Meet the 5 people who want to lead the city of Syracuse
Emma Comtois | Digital Design Editor
UPDATED: Feb. 16, 2016 at 11:52 a.m.
When Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner reaches the end of her two-term limit later this year, city residents will vote for a new leader to guide them through economic hardships and rising crime.
So far, five candidates have officially declared their intent to run, and they come from a variety of political affiliations and backgrounds. Below is more information on each of the candidates and their policies as they head into a potentially challenging race for mayor of Syracuse.
This campaign will be Alfonso Davis’ third attempt at becoming mayor of Syracuse. Miner won both of the elections Davis previously ran in, and he has been an open critic of her time as mayor.
Davis, a Democrat, said he is looking to the future now, and said he is the candidate that truly represents the people. He was born in a public housing project and has since lived in numerous communities in Syracuse.
He also said he thinks parts of the community have been neglected and development has been focused in “pockets.” Poverty is one of the issues most pressing to him. A 2015 study found Syracuse has the highest concentration of poverty among minorities in the country.
“We have to inject some economic growth and give hope to people who feel hopeless,” Davis said.
Davis, 51, said his plan is to help small businesses and in turn urge them to hire locally. He also wants to continue utilizing the major health and education institutions in the area and to promote job training. He said he wants to make all citizens feel like they are assets to the community and not liability.
The feature that sets Davis apart from other candidates, he added, is the fact that he represents the people of Syracuse and understands their experiences — other candidates got their experiences of the city inside of a boardroom, while he lived them.
“I believe that I have my hand on the pulse of this community, and I’ve had my hand on it for some time,” he said.
The only Republican to enter the field so far is Laura Lavine, the superintendent of the LaFayette Central School District. Lavine has lived in the same house in Syracuse for 57 years and said she is not concerned about her chances as a Republican in a majority-Democratic city.
Lavine, 61, has already received support from major Republican Party leaders, including County Executive Joanie Mahoney and Ed Cox, the state Republican party leader. She self-identifies, however, as a social liberal and “multi-party candidate,” and claims she has received the support of many of her Democratic friends and neighbors.
“We are in bad shape in the city, so we can’t afford to be picky, or to be elitist, or to turn away any help,” Lavine said. “I will work with anybody of any political party, whatever it takes to get the resources and the support that we need for Syracuse.”
Lavine said she, too, wants to focus on crime and school quality. She said she recently went on a four-hour driving tour of Syracuse and the next day, after the drive, she found out that over the night there had been gunshots fired on numerous streets she had just driven down.
The candidate also drew connections between crime and the city schools, which she said she is strongly qualified to improve. Lavine has been a leader in education in the Syracuse area for 40 years.
“Even though people say running a school is a lot different from running a city – no doubt about it – there’s a skill set you need to do both, and I have that skill set,” Lavine said. “And I think that’s why I’m getting the support that I’m getting.”
After having spent 13 years in city and county government, Marty Masterpole said he has the experience necessary to take up the helm of the city. He is currently serving as city auditor, and has previously held positions on the Syracuse Common Council and Onondaga County Legislature.
Masterpole, 43, said he doesn’t think the city — like other communities in upstate New York — is fighting crime as well as it should. After his department did an audit of the city police department, he said he realized that the force has too many vacancies and is using overtime to fill shifts. More police officers need to be hired, he said, which should help solve crimes and decrease violence, and in turn, everyone would be safer.
The Democrat also said he looks forward to hearing other people’s ideas as he campaigns and thinks his bipartisan attitude will help set him apart from others in his party.
“I have a proven track record of being able to get along with folks within the party who I disagree with but also on the other side of the aisle,” Masterpole said. “We’ve had disagreements and I’ve always kept it respectful.”
The youngest person to declare his candidacy is also one of the most involved in city government.
Andrew Maxwell, 33, is one of three Democratic candidates who have put their name in the mix. He said his family has lived in Syracuse for seven generations and he is ready to lead the city after spending years forming policy. Maxwell is currently the city’s director of policy and innovation and previously worked in community development under former Mayor Matt Driscoll and was the leader of the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency.
“For me it’s talking about ideas,” Maxwell said. “Embracing new ideas and new approaches to how we do local government, that’s been the essence of the work that I’ve done in my career and that’s how I want to lead the city as mayor.”
Maxwell said he plans to focus on schools, crime, reliable services and creating opportunities for the city. He, like other candidates, said he believes the improvement of Syracuse city schools could ripple throughout the community. Maxwell said he will look to achieve that goal by focusing efforts on Say Yes to Education — a local, community-wide partnership that supports Syracuse students in school and through college — and career and technical programs.
The candidate also said he sees crime as another pressing issue in the city that needs to be addressed. The city of Syracuse experienced a record 30 homicides last year, a figure that has been mentioned by numerous campaigns. Maxwell said he wants to strengthen the relationship between the police force and the community while utilizing the most up-to-date technology.
He said he looks forward to working with a wide variety of community members to make his vision for the city a reality.
“Public service is a team sport, if you will, and no one accomplishes anything on their own,” Maxwell said.
The only third party candidate that has announced a candidacy so far may face a battle to get on the ballot in November.
Ben Walsh, a registered Independent, was the first person to declare intent to run, but he will need to receive the support of a party with a line on the ballot or form his own through petition. He comes from a family with deep Republican ties — his father was a United States congressman and his grandfather was mayor of Syracuse — but Walsh said he didn’t want to register Republican.
“It was important to me to stay true to myself, to stay true to my values, by maintaining my independence,” Walsh explained.
Walsh, 37, served six years as the deputy commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood & Business Development under Miner, where he said he worked across party lines to develop projects like reopening Hotel Syracuse and developing the Greater Syracuse Land Bank. He said he thinks his independence sets him apart from the other candidates.
“In my experience often times, politics, partisan politics and personal differences have gotten in the way of progress in our communities,” Walsh said. “… (I am) someone who is focused on doing what is best for the community and not what’s best for any one particular interest or party.”
As mayor, Walsh said, he knows he will be able to have a larger impact on the community than he did when he was in economic development. He said he wants to make Syracuse the “vibrant, dynamic” city that he said it has the potential to be.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, the number of years Marty Masterpole has worked in government was misstated. Masterpole has spent 13 years in city and county government. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Published on February 15, 2017 at 10:38 pm
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