Remarks from Butternut/Pond Northside TNT Candidate Forum


Good evening. My name is Frank Cetera and I am running for 2nd District City Councilor here in the great Open City of Syracuse NY. The 2nd district encompasses the west end of the city from Bellevue and Onondaga Blvd up through Skunk City, Tipp Hill, Park Ave, Lakefront, Franklin Square, part of North Salina St, and the north side west of Court Street.  Thank you for inviting me to this event.   



I grew up in a small coal mining town in Southwest Pennsylvania in a Polish-Italian family to hardworking parents.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom while also maintained a business as a hairstylist in our basement.  My father, after returning from the Vietnam War, first labored on the tracks and then worked for over 30 years as a coal train conductor, and member of the United Mine workers of America.  I’m proud to follow in his footsteps as a union member, as I currently serve as delegate-at-large for Professional Administrators at Onondaga Community College with the OCC-FTA local of NYSUT, AFL-CIO.  And I have just received the endorsement of CSEA region 5 - the public service employees union here in Syracuse.  I made Syracuse my home after I earned a Master's degree in Forestry at SUNY ESF and met some of the best people I have known in my life while engaging in social and environmental activism here.  (I also hold a Masters of Science degree in Sustainable Systems from Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania).


I am serving my 5th year on the Cooperative Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, the 4th as President of that organization located at 800 North Salina St (and with branches on Westcott St and at the Southwest Community Center) which is a mission-driven federally recognized Community Development Financial Institution, the only one of it's kind in Syracuse.  As part of a stalwart team of staff and volunteers, we manage over $22 million in assets, and invest over 100% of those funds back into the city of Syracuse.  Through my day job as a NYS certified small business advisor I help individuals with business planning, financial analysis and pro-forma creation for start-ups, market research, and strategic planning.  Over the course of the last few years as a full-time advisor, I have worked with clients to create over $2 million dollars in economic investment and over 150 jobs.  I understand community finance and what it takes to help people to succeed.


I founded a non-profit corporation that has converted 5 unused urban grassy spaces into productive food gardens and landscapes; I  volunteer clearing snow from elderly residents' sidewalks and from around bus stop corners with Westside Walks and I helped to start, along with the Westside Residents Coalition, the Adopt-a-TrashCan program to reduce litter on our streets.  I currently serve in a leadership capacity as a city-wide TNT Board Member representing the westside, and I am one of the founders of the Marcellus-Otisco-Gifford neighborhood watch group.


Living on the Near West Side, I understand very well that crime is an issue of tremendous concern….68.2 % poverty. I support policies that help put city residents to work - like a local hiring ordinance - and provide an opportunity to work and live above the poverty line.  My campaign canvassing team has collected over 200 petition signatures as part of the Urban Jobs Task Force campaign.  We also nee dot look at how other communities have been able to successfully reduce crime providing more treatment services and youth programming, rather than a focus on detention and jailing.


Even though this is my first time running as a candidate, I have the experience of working on 7 different campaigns dating back to 2010 from the local level (2 common council, 1 commissioner of education, 1 mayor), to the regional level (24th district congress) to the statewide level (2 gubernatorial races).

I decided to run for City Council, because I am certain that I can do a better job than the current incumbent representing the 80% of the 2nd district that is experiencing 30% and higher poverty rates among it's residents.  I’m ready to take my experience in community activism, my knowledge in business development and community finance, and my skills in green and sustainable development straight to the city government.


The goal of city government should be to end poverty in our city so that all residents can have a dignified life, with living wage jobs, fully funded schools, and responsive city government.

Every week, we hear about the record poverty plaguing our city and the city council has yet to put forward any solid plans or policies to address this crisis.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here this evening. I look forward to taking your questions and hearing your concerns and sharing my ideas for how we can make Syracuse a City that works for all of us.   I’m asking you to vote for me not only because you believe in me and my skills, experiences, knowledge, and ability, but also because I believe in you.  And I want to take your voice to city government.


From the Campaign Trail: On Volunteers, Bikes, and Schools

This past Saturday, 18 campaign supporters came out to distribute our new door hanger. So much gratitude to all these individuals who helped us reach over 1,000 households! But we still have lots of work left to distribute campaign literature to registered voters in Syracuse's 2nd District – won’t you join us by registering to volunteer? I am humbled and very encouraged by the positive response, both from voters we talk with and by friends and allies who are joining our campaign team. Your help is essential to our success on Election Day. 


