SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- There's a three-way race for Syracuse Common Council in the 2nd District, which covers much of the West Side of the city, and part of the North Side. Councilor Chad Ryan, 30, a Democrat, is seeking re-election to a second term. He faces Green Party candidate Frank Cetera, 43, and Republican Maryrose Angelo, 26.
1. Would you favor a new fee on property owners to pay for sidewalk maintenance, similar to what Ithaca or Rochester have? If not, how can Syracuse improve the condition of its sidewalks?
Ryan: No. Sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owners. Many property owners currently take care of their sidewalks. By adding a fee you are punishing those who follow the rules to help those who do not. The city has policies and procedures in place for sidewalks. To improve the condition the city needs to better exercise its enforcement of the current ordinances that are already in place.
Cetera: Yes. Sidewalks should be a city responsibility like roads for improvement, repair, and snow removal. Therefore, adding sidewalk embellishment fees to the already existing roadway fees on property tax bills would be appropriate and within precedence. This increase would be reasonable in extent at 27 percent, or approximately $50, increase annually, (based upon Rochester's program utilizing average lot front footage as an example).
Fines are a regressive system disproportionately affecting the poor and disabled, and many of the residents of the city live in rentals and are therefore often at the mercy of absentee landlords who are lax in maintenance and snow removal. Our current system isn't working and is dangerous. Fines are typically hard to enforce without neighbor complaints, which are detrimental to neighbor cohesiveness.
Angelo: We should have safe, passable sidewalks throughout the city at an affordable cost in all seasons. Property owners should be allowed to make repairs and replace portions of damaged sidewalks, without having to incur the cost of a complete five-foot wide replacement. Competitive bidding should be required for sidewalk repairs and replacements that are contracted by the city and billed to the property owner. Creative solutions should be explored for addressing the snow clearing needs of elderly and disabled property owners, such as community volunteer engagement.
2. Should Syracuse hire more police officers?
Angelo: Yes. Funding for our Police Department should be increased to cover full staffing, thus reducing response time to criminal complaints.
Ryan: Yes. It takes about a year to get brand new recruits out onto the street as uniformed officers. Our number of police officers has been steadily declining. Officers are working more and more overtime to keep up. If we continue to let the numbers decline we will reach a point where the quality of service we get out of overworked officers will start to affect their performance.
Cetera: Yes, Syracuse should fill empty positions on the police force. Officers should be trained and dispatched in community policing including bicycle and foot patrols. We must foster trust and accountability between citizens and law enforcement with the goal of reducing crime. We need intervention programs that connect at-risk individuals to education, drug treatment and job training services.
We need to act on Citizen Review Board's (CRB) findings for the city to revise its Use of Force Policy. In its 2013-2014 observations, the CRB found that "police misconduct is on the rise and this is troubling . . . Use of force by police officers has increased." This is a troubling issue nationally. Syracuse needs to prevent police brutality in our city and institute discipline for excessive use of force.
3. Mayor Stephanie Miner closed Fire Station No. 7 in 2013 over the objections of the Common Council. Did she make the right call?
Cetera: No. Loyalty to our citizens in fulfilling public servant responsibilities requires maintaining necessary services -- for social and infrastructure operations. It is questionable if appropriate fire services were maintained since the closure. According to a June 2014 letter from Syracuse Fire Fighters Association President Motondo (one year after closure), statistics indicate the closing resulted in less-safe conditions for firefighters and citizens.
In addition, crude oil train derailments and explosions nationally have increased 4,000 percent in recent years. Should one occur here in Syracuse we would need a full complement of personnel. Mayor Miner could have made this a probationary closing, and revisited it with actual, not theorized, data. It looks like the right call right now would be to fix the wrong call and re-open Station 7.
Angelo: Yes, Mayor Miner made the right call in closing Fire Station No. 7. The merger of No. 7 into the other stations has provided sufficient coverage and response time and saved millions of taxpayer dollars.
Going forward, if increased development warrants greater firefighting resources, the city can re-open, rebuild, and/or increase staffing.
Ryan: If you have a choice of having more firefighters or less, the answer is obvious. The Syracuse Fire Dept. still maintains its ISO class 1 rating at this time while also having tremendous response times. According to the Onondaga County Response Time Summary Reports, response times are on average 12 seconds slower from year end 2012 compared to current year to date 2015 response times. You can never put a price on what that 12 seconds may mean, but I agree with the decision because of the cost savings to upkeep station 7.
4. Do you approve of the July 2015 lawsuit filed by members of the Common Council who object to the city's new computer use policy?
Angelo: Absolutely not! This was an irresponsible waste of taxpayer money and an irresponsible use of the Common Councilors' time. The policy is reasonable and standard. Effort expended on this issue, when our city faces serious challenges, is inexcusable.
Cetera: It is very unfortunate that diplomacy between the Council and the mayor failed so quickly and completely that a lawsuit was required, and that the shutdown was used as an excuse for not undertaking certain responsibilities of elected office. It is however, necessary to defend the separation of powers between executive and legislative positions in city government. This includes Councilors' rights as they are independently hired by the voters in elections and that's who they are accountable to. Information security and privacy in the workplace are critical issues of our times but Councilors are not employees of the mayor and the language of the computer use policy should reflect as such.