By Dennis Duncan
Earlier this week, a host of congressmen, executive officials and local town hopefuls gathered at Beauchamp Branch Library to open a conversation concerning the release of the Consensus Commission’s Citizen’s Consensus Options Report.
The group, which has been awarded $25 million by the state from the Upstate Revitalization Initiative to implement strategies for merging city and county governments, has extracted essentials for building a platform entrenched with “Economic Growth, Better Governance, and Inclusion,” it said, and included 50 suggested recommendations within its report.
After nearly 18 months of research, the commission’s data-driven analysis has identified the dangers of outdated infrastructures, and municipal operations within Onondaga County, and has made it very clear that reform is needed.
“Twenty out of 35 of our towns and villages could be in a deficit in the next decade,” the report stated.
In addition, the report also found, “local governments currently spend more than $100 million on redundant services.”
Joe Stefco, CEO of CGR Research and Analytics Company, also noted the importance of the group’s big data findings by stating in the report that “measurability” is conducive to monitoring efficient progress.
The group’s discussion revealed genuine concerns the commission said it has regarding the economic challenges facing both city and county governments, and, how, more importantly, corralling the general public as “one community” could mean an annual savings of hundreds of dollars per year for residential taxpayers.
“Taxpayers could each save as much as $200 per year, per household by consolidating services,” the report stated.
Melanie Littlejohn, director of community and customer management at National Grid, said she supports the idea of consolidating both governments.
“We can do better,” Littlejohn stated.
In addition, Congressman James Walsh and Southwest Community Center CEO Sharon Owens said they both support the dire need for “reading the document.”
While the report’s next steps include creating efforts to move toward the consolidation of city and county governance, the commission also said it will seek input from voices in diverse communities, and underrepresented populations, in the area.
The group’s goal is to “hear the people speak,” the commission stated.
According to the commission, the group hopes community members will read the report, and then find a common interest toward coming together to improve the county’s living conditions.
The commission will be accepting public input until March 16, and will publish its final report May 1.
Here is a list of the current Consensus Commission members:
- Cornelius B. Murphy(co-chair) — Former President, SUNY ESF
- Catherine Richardson(co-chair) — Retired Attorney, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC
- James T. Walsh(co-chair) — Former Representative for the 25th Congressional District of New York
- Aminy I. Audi — CEO and chairman, L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.
- Laurence G. Bousquet — Member, Bousquet Holstein, PLLC
- William Byrne — Chairman of the board, Byrne Dairy Inc.
- Donna J. DeSiato — Superintendent of Schools, East Syracuse Minoa Central School District
- Bethaida “Bea” Gonzalez– Dean, University College of Syracuse University
- Darlene Kerr — Retired President, Niagara Mohawk
- Patrick M. Kilmartin — County Legislator, 11th District
- Melanie Littlejohn — Director of Community and Customer Management, National Grid
- Andrew Maxwell — Director, Policy and Innovation for the City of Syracuse
- Stephen “Steve” F. Meyer — President and CEO, Welch Allyn Inc.
- Dennis Nave — Greater Syracuse Labor Council
- Mark A. Nicotra — Supervisor, Town of Salina and Vice-President, Onondaga County Supervisors Association
- Mark A. Olson — Mayor, Village of Fayetteville and President, Onondaga County Mayors Association
- Sharon F. Owens — CEO, Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility
- Ann Rooney — Deputy County Executive for Human Services, Onondaga County
- Chad Ryan — Syracuse Common Council, District 2