On Sunday, the great time I had leading 20 people through the north and west sides of the city on the 13-mile Cycle in the City ride included the question “Is this school open?”, as we rolled into the first stop on the route - Huntington K-8. Twenty cyclists visited five SCSD middle-school facilities along the way - Huntington, Lincoln, Grant, Frazer, and Bellevue.  And the scene repeated itself at each school we visited.  It was eerily quiet, no one was at the school, no pedestrians, students or families were to be seen.  

The city of Syracuse only has three funded neighborhood community centers - Southwest, Westcott, and Northeast.  Our schools are valuable community assets that are being underutilized.

My platform includes Neighborhood-Based Community Schools that have strong partnerships with the communities in which they are located, and are fully integrated into the community by contributing to the quality of life and benefiting from its support. Health and mental health care, day care centers, food pantries, and more could be operated more efficiently by locating together and using the schools as a central hub.

Schools belong to the community and should be open from early morning to late evening to provide Life Long Education, Recreation and Socialization opportunities for community members.  Every school should have a community garden to reduce lawn maintenance costs, provide food and healthy activity, and provide a place for neighbor interaction.

Finally, I believe that administrators, teachers, and other staff who live in the communities they serve are better equipped to understand the dynamics of neighborhoods and student needs. We must create opportunity and incentive for these professionals that results in their living as part of the school community.

“We must be more generous to our schools so that our children will learn what generosity is, and know enough to be able to be generous to others in return.” - Green Party of Onondaga platform

I call on the Mayor, our Honorable Councilors, and our Board of Education members to join together immediately and call for the state to pay the $61,078,488 Gap Elimination Adjustment funds withheld from Syracuse “failing schools” between 2010 and 2015, and to equitably distribute them to each student in the district.  Money does matter to a school’s success, and we should be funding more not less where it is needed to support success and excellence.  Pass the Statewide Finance School Finance Consortium resolution now!

Donate to my campaign today and you’ll be supporting efforts for dignity for all of Syracuse and committed, principled politics on the Syracuse City Council.

Yours truly,
Frank Cetera


Labor Day Tales and Futures for Dignity

Anya had spent a great day with her daughter at the NY State Fair on Labor Day using the tickets she received from her union. They marched alongside her union brothers and sisters in the Labor Day parade remembering workers who came before. The Fight for $15 struggle ahead galvanized her onward towards organizing until all workers bring home a dignified wage.

Juan felt blessed on this day of relaxation, spending time with his familia at their Westside home.  He and his son Julio even took a break from eating BBQ to kick the futbol around at the Skiddy Park soccer court.  Juan was also thinking about his friend who was injured on the job.  Thankfully, he would make a strong recovery and his union representatives were able to negotiate stronger safety controls in their new contract. Juan looked forward to many more happy Labor Days with his family, and dignified working conditions.

Frank walked into camp with his partner and dog, after hiking Cat Mountain, and headed for a swim in Cranberry Lake.  Happy to have held his public service position at Onondaga Community College for 7 years, he knew an extended first September weekend was annually his.  This year he chose the wilds of our publicly owned Adirondack Forest Preserve. His thoughts swerved to this being his first Labor Day as a union delegate for NYSUT Professional Administrators at OCC, and how workers’ rights were always under fire even at institutions of higher education.  Profit is often put before people as adjuncts struggle to piece together enough classes, without benefits, to support their families in dignity, too.  

Hector fought the hot sun this Labor Day, harvesting the fields, having worked for the 10th consecutive day in a row.  The State Fair came and went during that time, yet he had no opportunity to view the agricultural events there and celebrate his own farming heritage, and certainly no choice but to work these long hours at low wages if he wanted to keep this job.  And he did, with two youngsters at home he couldn’t take a break, because the next worker in line would eagerly take it.  Dignity be damned.

The future shall not be built upon the backs of workers with no rights, making poverty-rate wages, and holding no organized representation nor respect from owners and the management class.  These types of disrespect are happening right here in Central New York, and voice is needed in our government to represent peoples’ rights.  I promise as your next Syracuse District Councilor to inform the full council as to currently undergoing worker issues, to listen to and learn together with union representatives, and ensure we fill the open public service positions that will lead to our safety, prosperity, and a city of dignity for all of us.

Join Us on Friday Evening -

Donate Today -

Donate today to sustain our momentum.

