Mayor Race 2017

Syracuse is facing numerous problems that mayoral candidates will have to address

Wasim Ahmad | Staff Photographer

Renovations to Interstate 81 could be a major issue the next mayor will have to handle.

Citizens of Syracuse will elect a new mayor in November and five candidates have already officially begun their campaigns. On the campaign trail, the candidates will have to address a number of issues facing the city.

 

Crime

Syracuse experienced the deadliest year in its history in 2016 with a record 30 homicides. At the end of the year, arrests had been made in only 16 of those cases.

Stephanie Miner, the current Syracuse mayor, established a Homicide Task Force early in 2017, which will now take the lead in solving homicides in the community. Officials have said this will help prevent cases from becoming backed up.

Numerous mayoral candidates addressed tackling crime in their interviews with The Daily Orange, saying they would put forward plans to hire more police officers and utilize better technology throughout the city.

 

Education

The graduation rate for the Syracuse City School District reached 55 percent for the 2014-15 school year, the highest it has been in eight years, per the State Education Department’s website. The rate for August graduation was 58 percent, but that still fell shy of the targeted 60 percent that officials had previously hoped for.

The average graduation rate for New York state in that year was 78.1 percent.

Syracuse city school students also score low on state tests. In math, 10.4 percent of students were rated “proficient” in grades 3-8, while the state average was 39.1 percent, per the Education Department’s website.

Nearly every candidate addressed the city school district in his or her interview with The Daily Orange. Many said they felt that issues concerning crime and schools were directly connected and that improving one could help improve the other.

 

Poverty

Syracuse has consistently been labeled a poor city, and last year information from the United States Census Bureau officially ranked it the 29th poorest city in the country.

The city came under fire in 2015 when a report found Syracuse had the highest concentration of poverty among its black and Hispanic populations, out of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas.

Current U.S. Census Bureau information shows that the city has a $31,881 median household income, compared to Onondaga County’s $55,092 median income. Mayoral candidates have said they hope to fight poverty by improving schools, which could make communities more mixed-income.

 

Interstate 81

The viaduct that splits Syracuse in half, Interstate 81, is expected to reach the end of its useful life in 2017. Options for replacing it have already been met with concern from some residents.

One option is to widen the highway’s bridge and keep it elevated, while another is to knock it down and build a new one through the city at ground level. One group is also still pushing for the tunnel option, which would involve a tunnel being built underneath the city for the highway.

These options have already started fervent debate among officials and citizens at meetings. With a decision on I-81 expected to come sometime in 2017, the viaduct’s future could be a key feature of this mayoral race.

 

Merger

The citizen group Consensus recently gave their official recommendation to merge the governments of the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County. The proposal states that a merger could yield savings between $8.7 and $22.9 million a year.

Miner has voiced her opposition to the plan, stating at a press conference that it “resembles more a plan for the worst form of corporate looting.” She, among others, has said the merger will minimize the voice of city residents.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a proponent of city-county mergers, has proposed forcing county executives throughout the state to submit official merger proposals by Aug. 1 and putting them to a popular vote in November, on the same ballot as the mayoral race. Cuomo’s proposal would have to be approved by the state legislature.

If citizens vote to approve the plan in November, the newly elected mayor could only be in the position for one year out of a four-year term.

 

Immigration

Miner has taken a strong stance of support of refugees and immigrants. In 2016, the city welcomed 157 refugees from Syria, according to NYup.com.

When United States President Donald Trump ordered a ban on refugees from entering the country for 120 days, Miner attended a protest at the Syracuse Hancock International Airport.

As Trump continued his anti-immigrant rhetoric, Miner declared the city a “sanctuary” for all immigrants. However, Trump has proposed to take away much-needed federal funding from cities who do not comply with federal immigration laws. This could be an issue for the next mayor.

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