Syracuse nixes smoking in parks; approves alarm fee

Jun 10, 2014

The Syracuse Common Council has snuffed out the right to smoke in city parks and publicly-owned downtown gathering areas, like Clinton Square.

The council also formally added the dropping of cigarette butts on sidewalks to its anti-littering ordinance, punishable by a $50 fine.

The laws were written by councilor Bob Dougherty and Khalid Bey, who said they will shift the habits of smokers and protect people in public who don't want to be near second-hand smoke.

Councilor Helen Hudson supported the littering aspect, but voted against a ban. A smoker herself, she said the ban was shortsighted. 

"All smokers are not ignorant," she said. "I think most of us make a conscious choice to not be around people when we’re smoking, especially in public."

The smoking ban will go into effect Oct. 1 in order to give downtown festival organizers time to plan for the change, councilors said.

Alarm fee

Syracuse lawmakers Monday also took a step to start collecting an annual fee on properties with alarm systems.

The Common Council has re-worked a 1995 law that charges a $30 annual fee for alarms. Before, there was no way to enforce collection of the fee, which will now be put on the alarm companies.

City law enforcement officials say annual registration will help keep its records current and make responses easier.

The council twice brought up the issue last year, but it didn't have the support to approve it.

Selling properties

Some Syracuse lawmakers are taking issue with a change in the city’s policy on how it sells tax-delinquent properties.

As part of its implementation of a land bank to deal with Syracuse’s massive vacant property problem, the city started sending all property seizures to the land bank. That’s even if there is an interested buyer in a property behind on its property taxes.

Letting the land the land bank handle the process means loses out on a revenue source, said councilor Kathleen Joy.

"Why break something that’s not broken? Why drive everything to the land bank, which is a private entity?" she said. "Keep the process the way it was. Have people come forward, have them invested in their community and have the properties sold by the city of Syracuse."

The council must approve the sale of properties to the land bank, but it does so at no profit.

The city administration argues passing along the resale work to the land bank is more cost effective and efficient.