Police and economy focal points during Syracuse mayoral debate

Aug 30, 2013

The use of technology versus having an officer on the street seems to separate the candidates when it comes to fighting crime in the city of Syracuse. The three candidates in September's mayoral Democratic primary debated the issue on the Campbell Conversations. Common Councilor Pat Hogan suggests there aren't enough officers on the street.

"Right now, if you talk to an average police officer on a shift, you probably have 15-20 police officers on a shift in the daytime, and at night you might have 30," Hogan said. "There should be 40 officers on a patrol shift. We should get those officers out of the PSB to break down those special units, and put them all on patrol."

Candidate Alfonso Davis agrees with Hogan that more officers should be on the street. He also says there needs to be a better relationship between police and the community, asking for officers instead of overseers.

"So that when an incident does occur, versus you coming in on the scene with your supervisory person with an overseer perspective or this gestapo perspective, you have a relationship with people and people are more in tune to engage with you and give you significant information," Davis said.

Miner defends her police strategy, noting that Operation Truce, which has gone after gangs and uses technology like police cameras on corners, has gone a long way in keep citizens safe. She says her administration hasn't ignored the face to face part of policing.

"We have said, and I said four years that it was going to be a priority to improve relationships between the neighborhoods and the police department," Miner said. "Chief Fowler and I have done the yeoman's work on that, and we still have a ways to go. But I'm still proud of the relationship we have, and I've talked to a lot of people about how much better it's gotten."

Controversial budget decisions by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner are also getting an airing in the Democratic primary race. The closing of the Ida Benderson Senior Center two years ago, and Fire Station #7 earlier this year due to budget constraints, are the two highest profile budget moves debated by the three candidates.

The closing of the long time senior center in Syracuse came two years into Miner's term, and was arguably the beginning of a crack in the relationship between the mayor and democratic common councilors. It was a question of budgetary priorities says Hogan, who remembered that lawmakers came up with cash to save the center, but it still closed.

"Maybe it's because I worked for the park department," Hogan said. "Maybe it's because I'm a Democrat and I believe in Democratic principals. I can't imagine any previous mayor closing the Ida Benderson Center. The people least among us, we should support."

Miner says that decision is an example of one of the themes of her campaign, that she's been able to make tough fiscal decisions in the face of fiscal crisis.

"My opponents do not want to make hard choices, and they have walked away from making hard choices," Miner said. "The people of this city know I've made them smartly, and in the same way have been able to keep the city moving forward by making these difficult decisions. It's easy to stand up and promise everything to anyone. It's more difficult to be financially responsible and prioritize."

The third democrat in the primary, Alfonso Davis disagrees, suggesting budget decisions go beyond shutting down the well known senior center.

"Closing the Ida Henderson Center because there was a $60,000 shortfall, I don't consider that a tough decision," Davis said. "Especially when in the same breath, you forgive the Chamber of Commerce of a $360,000 bill that they owe the city."

The three candidates face off September 10. At this point, there is only token Republican opposition to the winner of the primary.