Onondaga County Legislature

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Next month, the Onondaga County Legislature could vote on raising the age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21 years old. The new law would not include an exemption for veterans.

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Democrats in Onondaga County are assessing their losses in this year's election. They flipped only one seat in the Onondaga County Legislature, and were beaten by an independent candidate in the Syracuse mayoral race. But issues remain for the Onondaga County Republican Party as well, largely because of feuds between some of its leaders.

Onondaga County Board of Elections

Today is Election Day and more than 200 offices are on ballots in Onondaga County, from the county legislature to the mayor of Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the race for Syracuse mayor is getting much of the attention in central New York this election season, politicians say don’t ignore the contests for the Onondaga County Legislature. Candidates aligned with three distinct political factions are all jockeying for votes, and results could ultimately have an impact on the fiscal future of the city of Syracuse.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers passed a $1.3 billion budget Tuesday amidst an afternoon of political theater. The political posturing was evident in debate over issues ranging from funding for libraries, to detailing county cars.

A two-year-old political feud between Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and county comptroller Bob Antonacci simmered beneath the surface of a more than two hour budget debate Tuesday.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers last week approved the bonds the county needs to update the aging War Memorial in downtown Syracuse. The $4.5 million will be supplemented with some state funds and ticket surcharges to pay for the $9 million project that will includes a new scoreboard and marquees. 

The War Memorial opened in 1951, and it doesn’t look much different now than it did then. The hulking gray structure with jutting marquees is home to several displays honoring veterans and the area's military history from the Revolutionary War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers are looking at a trio of packages targeting ethics reform. Two spring out of an ethics proposal put forth by County Executive Joanie Mahoney in June and a third targets the Mahoney administration. At the root of this flurry of reforms is a long simmering feud between the Mahoney administration and County Comptroller Bob Antonacci.

District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, who sits on the county’s ethics board, says Antonacci’s outside income officiating basketball games and doing bookwork for personal clients creates ethics questions.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Onondaga County has firmed up plans for an $8.5 million renovation of the downtown Syracuse War Memorial, and taxpayers will be on the hook for about half the cost.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering legislation that would ensure that juveniles are not thrown in solitary confinement in any of the county’s criminal justice facilities in the future.

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The Onondaga County Legislature is in the process of hiring legal counsel to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors over the costs of the heroin and opioid epidemic. Some legislators say opioid manufacturers lied about the addictive nature of their products.

Although they do not have a number yet, Onondaga County Legislative Chairman Ryan McMahon said whatever amount they end up suing opioid manufacturers for will never be enough.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Big changes could be coming to the Onondaga County War Memorial if the county legislature gives its approval. County officials are keeping veterans in the loop as the county looks to sell the naming rights to the War Memorial arena.

The arena is where the Syracuse Crunch hockey team plays and Deputy County Executive Bill Fisher said selling the naming rights could bring in revenue for renovations to areas like the bathrooms which Fisher called a disgrace.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s government reform package looks like its going nowhere fast. Mahoney needs county lawmakers to start moving soon on an initiative that includes term limits for legislators and countywide office holders, and clarifies salaries and a ban on outside employment.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

While the idea of merging the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County isn’t getting much traction, a special legislative committee has begun work that could lead to some other kinds of government consolidation.

The Consensus Commission proposal to create one large metropolitan government is dead on arrival, according to county lawmakers, but some of the 49 other proposals in the Consensus report could have legs.

A special subcommittee is now looking over those ideas, first by identifying consolidations that could be easy to accomplish, according to chairman Kevin Holmquist.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci has embarked on an audit strategy that focuses on economic development. The first target is the Onondaga County Film Commission.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s administration created the one-person film commission about the same time Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to build the Central New York Film Hub. The commission is part of the county’s Economic Development Department, with the goal of attracting moviemakers to Syracuse, who could also use the $15 million film hub facility in the town of DeWitt.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Republican majority of the Onondaga County Legislature is coming out against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for government consolidation and the Consensus plan to merge the city of Syracuse and county governments. Some legislators said the governor and the Onondaga County executive are alone in their support for a merged government.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

One of the goals of the Onondaga County Legislature in 2017 will be updating of the county’s comprehensive plan that guides planning and economic development. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon will be appointing a special committee that will look through all the comprehensive development plans that have been drafted by various groups and governments in recent years across central New York. McMahon says the idea is to review these plans and the options they present, then move on legislation to deal with future development.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

After 18 years, Onondaga County Legislator Kathleen Rapp is stepping down. Rapp reflected on her time in the Legislature and the many accomplishments she has seen and also what she believes can be improved.