Screen_Shot_2015-09-04_at_2.54.42_PM.pngAs you’re getting ready for your Labor Day weekend, our campaign team is preparing for next weekend’s Volunteer Kickoff activities. Simone is busy recruiting volunteers and we are putting the finishing touches on our newest campaign literature - a door hanger that volunteers will distribute to EVERY voter in the 2nd District!


Please donate today. We need your financial support to continue building momentum.  No contribution is too small. Our goal is to raise $900 by next week to pay for the literature you can see on the right.


We’re already having an impact, talking issues and solutions, and the Democratic incumbent doesn’t like it. Maybe he shouldn’t have voted against Ban the Box. Maybe he should have taken interest in the problems facing the poorest neighborhoods in District 2. If elections were about qualifications and caring, Frank would win hands down – and that’s why we are working so hard to get him elected.


Our budget is a fraction of what the Democratic Party machine will spend on this race. They will try to win the election with expensive, glossy mailers with meaningless platitudes.  We can win this race with people power. That’s where you come in.


We are ready and raring to go and all that’s left is to print our newest campaign literature -- door hangers to blanket the district with Frank’s name and strong, anti-poverty message -- Syracuse for All of Us.


We urge you to donate today, $10 to $100, whatever is within your means. Every bit counts!


Public Comment on Roth Scrap Yard to DEC

If there were ever a time in Syracuse for adhering to the precautionary principle I would argue for that time to be now with Onondaga Lake.  After decades of time and millions of dollars spent on clean-up we still have a huge job ahead of us.  And not just an environmental clean-up job, we also must work towards a clean-up of our culture and a return to a respect for the ecological heritage that the lake beckons us to reclaim.  As SUNY-ESF President Quentin Wheeler recently proclaimed “Onondaga Lake is a metaphor for the broken covenant between humans and nature and an illustration of the complexity of modern environmental challenges...It demands that we examine the relationship that we aspire to have with the natural world and challenge ourselves to find answers that also include the human dimension.”

If we are to take serious our stewardship of the natural world, in recognition of its importance as not only a natural resource for our physical and spiritual survival, but also for our economic and infrastructural resilience, then, we must use this opportunity to make a statement.

That statement should be that we will no longer put Onondaga Lake in danger, and that we will place prime priority on its remediation and future public use, including the land immediately adjacent to it that has also suffered from the industrial mismanagement of the last century.  How would that look?

In the case of the Roth Steel Scrap Yard, we have a great opportunity to be innovative and think in long-term and low-impact/low-cost solutions. I am imagining my alma-mater SUNY-ESF, one of the best environmental science schools of our time, to take leadership in the exploration of a phyto- and myco-remediation plan to use fungi and other plants to degrade and sequester contaminants, stimulate microbial, mycelium, and enzyme activity, and reduce toxins in-situ. You might have innovative ideas too and I would be excited to hear them.

Restore the ecology, fully remove the contaminants and pollutants, return the site to its former and best use as a natural environment (and maybe a very cool and first of its kind public park - if NYC can make a word-class and innovative park out of an abandoned rail line, then we can do the same with an abandoned scrap yard).  Let’s not just cover up the problem with a human-made cap that will inevitably one-day fail and saddle our children's children with the problem we have today, nor rely on past uses when we could be forward-thinking in developing new biological and chemical technologies using plant biology and chemistry.

There's still time to submit your own comment, see for details.

Greater Syracuse Labor Council Endorsement Questionnaire 2015

The Greater Syracuse Labor Council has chosen not to endorse me as candidate for 2nd District Syracuse Common Council.  So I present here my full questionnaire.  Unfortunately, they also have chosen not to release the other candidates' questionnaire answers, including the chosen endorsees.  So, for all my Union Brothers and Sisters, I'll be guessing along with you as to the positions of the chosen candidates.  Thank you for considering me for your vote on November 3rd.



Additional Comments:

The health, wellness, and livelihood issues that affect America's workers also directly affect all American citizens.  There is no us versus them, though unions represented by the GSLC stand to be on the front lines in this fight for all of us. Without strong labor rights, jobs/employment programs, and support services such as health care and organizing legislation, the upper-class and ownership will continue to peck away at the working classes and deteriorate any resemblance of a middle class security. I will stand on the side of the GSLC membership with pride.

