Syracuse Common Council

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The Syracuse Common Council unanimously passed funding for a police-community dialogue project organized by InterFaith Works of Central New York. Police officers and community volunteer facilitators will hold dialogue circles with city residents. The goal of the dialogues is to strengthen understanding between residents and police.

The funding of $30,000 was initially objected by Councilor Khalid Bey and the measure was held. Bey told the police department and InterFaith Works that he was skeptical these dialogues were improving police relations with city residents.

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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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The city of Syracuse is applying for $136,000 in state funding for surveillance cameras in Skiddy and Kirk parks. Skiddy Park was where the party that resulted in the Father’s Day shooting in Syracuse started. An armed man was shot and killed by a police officer during a shootout where at least four to five semi-automatic weapons were shot a total of 30 times. That officer was cleared by a grand jury of any wrongdoing. Surveillance footage at an adjacent public housing complex showed some of what happened that night.

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Proposed legislation in Syracuse which would require periodic interior inspections of rental properties, either by consent or warrant, every two years, is being put on hold. The Syracuse Common Council is reviewing information it has received from lawyers representing the Syracuse Property Owners Association.

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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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Proposed legislation in central and northern New York would require inspections of rental units. Lawmakers are receiving pushback from landlords.

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The Syracuse Common Council is debating how it should or should not restrict the $1.5 million in the city’s current budget for the Syracuse Land Bank. The number of buildings the Syracuse Lank Bank should be required to demolish is being called into question.

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The Syracuse Common Council has authorized what the Syracuse Police Department would purchase if the city wins a U.S. Department of Justice grant for police body cameras.

The pilot program would include 10 body cameras, docking stations, a server and ballistic shields. They are asking for funds totaling more than $100,000, which the city would split evenly with Onondaga County. The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office would purchase their own equipment from their portion.

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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 Regional Airport Authority will be reimbursing the city three million dollars in a settlement with the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association for lost wages from 2012-2014. The airport authority did not have the power to hire a private security company when it did.

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New York State’s STAR Rebate Program has a new wrinkle. State lawmakers approved changes this year to the property tax discount program that affects new homeowners across the state, who will now get a rebate check instead of a credit on their tax bill. It applies to all people who have purchased property after March 1 in New York state.

Syracuse Common Councilor Nadar Maroun said the city assessor has sent out about 800 letters to new property owners who would be affected by the change. It will also be reflected in tax bills that are going out this week.

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The Syracuse Common Council has voted in favor of an ordinance that will require contractors working on city projects to hire 20 percent of their workforce from within the city. Proponents of the regulation say it is one tool to help reduce unemployment.

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The Syracuse Common Council has approved changes to two busy streets on the Syracuse University campus. The council is also preparing for a potential vote on requiring a certain percentage of contract workers to be hired from within the city.  

The council chambers were packed Monday afternoon with striking Verizon workers who cheered when the council passed a resolution supporting their protesting efforts against outsourcing and other issues.

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The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously to approve a city budget for the next fiscal year. The budget still includes a $12 million deficit from Mayor Stephanie Miner’s proposal, but more money has been shifted toward road repairs.

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The Syracuse City School District is proposing a $14 million budget increase for the next fiscal year. City councilors are worried overspending could lead to problems in the future.

The good news is graduation rates are up close to 60 percent, some of the highest in the past decade. More students are enrolling in career and technical education. Half of the schools that were marked as struggling by the state have moved off the list.

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The Onondaga County District Attorney’s office has confirmed that it is investigating the city of Syracuse. The investigation revolves around affidavits signed by two common councilors supporting a lawsuit the city brought against the COR Development Company.

The affidavits, signed by councilors Helen Hudson and Khalid Bey, claim that Steven Aiello, president of COR Development, promised not to seek tax breaks, called a PILOT agreement, on the Inner Harbor project in 2012.

“I can’t comment on that business happening with the DA,” Bey said.

