Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said it’s time to “dial down” the controversy between city and county governments in an interview with WYSR-TV Monday; specifically when it comes to her tumultuous relationship with Mayor Stephanie Miner.
Mahoney discussed the lawsuit the mayor filed last week against inner harbor developer COR Development Co., a suit which Miner filed after the company sought a tax deal with the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA).
According to the county executive, the move was nothing more than a “PR stunt.”
“I just wanted the opportunity to try to dial down the drama,” Mahoney stated. “You know, we have all of us pulling in the same direction, which I think is much better for the community. And, this divided, lawsuit fighting stuff is not necessary. I think there’s a lot of misinformation. I think people are riled up on purpose, to fill agendas, and, you know, the truth of the matter is, this is a really good thing for the community. COR had every right to do what they did. Onondaga County has recognized, certainly while I’ve been here, the value of the city of Syracuse. And the county, as a whole, has really put its money where its mouth is with the city. And, I just want to try to dial the drama back down, and tell people it’s going to be ok.”
Miner said she filed the lawsuit because COR deliberately sought a tax relief deal, or “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) deal, from OCIDA, to allow the company to avoid an agreement with the city, which would have bound the company to provide project-related jobs to city residents and minorities for the $324 million development project.
“We represent the people of the city of Syracuse,” Miner stated. “We do not represent the developers.”
Yet, according to Mahoney, the mayor’s reaction to the OCIDA’s PILOT agreement with COR was disingenuous, and overblown, at best.
Mahoney said none of the city’s previous PILOT agreements have ever included provisions which required developers to guarantee employment to city and minority residents, and OCIDA would also be required to share its proceeds from the COR deal with the city.
“The community’s been left with this idea that the city gets cut out, if COR goes to OCIDA, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Mahoney stated. “By law, we’re required to share the PILOT proceeds with the city. And, the PILOT proceeds in this deal far eclipse the PILOT proceeds in any of the deals that have happened at SIDA [Syracuse Industrial Development Agency] in the last 13 years. The second part is that, [the mayor has said] local folks won’t have work on this. And, I would say, take a breath, and look at what we’ve done in county government. We just built the amphitheater with more minority, and women-owned businesses as contractors, with more employees. We’ve knocked down barriers along the way. I think the crux of it was, the mayor was suggesting that, had core come to SIDA, their PILOT would have included a community benefit agreement for the Urban Jobs Task Force. But, what I would point to people is, I think when I looked earlier today, there’re 13 PILOTS that SIDA has given out since the mayor’s been mayor, and none of them include any Urban Jobs Task Force-like agreement. So, the notion that this was the one that was going to is not probably likely.”
Miner has also reportedly stated that, since filing the lawsuit, she no longer supports a merger between city and county governments into a metropolitan style of government, a proposal which she initially supported as part of a plan that won Central New York $500 million in state economic development funds earlier this month.
According to Mahoney, the mayor’s change of mind is based on her emotions.
“I think that is one of the issues that the mayor struggles with,” Mahoney stated. “She gets emotional, and she just very quickly lashes out. And, here I think you are seeing it again. That’s the first time I ever heard her say no. She wrote down in our application for the $500 million that she would support a referendum to move toward a metropolitan government in the fall. Then she gets her feelings hurt, and then we get lawsuits, and we get entrenched, and it’s just not a good way to move forward with government.”
According to an article in the Post Standard, Miner has said the city and county have very different philosophies when it comes to eradicating poverty in Syracuse, a barrier which would prevent the two governments from merging successfully.
“The economic development philosophy that the county has espoused, and continues to espouse, is that there are lucky developers, and everyone else is left out,” Miner stated.
Still, Mahoney has said she hopes she and Miner, who has frequently been at odds with the county executive, as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as of late, can get back to a place where they will be able to cooperate.
“It was really drama-free until the mayor took the shot at the governor, and then really didn’t like it that people didn’t line up behind her,” Mahoney stated. “I’m county executive. I have a responsibility to the people who live in this community to work with the people who can help the community move forward. It’s not my style to just pick fights, and file lawsuits. I would just implore her to take a breath, and come back to the table and work with us, because, we were getting a lot done when we were working together.”