A bit about me: I grew up in a union home with my father a member of the United Mine Workers (UMW , UMWA) where he was local President for many years in Southwest Pennsylvania. I currently sit as a delegate for NYSUT local OCC-FTA representing Professional Administrators at Onondaga Community College. I am running as a Green Party candidate, whose platform is overtly and explicitly about favoring and maintaining workers' rights, benefits, and power.

Among other accomplishments over the last 7 years since I have joined the Syracuse community, I've tirelessly campaigned against the Trans Pacific Partnership locally, including working with the CWA (Communications Workers of America). I've been part of a process researching and calculating an independent study on the Syracuse Living Wage under my tenure as Board President of Cooperative Federal Credit Union. I've supported educational events regarding increasing funding for public education through my role with the Green Party (such as a lecture we hosted by Rick Timbs earlier this year). I’ve assisted small business owners in economic development start-ups and expansions through my day job counseling business planning, market research, and pro-forma creation and analysis at the Onondaga Small Business Development Center (at OCC) as a NYS Certified Business Advisor.

My current campaign is based upon an anti-poverty platform to create a Syracuse that works for All Of Us. I see the poverty everyday outside the doors of my house in the Near Westside, where poverty rates reach over 65%.  As part of our current door canvassing and person-to-person campaigning for my City Council seat, we are carrying the Urban Jobs Task Force petition calling for a “Resident Employment Ordinance requiring that, when the city contracts for construction, service and public works projects over $100,000, at least 20% of the contracted work hours go to Syracuse Residents, and half of those hours go to city residents of "stressed neighborhoods” in order to create more employment for Syracuse residents.

Currently the main planks I am campaigning for are (from the Vision and Platform page of my website):

END POVERTY. Raise wages so working families can have a dignified life. Economic development must support local businesses and cooperatives. Companies receiving tax-breaks should be required to hire city residents. Schools must be fully-funded so all students have the opportunity to succeed.

SAFE STREETS, SAFE NEIGHBORHOODS. To end crime and violence, we must end poverty and create economic opportunities. We must develop better community and police relationships. We can make our streets safer by slowing traffic, developing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and better lighting. We need a citywide plan to remove sidewalk snow. We must also stop explosive oil trains from crossing our city.

STRONGER COMMUNITY and GOVERNMENT. Frank supports more public gardens and community food forests with fruit trees and berries. In addition to making our city healthier, community gardens promote collaboration among neighbors. Frank has led the transformation of five unused Syracuse green spaces into productive fruit and vegetable gardens.  City government must be more accessible and responsive to city residents, being proactive and not just reactive to the issues we all face.


CELEBRATE SYRACUSE.  Embrace our uniqueness as the snowiest city in America and the 5th snowiest in the world by holding the best winter festival that this country has ever seen!  Showcase the arts, music and ethnic cultures that make us a melting-pot and the Central City of New York.

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Simone Richmond, Volunteer Coordinator - Our Newest Team Member!

Simone.pngI am excited to share with you news about the newest member of our Vote Cetera Campaign Team, Volunteer Coordinator Simone Richmond! 

Simone's background is in grassroots advocacy, educational and electoral campaigns with groups including California Peace Action and the Global Green. We are grateful that she has joined our team and we hope that you will warmly respond to her outreach efforts when she calls you about volunteering with our Street Team, for Phone Banks and various jobs in between.  Visit the volunteer page tonight and let us know how you can help out. Coordinating volunteers for a grassroots campaign is a full time job. Please make a contribution today.

Our movement building and organizing is needed now more than ever before. A new article just published in The Atlantic magazine confirmed what many of us know about the city of Syracuse - that poverty is on the rise, especially for people of color.  According to the newly published study, in Syracuse, 65% of the black population lives in high-poverty areas, up from 43% of the black population in 2000. The number of high-poverty census tracts grew to 30 from 12. 

Creating economic development and opportunities for a dignified life for everyone in our community will be a heavy lift. Our Street Team has been circulating a petition for a local hiring ordinance that would require contractors hired with city money to provide at least 20% of the positions to local workers.  As a small but significant step, we are supporting this Urban Jobs Task Force campaign to expand local job opportunities for city residents. 

Want to discuss our City Council campaign in person? Meet others Greens and community activists? Come to one of our upcoming events:

Community Forum
Tuesday, August 11, 7pm
Polish Home, 915 Park Ave.

Ice Cream Social and Fundraiser
Thursday August 13, 6:30pm
340 Midland Ave.

