County Exec. Mahoney Pushes Discussion on Consolidation in State of the County Address

Mar 8, 2017

County Executive Joanie Mahoney chats with members of the audience after her state of the county address in the Carrier Theater. Her father, Bernard, in back is talking with GOP mayoral candidate Laura Levine.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney used the occasion of her 10th state of the county address Tuesday evening to calm some of what she called the “fearmongering” over the Consensus Commission’s recommendations to modernize local government. 

"There is not a single thing written in the Consensus report that will spell disaster for anyone."

Such has been the rhetoric from the mayor to the county legislature over the main recommendation to combine Syracuse and Onondaga County.

"I also want you to ask yourselves while people are working so hard to prevent you from having a vote."

County lawmakers said last month they would not approve a referendum to come before voters.  

A recommendation that won’t need voter approval is the consolidation of the city and county industrial development agencies.  Mahoney explained that her office currently has no control or influence over the city or county IDA's or the projects that come before them.  She suggested that any future combined IDA stay that way.  The city IDA is made up of members appointed by the mayor, and that the chairman of the legislature appoints all members on the county's IDA. 

"I would recommend we create a new one, and have the mayor appoint some of the members and have the legislature chairman appoint some of the members.  I'm ready to do the work.  I'm offering up my team, and I think it makes sense."

Mahoney spent a good portion of her address explaining the important role of the county as a safety net, especially when it comes to youth.  She says she’s been working for last few months with Sheriff Gene Conway and the state court system to get 16 and 17 year olds out of the justice center and into Hillbrook Detention Center.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"Where they can get the services that they need in hopes of rehabilitation, and not a recipe for a  further life of crime."

The county faces a lawsuit over the placement of 16 and 17 year-olds in solitary confinement in the jail. 

Mahoney also announced a renewed push to breathe more life into the largely unused $15 million film hub in DeWitt.  She hopes a community advisory board will help land five films with a budget of five million dollars and 110 crew members each, which might get the word out about generous tax credits and post production opportunities….

"If we can get a post-production company here, and we're in talks already with more than one that's interested, then we can employ 30 people permanently in the film hub," Mahoney said.  "So, 320 crew members, 30 permanent jobs...it really is realistic to think that we're going to get 350 new jobs."

The film hub has largely been regarded a failure for attracting just a single low-budget film since it opened in 2015.  The facility is also one of many SUNY Poly projects, which have collectively been caught up in a federal corruption probe.