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Update: Onondaga County Legislature Won’t Vote on City-County Merger in 2017

By Staff


Southwest Community Center CEO Sharon Owens Speaks at a Meeting  Regarding Consensus Commission's New  Report

(Update, Feb. 16) – Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon has announced the legislature will not vote on the Consensus Commission’s proposed merger of city and county governments in 2017.

“This is one vision from one group,” McMahon stated. “This decision will not be rushed.

McMahon is a Republican, and the GOP holds the majority in the legislature.

According to McMahon, the county legislature has currently created a subcommittee to review the commission’s proposal. 

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(From Feb. 9) – The Consensus Commission, an independent group commissioned to determine the economic feasibility of merging city and county governments, has recommended consolidating the two governments in its final report.

“Here is our reality,” the report stated. “Both the city and suburbs have seen their employed labor force shrink over the past 26 years. We have 24,500 fewer working residents today than in 1990 – 18,000 fewer in the city, and 6,500 fewer in the suburbs. Rankings of our economic performance – both nationally and globally – are alarming. Since the trough of the recession, the number of full- and part-time jobs in our community has increased at one-quarter the national rate; gross product output has increased at half the national benchmark. We have lost nearly one percent of our population since 1970. And between 2000 and 2010, more than half of our communities lost residents. Our region’s current economic and fiscal path is not sustainable, absent change.”

The commission has recommended combining the Syracuse Common Council and Onondaga County Legislature into one legislative body, with a total of 33 seats, and one executive in charge of the organization.

The merger, along with several other recommendations in the report, could save up to $33 million per year, the group stated.

Here are some of the commission’s additional recommendations:

  • Consolidating the Syracuse Police Department, and the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department;
  • Combining the Syracuse Water Department, and the Onondaga County Water Authority;
  • Consolidating roadwork and maintenance between the city, and its surrounding suburbs.

The commission has been compiling data and seeking public comment for the report since 2014, and the merger between the two governments would require voter approval for the plan to move forward, according to reports.

In addition, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney has expressed support for the consolidation, previously; however, amidst an ongoing controversy between city and county governments, Mayor Stephanie Miner has recently shown opposition to the the plan.

Mayor Miner has released the following statement regarding the commission’s report:

“Despite the commission’s good intentions, the Consensus Commission’s final report is, unfortunately, an enormous disappointment. It is rife with ambiguities and omissions. Its section on governance is fatally flawed, since it assumes the existence of legal authority to abolish the city, which simply does not exist. City staff actively participated in the process with the understanding the recommendations would meaningfully address issues of inequity, and a better delivery of services. Instead, sadly, we are presented with a document that abolishes the city, strips the city of its assets (p. 80-91) and saddles the city residents with enormous financial obligations without any means to raise revenues to satisfy them. It resembles more a plan for the worst form of corporate looting than a progressive document designed to meet the needs of Central New York residents. While not addressing the issue of school district consolidation, the implementation of the report’s recommendations would cripple the ability of the school district to fulfill its mandate to educate future generations. In short, it would doom Syracuse to eternal poverty. Its proposed new government structure would dilute and disenfranchise people of color and other underrepresented groups at a time when greater participation in our civic process must be encouraged, rather than diminished.”

“The voters of Syracuse entrusted me with a sacred obligation to serve them by exercising my best judgment. As such, to endorse this proposal would be a dereliction of duty on my part. For these and other reasons, I will be urging my fellow citizens to actively oppose any initiative to adopt its recommendations.”

In response, the commission said the mayor had “responded with combativeness rather than solutions,” and that, as conversations surrounding the proposal are preparing to begin, the consolidation of the two governments would “bring relief to the city, and create an environment where city and county residents win together.”

Visit https://www.cgr.org/consensuscny/ to view the commission’s full report.

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