Housing, Health Neighborhoods: A Right for #AllOfUs

Housing issues are a major concern I've been hearing about everyday when I talk with neighbors of the 2nd District.  Healthy neighborhoods are impacted by the condition, value, and use of the housing stock. One neighbor on Lakeview Ave said "It's the living here, the homes, they are not cared for, it attracts bad things."

Much of the frustration is with absentee landlords and inadequate property management which leads to unsafe conditions, deteriorating housing values, and lack of respect for residents from adjacent neighborhoods. When these properties reach the end of their "useful lives", and the absentee owner has bled them for all they are worth, the homes are left to languish, build up large tax delinquencies, and bring the value and sense of community down. 

This lack of responsibility then places an absurd weight on tax-payers in the form of subsidizing demolitions and legal proceedings and filing for seizures, as well as volunteer hours of neighborhood groups such as WestSide Walks clearing sidewalks of snow and trash around these properties.

These are reasons that when elected I will delve into our policies regarding problem and rental properties, to hold landlords accountable to the neighbors and neighborhoods that their rental houses co-exist with. I will ensure current home-owners can access assistance for maintaining code compliant conditions, and investment owners are held responsible for the code violation they allow to go uncared for. See the Green Party Housing & Neighborhoods Platform here.

Please donate today or join up with our Street TeamI need your help so that we can continue to engage with Syracuse city residents, put key ideas and policies into public discussion, and help me win a seat on City Council where I'll speak up for a Syracuse that works for #AllOfUs!

#VoteDignity ~ Frank

P.S. Adequate housing options for disabled individuals is a critical issue that is often overlooked.  I participated in a rally last week organized by disability rights activist - my statement can be read right here!

March for a Livable and Accessible Syracuse

Wednesday July 29, 2015


"Today at the 25 year anniversary mark of the Americans with Disability Act, we stand here together, and continue to be a morally bankrupt society, when as a community we cannot provide a roof over each others heads, and proper accommodations for each person's abilities in order to live with dignity.  

Read more

Call for Complete Clean Up of Onondaga Lake

Syracuse NY -- On Wednesday July 22nd, Green Party candidates for Syracuse City Council Frank Cetera, 2nd District which includes the Lakefront and the Inner Harbor, and Lance Denno, At-Large, attended the “Clean Lake Party in the Lake” where many public figures signed up to dive into Onondaga Lake from a pontoon boat launched at Willow Bay in Liverpool.  The swim, organized by Believe in Syracuse, was required to take place from a boat due to the continued presence of sediment contamination and lack of a swimming beach, and was required to be on the north side of the lake due to sewage contamination from overflow on the south end.

“I believe in Syracuse and commend the environmentalists and engineers working to clean up the contamination from Syracuse’s industrial past,” stated Cetera. “However, we cannot forget that the lake is still not clean and there is significant dredging and remediation that needs to happen. As it stands, we cannot rely on an incomplete cleanup and a lack of fail-safe caps to cover the remaining pollutants in the sediment. We need proper funding and priority attention to repair and maintain sewage infrastructure so that it does not overflow into Onondaga Lake.We also need a halt to all the industrial hazards that threaten the lake, such as the Bakken crude oil trains that pass through CNY, along the lake several time a week.”  Cetera has been outspoken about the dangers of crude oil transport and potential derailments adjacent to the lake.

Cetera decided not to join the lake swim out of respect for the need to continue the cleanup.

Denno expressed frustration with the years of clean-up and the need for the cleanup in the first place, saying “It's easier if you don't break it in the first place, instead of having to clean up what has been polluted.  Just look at Skaneateles Lake--what future for Onondaga Lake would you want?”  Denno sees the lake issue as a metaphor for the atmosphere, and concerns about climate change.

Both candidates agree that we must not only think of the need to fully finish the cleanup of Onondaga Lake as an environmental mission and a return to the Onondaga Nation’s cultural heritage, but also for economic and social justice reasons.

Cetera stated that he would not be satisfied until the lake is “back to a condition which privileges all people in the City and adjoining municipalities, not just those who have a boat to jump off of at Willow Bay to go swimming.”

Both candidates will appear on the Green Party line (Row D of the General Election ballot on Tuesday November 3rd, along with Howie Hawkins for City Auditor and Board of Education candidates Ray Blackwell and Caleb Duncan.  For more information:

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