Editorial Board

Debate on Syracuse, Onondaga County merger shows Syracuse University has platform to engage local communities

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner defended her anti-merger stance at the debate held Wednesday night in Maxwell Auditorium.

Syracuse University’s willingness to host a debate about the proposed merge of the Syracuse and Onondaga County governments brought a hot-button political issue to campus, providing a spotlight on city issues that is necessary and should be replicated at the university moving forward.

The Campbell Public Affairs Institute at SU hosted the Wednesday debate, which featured Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci on the anti-merger platform, and former Congressman James Walsh (R-N.Y.) and Byrne Dairy Board Chairman William Byrne on the pro-merger platform. Because the merger debate has proved divisive, it’s important these community figures came together to have a straight-forward, honest debate about why they advocate for the merger or against it.

Productive discourse comes about when people with colliding ideologies sit down to explain their sides and iron out what they perceive as misconceptions. Because the merger will go to a vote, it’s essential for Syracuse citizens to see both angles of the merger question presented to them in a public space.

Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at SU and the director of the Campbell institute, and organizers should be commended for hosting the debate. The forum extended another branch between the university community and greater city and county areas, demonstrating a golden opportunity for SU to get involved in politics without having to take a stance.

The fact that those involved in the debate were local leaders — rather than professors speculating about the potential effects of a merger — brought legitimacy to the merger question at the center of the debate, and provided a platform for community members to hear from public figures with stakes in the proposed merge.

The university should consider hosting more debates about the merger, in addition to other important issues facing the city, including the mayoral race and the future of Interstate 81. These debates could be productive mechanisms to inform the public and generate interest in the political decision-making processes that affect the lives of people living in Syracuse and Onondaga County.

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