative ideas to the table. Greene has supported a law to develop a vibrant food truck scene that is believed to be able to spark economic growth.
“It adds to the quality of life in the neighborhood, but it also can be a starting ground for entrepreneurs that might not have the money to start their own restaurant, but have money to open a truck and an idea,” Greene said.
Greene also explained how the city is purchasing all LED street lights from National Grid in an effort to be a leading city of smart technology.
“We are hoping that by that acquisition we will be able to negotiate service directly with service providers like Sprint and T-Mobile, and as a result we can have service that’s equitable through the city and that people will have the competitive advantage that if you live in an impoverished neighborhood you’re going to have access to internet.”
Another factor that could have impacts in neighborhoods is schools. Cetera says the Green Party has long pushed a progressive idea.
“Schools as central bases of their neighborhoods,” Cetera said. “In other words, a central location where kids don’t just go to school, but where kids can have after school activities where there are social service and other resource agencies available. Maybe job help for the adults in the community, maybe other skill building opportunities for the adults.”
Greene on the other hand does not worry about the services the city schools offer, but rather if the students can take advantage of those opportunities. This is something he has helped work on in his short time on the council.
“One of the things you see a lot is absenteeism, it is a big issue in city schools. That certainly will lead to poor school performance and will eventually lead to drop outs,” Greene said. “So, it’s not crazy to think that in a city that’s the snowiest city in the country, if you can’t walk to school, that you’re not going to be able to go. If you’re not able to go, you’re not going to do well in school.”
The third candidate in the race is Republican Norm Snyder, who was not available for an interview. On a Syracuse Republicans website, he says the Democrats running city government are dysfunctional. He would like to see policies that increase property values and tighten fiscal control. Snyder also favors bringing back more summer school to help with poor graduation rates. Additionally, he would like to see better management of the city and more promotion of growth.