Syracuse councilors with decades of experience reflect on leaving office

Dec 27, 2017

Four Syracuse councilors with decades of experience are stepping down at the end of the year, mostly because of term limits. The councilors reflected on their time in office, and the challenges still ahead for the city.

Council President Van Robinson is the first person of color to serve as president and he has been on the council for the past 18 years.

“I’m going to miss my colleagues here, I’m going to miss the give-and-take, the special bond that we have built between us,” Robinson said.

Robinson said it is extremely ironic that when he first came to Syracuse, the mayor was Bill Walsh, and now that he is leaving political life, the new mayor is Walsh’s grandson, Ben Walsh.

“I wish the incoming administration all the luck in the world," Robinson said. "We have some very difficult questions that we have to answer.”

Councilor Joe Nicoletti is also stepping down and said one of his disappointments is not dealing with Syracuse’s fiscal crisis.

“This is a time for courage, this is a time for honesty, this is a time to have people there that are honestly going to work together and make difficult decisions," Nicoletti said. "If we don’t we’re not going to be here.”

Nicoletti said tax increases and consolidation should all be on the table.

"That's why I think being in local government is one of the most challenging experiences," Nicoletti said. "You have to be prepared to do the right thing. People may not like it. They may be mad. But if we want to have a city in two years or three years, we have to make some very difficult decisions."

He unsuccessfully ran for mayor this year, his fourth attempt after four decades of public service. He described the current state of politics as a horrible atmosphere and admitted it has been melancholy reflecting on the past.

Councilor Jean Kessner said she has felt strongly against police cameras in neighborhoods and never voted for them.

“What I’ve always wanted and advocated for is to have community policing," Kessner said. "What I want for them is not to just feel safe but to actually be safe. I never felt that got a fair airing.” 

To the councilors coming in, Councilor Nader Maroun said the learning curve will take some time.

“Understand the issues, ask the questions," Maroun said. "Don’t just go along and give your vote. Ask questions of department heads, ask questions of your constituency, come back prepared to vote intelligently on that.”

The outgoing councilors’ extensive experience will be replaced by some political newcomers in their 30s.