Rapp said the county's economic and job development over the years including Hancock Field and the Tech Garden, is unprecedented.

She said she feels great about the transformation that has taken place at Onondaga Community College and Onondaga Lake.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A move toward federal legislation to create a cancer registry for firefighters is gaining more traction, and Onondaga County lawmakers are the latest to call for a registry.

The county legislature is throwing its support behind creation of a federal list that would keep track of firefighters who get cancer. There has already been research that shows a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of several cancers. Syracuse firefighter Mike Valenti has been fighting for this registry for three years, as he continues to watch colleagues die.

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Onondaga County lawmakers on Tuesday will ask the state to consider eliminating tolls for local travelers on the New York State Thruway.

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Onondaga County is laying off 11 employees. County lawmakers voted Monday 10-7 to adjust the budget to eliminate $600,000 worth of payroll.

County officials say this is the end of a very difficult budget year. An $8.2 million deficit, created by stagnant sales tax growth and ballooning health care and personnel costs needed to be filled, and the county did it by offering $10,000 buyouts to employees close to retirement. But that still left $600,000 that needed to be cut. So Republican Legislator Pat Kilmartin says a shuffling of jobs and positions led to the 11 layoffs.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Onondaga County almost wiggled out of a multi-million dollar budget deficit with no layoffs, because of an early retirement buyout plan.

But after all the numbers were counted, the county is still looking at a half a million dollar hole for next year. County Executive Joanie Mahoney is proposing cuts that include 12 layoffs to close that gap. That means lawmakers have to go back to the budget drawing board.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Now that a New York State Supreme Court Judge has ruled that Onondaga County legislator pay raises were illegal, at least one lawmaker wants to make amends.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A court ruling doesn’t seem to have quashed the bad blood between the Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci and County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s administration. Both sides are claiming victory following a lawsuit that accused county lawmakers of illegally giving themselves and other elected officials a raise last year.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney wants to offer a voluntary, $10,000 buyout for eligible county workers to retire this year. The Onondaga County Legislature would have to approve the program.

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The Onondaga County Legislature has solidified the future of minor league baseball in Syracuse.  Lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a new deal for the Syracuse Chiefs to rent the county-owned NBT Bank Stadium for the next decade.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

A judge has denied motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Onondaga County comptroller against the Onondaga County executive and legislature over pay raises. The defendants will now have to respond to the lawsuit by August 8.

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci said the attorneys representing the county executive and legislature will now have to address whether the resolutions the legislature passed in December giving pay raises to themselves and the county executive were legal. The defendants said this has been done before. Antonacci said that is false.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Legislature passed a resolution urging the state Assembly to take up a bill passed by the Senate that prohibits any new unfunded mandates. Legislator Casey Jordan took up the measure and said the Senate's bill would require funding of any state program or expenditure item that impacts lower levels of government, to be paid for by the state.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Onondaga County Legislature has agreed to contribute its share in funding a plan to clean up a portion of Ley Creek, which is polluted with toxic chemicals. The money will be reimbursed to the county by the company responsible for the pollution.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Onondaga County legislators are questioning the expenses and revenues coming out of the new Lakeview Amphitheater along Onondaga Lake. Legislators want more information regarding who pays for what on everything ranging from buses to bathrooms. Legislator Kevin Holmquist said a lot of money is exchanging hands. He is pushing for a facility-use fee for the future upkeep and maintenance of the amphitheater.

Onondaga County is jumping on the Uber bandwagon.

State lawmakers are considering changes in state insurance laws that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft in upstate and other parts of the state they are currently prohibited. The Onondaga County Legislature, by unanimous vote, is encouraging them to do it.

“We are so far behind the eight ball on this,” said Legislator Kathy Rapp.

That’s why the Republican supported a memorializing resolution that asked the state to make the changes that would allow ride-sharing services in the Syracuse area.

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