Thursday 1 December 2022
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City and County Economic Development Relations Reach a Messy End

Syracuse City Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney have been celebrated by state leaders in the past for their collaborative efforts to bridge city and county government initiatives. But after an exchange of heated open letters between the two officials this week, it seems that their partnership has abruptly reached an end.

Miner first issued a letter on Tuesday to Mahoney and the County government, explaining that the two bodies’ “core views” on economic development policy seem to have “diverged significantly.” She announced that City staff from the Economic Development department — which has shared an office with County Economic Development staffers since 2011 — would be relocating to City Hall by the end of the month.

Miner criticized the County’s “trickle-down model of economic development [that] has left our community with developers being richly rewarded and our community reaping, at best, questionable benefits,” she wrote. She pointed to examples including $44 million in tax breaks given to Cor Development Co. for construction along the Syracuse Inner Harbor, and another $6.8 million in tax breaks for a hotel development from Destiny USA.

“We believe in holding developers to a higher standard, ensuring before public funds are invested into a project that it will be truly impactful to our community: creating jobs, triggering nearby investment, and doing so only if absolutely necessary,” Miner wrote.

County Executive Mahoney responded the same day, calling the news “disappointing” but unsurprising.

“Your unilateral dismantling of a co-located economic development office without even the courtesy of a telephone call puts your interests ahead of the people we serve,” Mahoney wrote. “Our administrations are about more than politics and posturing and your actions belie that.”

Mahoney also fired back on some of the alleged mishandlings, arguing that the Inner Harbor land was granted to Cor Development by the City in the first place without any requirements. She also alleged that County initiatives had saved the City of Syracuse from bankruptcy, which could have proved both costly and embarrassing: only 3% of all bankruptcies in 2014 were business, and the rest personal.

Despite the continued struggles, Mahoney said, “We are seeing the results of our hard work and making real progress in Onondaga County. It would be nice to do it with your help but, rest assured, we will do it without you if we have to.”

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