A series of public engagement meetings begins Monday regarding the Consensus commission's proposals to modernize government in Onondaga County.
One of those meetings will be at the Southwest Community Center. Executive Director Sharon Owens said this is the first of three meetings in February.
“The month of February is going to be insane," Owens said. "Going to churches, getting on radio programs, getting on any vehicle we can to get this message out and to get people to first of all take a look at the document. What we don’t want is just a few people dictating the story."
There are three public engagement meetings already on the docket. Owens' challenge will be to get people interested in what can by a dry issue: the structure of government.
“We do it the way we galvanize for any issue," Owens said. "We hit the street. We meet at the center and we get people involved in this. And what’s sexy about this, is this conversation is going to happen, so get on board and be part of it.”
Owens said the issues that can ignite excitement in the poor and minority communities of Syracuse involve jobs, and making sure they have representation on any county-wide municipal government.
Consensus Commission members argue that changing governments, including the creation of one municipal government that includes all of Onondaga County, can go a long way to create economic activity in central New York. And Owens will push talk of jobs to get people to come hear about the more than 50 commission proposals. "The one thing that gets our community energized is any potential opportunity to change the way we create jobs," Owens said. "The unemployment rates the poverty rates in the communities that I represent are unacceptable. So, we have got to create mechanisms that get people to work." The other thing Owens wants to emphasize is making sure these minority and poor residents are represented in any talk of municipal governments and consolidations. "As in any discussion, we’re not going to agree about a lot of things, but your perspective won’t be heard if you’re not there, if you’re not engaged," Owens said. "We hear the same voices all the time. This is too important to for it to be the same voices.”
The commission wants feedback about a list of more than 50 proposals included in an 80-page document. The first public meetings to go over the proposals will be held Monday starting at 6 p.m. at the Southwest Community Center and the Dewitt Community Library.