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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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There are 191,000 outstanding parking tickets in the city of Syracuse worth about $7 million, according to the city's Parking Violations Bureau. Some cases involve individuals perpetually scamming the system.

The Parking Violations Bureau uses an outside company that can boot a car that has three outstanding tickets, 90 days or older. The problem is when drivers with these violations go to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles and get a new license plate for that car. Councilor Nader Maroun said in some cases, one driver could have 5-10 different license plates.

Hearings will begin today at Syracuse’s Common Council on Mayor Stephanie Miner’s 2016-17 proposed budget. The budget is a mix of costs and revenues rising in some areas and shrinking in others.

“Government is always challenging, but no more so than today,” Miner said.

In a video and letter to the Common Council released with her proposed budget, Miner said Syracuse will face financial challenges in the year ahead. Her proposed budget faces a $12.1 million shortfall that will be balanced using reserve funds bringing the reserve total down to $42.9 million.

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For nine months, a majority of the Syracuse Common Councilors have been denied computer access by Mayor Stephanie Miner’s administration for failing to sign a computer use policy. Now, the issue may finally be over. A majority of the councilors have signed the policy with an addendum added on. Council President Van Robinson said the mayor’s administration will not be able to discipline councilors if there is any violation of the policy, according to the addendum.  

“Any infraction by any of its staff would be reported to the Council for necessary action,” Robinson said.

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Three teams of Syracuse city high school and middle schools students will advance to the Vex Worlds Robotic Championship in Kentucky in April. Officials describe it as a significant achievement because of the impact robotics will have in the future. 

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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 Syracuse Common Council is holding off plans to prohibit the use of parking boots by property managers on cars parked illegally. A number of business-related items came up on the council’s agenda.

Councilor-at-large Steven Thompson said property managers are telling him that the parking boots are a good alternative to calling a tow truck when someone is parked illegally on their property.

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The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency has approved a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes or PILOT deal for a Price Rite grocery store to be built on the city’s southwest side. The area being developed has been described as a “food desert” for decades and the grocery store is meant to give people access to healthy and affordable fresh food.

In a show of the different levels of government coming together, Ben Walsh, the executive director of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, said the grocery store is moving forward thanks to help from the state, county and city.

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The Syracuse Common Council will vote Monday on prohibiting people from booting vehicles parked on private property. First Deputy Chief Joe Cecile with the Syracuse Police Department said it is a public safety issue as they have received calls on arguments over the booting.

“There’s no doubt that eventually you will have a physical alteration over one of these bootings," Cecile said. "The second reason was, there were no regulations whatsoever as far as fines, they could charge anything they wanted.”

Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

Some Syracuse Common Councilors still have no access to the city’s computers. The legislative body begins a new year with some new members, and their computer access still in the hands of the courts.

Common Councilors filed a second lawsuit asking the city to turn on computers in early December, and it has languished there since.

Common Council President Van Robinson says he is doubtful a local judge wants to rule on the case, which asks that computer access be restored to councilors, their staff and the city clerk’s office. 
 

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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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The Syracuse Common Council voted to appoint Joe Nicoletti to fill the position vacated by Councilor Pam Hunter after she was elected to the Assembly. One of Nicoletti’s biggest goals is to create job training and placement programs in the city.

A week after Hunter resigned, the Common Council voted on her replacement, which caused controversy with some councilors who said there was not enough time spent vetting the candidates. But Nicoletti said he is eager to return to the council which he served on in the 1970s and 1980s.

Joe Nicoletti 2009 Campaign

Some Syracuse Common Councilors are upset that the council voted to appoint former Councilor Joe Nicoletti to fill the position vacated by Pam Hunter after she was elected to the Assembly. They say there was not enough vetting of other candidates.

The Common Council voted 5-3 to appoint Nicoletti, who previously served on the council from 1978 to 1991. He unsuccessfully ran against Stephanie Miner in a primary for mayor in 2009. 

Councilor Helen Hudson opposed Nicoletti’s appointment, not because she has anything against him.

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