Mayor Miner Explains her Sharp Criticism of Consensus Commission Merger Recommendation

Feb 13, 2017

Mayor Miner takes questions from the media Monday at city hall.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner today defended her sharp criticism of the recommendations of the Consensus commission’s final report.  Miner says she disapproves of the suggested merging of the city and county into a single metropolitan government…without giving consideration to a dependent school district.

"When you are taking away all of the assets of the city of Syracuse, and then you're saying to the school district you will float in some sort of miasma that we'll figure out later, you're clearly saying this is going to be a government that is structured differently and abolishes the city of Syracuse."

Miner believes that in addition to destabilizing the city school district, the city’s existing debt would actually hurt Syracuse’s economy under Consensus’s suggested plan.

"A billion dollars would stay with the properties that pay taxes in the city of Syracuse," Miner said.  "If you have a billion dollars of liabilities left with those properties,  who's going to buy property here?  Who's going to sell property here? How are you going to expand businesses here?"

Miner says she met with Consensus to discuss addressing inequity and government efficiency while the report was in progress. Despite offering her input, the Mayor was disappointed in the report’s final offerings.

Credit cgr.org/consensuscny

"I think we had an ability to talk about a better delivery of services," Miner said.   "Instead, the focus became on governmental structure."

Although the Consensus report’s 50 suggestions were expansive, Miner feels pursuing any of them will be seen as the first steps towards an overall city-county merger.

"Are there recommendations in there that are worth pursuing?  Of course there are," Miner said.  "But I'm not sure there are partners anymore who want to do that given how these recommendations have been set forth."

The voters might ultimately decide if there should be a new metropolitan government if it comes up for a referendum in November.

SENATE LEADER QUESTIONS PUTTING CONSOLIDATION BEFORE VOTERS

The leader of the Senate Republicans says he’s against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require local governments in each county to offer government consolidation plans to go before voters in November .

Senate Leader John Flanagan told a meeting of the state’s mayors that the governor’s proposal while “laudable in its intent”,  it is  too “convoluted”,  and forces local voters to dive too deeply into the sausage making of local government.

Can we try to make sure that we’re being efficient and saving taxpayers money? Yes, absolutely,” Flanagan said. “But a carrot and stick are two different things.”

Senator Flanagan also says he doesn’t think there are too many local governments, as Governor Cuomo has contended. He says if the public thinks the local entities are too numerous, then they can under the present law  governments can take steps to dissolve those government.

The conference of mayors also opposes the governor’s proposal, calling it “another top down state mandate that ignores the root causes of high property taxes”. The mayors are asking for $133 million in state aid that they say has been cut in recent years from the budget.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo responded to Senator Flanagan’s remarks.

“We understand some people want to protect their fiefdoms at all costs, but the Governor’s plan is to get municipalities  to talk to each other and actually  lower costs for property taxpayers,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “Theirs is to increase state costs that will be borne on the same taxpayers. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer.”