Syracuse Democratic mayoral candidates debate hate groups, free speech, other topics

Aug 16, 2017

The three Democratic candidates running for mayor of Syracuse held their first debate Tuesday, which was broadcast by Spectrum News

One of the questions asked of the candidates was on the events that happened in Charlottesville over the weekend.

White nationalists and counter protester clashed violently in Charlottesville over the removal of a Confederate statue. The candidates were asked if they would allow hate groups to protest in Syracuse. City Auditor Marty Masterpole said he would allow it but in a way that keeps protesters and police safe.

“I don’t want the Syracuse Police Department to respond in full riot gear, anticipating the worst,” Masterpole said.    

Councilor Joe Nicoletti said he would not allow hate groups to protest, even if that meant there would be legal challenges to Syracuse.

“People came to that city with the purpose to hurt people, to destroy the idea of democracy, and to destroy and intimidate this country,” Nicoletti said.

Juanita Perez Williams said she would determine allowing protests on a case by case basis.

“You have to question whether or not these types of behaviors insight harm, insight threats, and therefore would not be protected,” Perez Williams said.

The candidates touched on a variety of other topics including poverty, government consolidation and sanctuary cities. All three candidates said they would keep Syracuse a sanctuary city, limiting the police department's cooperation with federal immigration officials. Perez Williams said the policy makes people feel safe to report a problem in the city.

"Without sanctuary cities, you have people that won't report crime, they won't take their children to the hospital because they are in fear of what would happen to them," Perez Williams said.

Perez Williams is leading in a three-way poll conducted by Spectrum News and the Siena Research Institute, but the poll shows she is neck and neck with Nicoletti. Perez Williams leads with 36 percent of likely Democratic primary voters. Nicoletti has 34 percent.

To cut down on crime, Nicoletti said he would recruit and fill vacancies in the police department.

"We need more police officers, the people in this community are clamoring for it," Nicoletti said.

Masterpole has eight percent in the poll. He said jobs are another way to reduce crime. He said he would support combining the city and county industrial development agencies.

"So long as it creates jobs; good paying jobs with a local hiring ordinance attached, so people here are working," Masterpole said.

All the candidates also agreed on a street-level community grid option to replace Interstate-81 through downtown Syracuse.