Jean Kessner

Tom Magnarelli

The Syracuse Common Council has passed a budget that includes some controversial changes to what Mayor Stephanie Miner had proposed. Miner said she will veto the changes.

The council has cut overtime from Syracuse’s fire and police departments by $1 million each. But Councilor Steven Thompson said the money cut for police overtime has been shifted to hire new officers.

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One hundred fifty truck shipments of radioactive waste could be traveling along Interstate-81 from Canada to South Carolina for the next several years. That has city officials in Syracuse worried about the potential dangers if there is an accident.

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Syracuse’s Youth Council, a group of young people learning how the city’s government works, sat in on their first Common Council meeting in March. The youth council is expected to recommend topics the Common Council should take action on.

Allana Moore is a freshman at the Public Service Leadership Academy at Fowler High School in Syracuse. She said she joined the Youth Council because the problems in the city are critical. She lives on the west side of Syracuse and said she has seen a lot of violence in her area.

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Midnight Friday is not just the deadline for the state budget to be finished. It’s also the date for an $8 billion bailout of some upstate nuclear power plants to begin, and more than 80 local government leaders are making a last-ditch effort to stop a plan that they say will cost electric utility ratepayers billions of dollars.

In the summer of 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Public Service Commission announced a deal to provide nearly $8 billion to help Exelon, which owns two upstate nuclear power plants, buy a third one and keep them all running for another 12 years.

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The Syracuse Common Council will create a youth advisory council to get more young people involved with local government. The youth council will also give councilors the chance to hear what problems young people face in the city.

Common Council President Van Robinson said the youth council will help young people learn more about city hall.  

“I have run across many of our students, who have absolutely no idea what government is all about and are totally oblivious to the fact that we live in a Democratic society,” Robinson said.

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A number of items came up on the Syracuse Common Council agenda at a recent meeting. The Syracuse Police Department will be training officers and detectives on how to obtain video footage from corner stores and other businesses. The training was approved by the Syracuse Common Council and will begin in December.

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The Syracuse Common Council has voted to ban housing discrimination in the city based on source of income, such as public assistance. Critics of the ban said it will create a more cumbersome system but supporters said it is a step forward.

Activists from ARISE, the independent living and resource center for disability rights in Syracuse came to the Council in favor of the ban. Agnes McCray said the measure will require landlords to take another look at an applicant beyond whether they are on public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

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The Syracuse Land Bank has been operating for about four months without a contract with the city. The result is the Land Bank has had to slow down acquiring foreclosed properties.

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The Syracuse Common Council voted against requiring interior inspections of rental properties, either by consent or warrant, every two years. The measure failed by a 5-4 vote.

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The city of Syracuse has adopted new floodplain maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 600 properties in Syracuse have been added, bringing the total to more than 1,600 properties that could be required to have flood insurance.

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner said the city needed to adopt the maps so affected residents can get a discount on flood insurance. That discount is about 15 percent. Kessner also said residents can appeal the decision if their property is now on the flood maps.

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About 11, 000 people in Onondaga County use housing choice vouchers or Section 8. It is legal in Syracuse and other parts of the state, for landlords to deny renters who use Section 8. Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner wants to end that practice. She has held committee meetings in the past where she received pushback from the community.

“Landlords say, ‘If I do Section 8 it costs me money,’” Kessner said. “I don’t think the government should say we’re going to solve this problem by making you pay for it. I’m trying to find ways to make it revenue neutral.”

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The city of Syracuse has applied for a pilot program that would equip the Syracuse Police Department with 15 body cameras. Currently, the department does not have any officers with body cameras.

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The Syracuse Common Council is considering a proposal that would make it illegal to deny housing based on a person’s source of income. Currently, a renter can be turned away if they are using Section 8 or public assistance.

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The Syracuse Common Council has approved the installation of video surveillance cameras in a high crime area of the city. The councilor with the only dissenting vote is advocating for more community policing. 

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The city of Syracuse’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development is asking the Common Council to approve a year-long contract with a software company to monitor the hiring practices of the city’s contractors. The goal is to continually gather information on who is benefiting from city contracts.

The proposal would require new contractors to use the software to track information on who they employ. The information would include workers' gender, ethnicity, pay rate and where they live, something that Councilor Jean Kessner said is important.

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There will be a new representative in the 128th Assembly District in central New York next year. And that lawmaker could be determined in Thursday's primary election.

The 128th has been gerrymandered into a far-flung district that serves Syracuse's inner city, the university area, the Onondaga Nation, farm country in southern Onondaga County, as well as suburban Dewitt, Mattydale and Liverpool. It’s been reliably represented by Democrats for years, most recently by Assemblyman Sam Roberts, who left for a job in the Cuomo administration.  

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The city of Syracuse has joined Rochester and Buffalo in approving "Ban the Box" legislation. This was the third attempt by city common councilors to pass the legislation.

The new ordinance would prevent the city, and any contractors doing business with the city, from asking a job applicant about criminal convictions unless that person has received a job offer.

Kessner likely to drop challenge to Senator Valesky

Jun 26, 2014
Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Jean Kessner has gotten her wish and will likely drop her challenge of state Sen. Dave Valesky in Democratic Party primary.

Kessner, a Democrat herself and Syracuse Common Councilor, was circulating petitions to challenge Valesky (D-Oneida), unless he rejoined the mainstream Democrats in the state Senate.

Valesky has been a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus, which controls the Senate along with the minority Republicans, since 2011.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner continues collecting petition signatures for a possible Democratic primary run for the state Senate seat held by Dave Valesky (D-Oneida). On Tuesday, Kessner supporters rallied in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse.

Kessner says she only wants to run if Valesky stays aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats that, along with Republicans, control the state Senate.  

After a year of delays and re-writes, Syracuse lawmakers are finally set to vote on a new comprehensive plan for the city.

City planners had been working on the vision for how the city should look in 2040 for two years. Then it went to the council, where lawmakers had a lot of questions and proposed changes, which caused them to continually delay voting on it.

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One of the sitting Syracuse common councilors who failed to get support from the Syracuse Democratic Committee this spring, has announced a primary run.

Syracuse Councilor at Large Jean Kessner will soon begin gathering the 1,000 valid petition signatures she'll need by mid-July to wage a primary election to hold on to her seat.