The three candidates in the Democratic primary race for mayor of Syracuse squared off during a forum on WRVO's Campbell Conversations on Tuesday. Incumbent Stephanie Miner will face Common Councilor Pat Hogan, and challenger Alfonso Davis, to see who gets on the Democratic party line in November.
While issues of crime, education and economic development were discussed, debate over how the city handled tax breaks for Destiny USA sparked the most heated exchange between mayor Stephanie Miner and Common Councilor Pat Hogan.
Destiny came up following a discussion of service agreements with non-profit groups and a Syracuse University request for tax breaks to build a bookstore. That's when Miner brought up Hogan's support of the controversial development.
"We took the deal that was on the table and that was it," Hogan said.
"No, you took the deal that was put on the table," Miner shot back. "I did not."
"That's right and you took city money to try and fight the deal and you lost," Hogan said.
"I did and I did. And remember there was supposed to be nothing like it in the world, and it's like any other mall in the world," Miner responded.
The third candidate in the race, Alfonso Davis, said all the talk regarding Destiny USA is moot.
"Where we should be now is trying to broker conversation of how the city can benefit more from Destiny, because it is here," Davis said. "To waste money suing on something that was already approved, and she voted on to make that happen is pointless. At the end of the day, we have to deal with what are we doing right now and how can we move our city forward."
How the mayor works with the legislative branch of government has become an issue in the campaign, in light of Miner's sometimes contentious relationship with the common council.
"Whether it's been delaying a vote on the land bank, whether it's been politicizing the planning commission, whether it's been taking away resources from [Syracuse Police] Chief Fowler, they have over and over decided to go with the status quo than change," Miner said. "And the status quo hasn't been working for Syracuse."
Hogan's take on things?
"When she talks about the police department, the only resources I can remember challenging that the current police chief has is the take home cars," Hogan said. "The 47 take home cars that go home with senior officers that cost the city quite a bit of money. So I'm puzzled. We've collaborated on certain issues and there are other issues we've felt strongly about and we've fought about."
Davis believes a good working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government comes down to respect.
"Lead from a positive perspective," Davis said. "Engage individuals where they are and respect the fact that they are elected officials just like you."
This is Davis's second run in a Democratic primary for mayor. He lost four years ago to Miner, who went on to win the general election. Hogan has sparred with the Miner administration on several different fronts over the past few years and decided to jump into the September 10 primary. There is no strong Republican opposition to Miner at this point, although GOP legal maneuvers with the ballot could allow Hogan to run as a Republican in November if he loses the primary.
The mayoral forum will be aired on the Campbell Conversations in two parts. The first is this Sunday evening, August 25 at 6 p.m.