Two Democratic mayoral candidates in Syracuse have different perspectives when it comes to tackling the city's problems. One comes from one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, the other has built an organization that helps network more than 400 local, small businesses.
Raymond Blackwell, 28, is a stay-at-home dad taking care of his 11-month-old daughter Catalina. He is the former director of a Boy and Girls Club in Syracuse and he grew up on the city’s north side.
“And all my friends pretty much were low income," Blackwell said. "We were limited in where we could go and what we could do so we found things to do and they weren’t always the best things to do. A lot of my friends grew up without a father.”
And that’s the cornerstone of why he’s running for mayor. He said to address the city’s poverty, people need to come together, and one way to do that is through a mentorship program.
“Every child in Syracuse would have a role model," Blackwell said. "There are children in Syracuse who if they got into a jam, couldn’t say, ‘Hey, pops, come and get me.’ That’s significant. That’s things that a lot of people take for granted; that if you miss the bus, you know you can call someone and someone is going to pick you up. That’s something a lot of kids don’t have. If you're a family or you're an adult who is struggling and in poverty, you need to have a middle class connection. There are so many people who are just isolated in poverty. I believe the only way we're going to break that cycle of poverty is not just by writing a check, we really have to come together as people.”
He envisions mentorships extending to small businesses as well, something Syracuse First Executive Director Chris Fowler knows much about. He moved back to Syracuse from Austin, Texas in 2005.
“One of the things I used to say about Austin is there’s more people with PhD’s and graduate degrees who are tending bar and waiting tables because they love living there and there’s a high quality of life," Fowler said.
Fowler said talented people fuel entrepreneurial growth and he said he wants to bring Syracuse into the 21st century. He is focusing on the city’s walkability, cleanliness, arts and culture. But the city has been posting big deficits in recent years.
"What we know is that locally owned businesses give back to the economy at a much higher rate than other kinds of businesses do," Fowler said. "We can start to make real headway in terms of that deficit by really fostering and nurturing a healthy business community. How we do that is make it easier for entrepreneurs and businesses to survive and thrive. Now is the time to start activating and thinking about how we make Syracuse a destination city. A place where people can thrive. A place where people feel welcomed. People go places where the quality of life is high and they create opportunities for themselves or they find it. Syracuse has to be a place where talented people want to be."
Ten candidates have declared they are running for mayor of Syracuse. Blackwell, Fowler and five other candidates will compete for the Democratic designation later this month.