Syracuse Common Council

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

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.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Syracuse residents who don’t shovel sidewalks during the winter are again escaping a fine. The Common Council has again rejected a proposed fine for property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks after a snowstorm.

There were too many concerns from councilors ahead of the vote Monday and it was defeated 7-2.

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Syracuse city councilors are hoping to convince state-level lawmakers to change a law that allows police, firefighters and sanitation workers to live outside the cities they work in.

A non-binding resolution issued by the council comes after they learned only about three dozen of the city’s roughly 450 police officers actually live in the city. Firefighters and sanitation workers are also exempt, though a higher percentage of those employees live in the city.

That results in tens of millions of dollars in city salaries leaving the city, the council estimates.

NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

Syracuse lawmakers want to make the state’s redistricting process less political. City councilors are calling for the defeat of a statewide proposition on the ballot next week.

Proposition One, which voters will decide on next Tuesday, would amend the state constitution for how congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts are drawn.

Oliver Hine / via Flickr

Some members of the Syracuse Common Council are at odds with Mayor Stephanie Miner about how certain landowners pay back taxes. The dispute centers on just who can use tax trusts to repay overdue bills.

The city used to allow all property owners, owner-occupied homeowners and absentee landlords alike, to use tax trusts to pay bills over time. But Miner says the policy ultimately turned into a tax loophole for some landlords, with several delinquent properties.

Syracuse city officials are trying to learn more about their city’s homeless population. The city council held a hearing on the issue Wednesday evening.

One night this week, 527 people slept in a handful of homeless shelters – or in overflow hotel rooms – in the city of Syracuse. Charities that work with the homeless estimate another two dozen chose to sleep outside.

The city is on track to have one of its highest homeless populations in years.

Marufish / via Flickr

Syracuse common councilors are adding their voice to the ongoing fight for better internet access to the City of Syracuse.

Lawmakers unanimously agreed to a resolution that encourages Verizon to apply to the Public Service Commission for a franchise agreement that would establish FiOS internet and cable service inside city limits. Right now the fiber optic system is only available in select Syracuse suburbs.

Council President Helen Hudson says that’s not right.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Temperatures may still be in the 80s, but Syracuse's common councilors are looking beyond shorts and sandal weather. The issues of people not shoveling snow from their sidewalks is once again on the agenda.

Last year, Councilor Bob Dougherty couldn’t get the votes to pass a law that would have ticketed property owners who didn’t clear snow off their sidewalks. So he’s spent the summer looking at what went wrong and devising a way to encourage homeowners to keep sidewalks clear when the inevitable Syracuse snow begins to fall.

Syracuse lawmakers are making more changes to the proposed Ban the Box legislation. A scheduled vote has been put off until after another committee meeting, to discuss the latest iteration of the civil rights legislation.

Ban the Box legislation is meant to get rid of the check box on a hiring application that asks if applicants have a criminal history. For Brian Johnson of Syracuse, that box is keeping him from getting a job, even though it’s been seven years since his encounter with the law.

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.

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

The Syracuse Common Council will vote Monday on a proposal to ban smoking in city parks and other areas.

The ban would limit smoking in any areas the city parks department manages, so that includes parks where little league games are played, but also the site of many of the festivals that take place in the city, such as Clinton Square, Cathedral Circle, Hanover Square. 

That’s why Councilor Khalid Bey, one of the sponsors of the measure, says they’re putting off implementation of the ban until October, to give festival organizers a heads up.

A 1.5 percent property tax increase will stand in the City of Syracuse after the Common Council overrode Mayor Stephanie Miner’s budget veto today.

Finance Committee Chairwoman Kathleen Joy says the city can’t continue to cut it’s way out of yearly budget deficits, so lawmakers felt the time was right for this increase.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The city of Syracuse parks department has a big "help wanted" sign up, because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff the city’s eight outdoor pools this summer.

The pool at Thorndon Park is filled and ready to go, but a shortage of lifeguards could put parts of the upcoming swim season in peril. Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad says the city still needs to hire 53 lifeguards to open all pools in the city.

And if they don’t find lifeguards?

Dale M Moore / Flickr

Syracuse lawmakers are moving to ban smoking in city parks. And that includes some popular downtown hangout spots.

An ordinance brought up by the Common Council’s new health committee would prohibit smoking on any land managed by the Syracuse parks department. That includes around the fountains in Columbus Circle and Clinton Square and Hanover Squares.

The committee is also putting forward a measure to discourage smoking on sidewalks.

Councilor Khalid Bey says the city won’t be able to stop everyone from smoking in parks, "but the effort, I think, is warranted."

Syracuse common councilors will be asking for more information from not-for-profits that get funds from the city budget.  The city contracts with several agencies to provide various services to city residents every year.

But Councilor Pam Hunter says there needs to be more accountability about what these nonprofits are doing with city funds.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has vetoed a last-minute property tax hike the Common Council added to the city's spending plan because she says councilors didn't bring it up for public discussion first.

"When you don’t allow that process to happen, you create cynicism and you allow people to get turned off from the process," Miner said Wednesday.

The Syracuse Common Council is getting its hands on the mayor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which doesn’t call for a tax increase.

More than half of the city’s $660 million budget goes to the school district.

For the rest of the budget, on the upside, the mayor’s office expects to see increased revenue from sales tax, parking fees and property tax collection -- thanks to the land bank, the agency tasked with handling the cities massive list of vacant properties.

The city of Syracuse now has a document to base its urban planning decisions on for the next three decades.

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.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Since Syracuse lawmakers handily defeated the idea of fining property owners who don’t clear snow from their sidewalks, they’ve begun discussing a bigger picture solution for snow-filled walkways.

Some Syracuse city councilors sat down Wednesday with public works, school district and parks department officials. They also talked to heads of community groups that organize sidewalk shoveling teams in the winter.

Sudipto Sarkar / Flickr

The Syracuse Common Council’s new health committee used its first meeting to discuss a smoking ban in the city’s Cathedral Square neighborhood.

The Cathedral Square Neighborhood Association has been looking to push out smoking for about three years. Now it sees a possible way to do that with the council’s newly formed health committee. The neighborhood includes the blocks surrounding Columbus Circle in downtown Syracuse.

There are a lot of questions left to be answered, like legality of such a ban and enforcement of it, said councilor Khalid Bey.

A fine for not shoveling sidewalks after big snowstorms for Syracuse residents may not be dead, despite being handily defeated in the Common Council a few weeks ago.

When councilor Bob Dougherty proposed fining residents $100 for not clearing walkways after snowfall, he found little support. Only fellow councilor Khalid Bey voted for the law with Dougherty.

Sarah Crisafulli

The snowiest city in America is debating whether to make property owners pay fines if they don’t clear the snow from their sidewalks and parking lots. Syracuse common councilors will vote Monday on whether the city should impose a fine on property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks.  

District Councilor Bob Dougherty is the lawmaker behind the proposal. He lives near several schools in Syracuse’s Valley Neighborhood, and says it’s a matter of safety.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO file photo

Syracuse lawmakers have made it easier for police to get involved with problem properties. Common Councilors agreed to revise the old disorderly houses ordinance into a modern day tool for police.

Common councilor Khalid Bey says he’s heard frustration from constituents who don’t see action when they complain about problem properties.

“I had a constituent who had an ongoing problem with a gambling house," Bey said. "Six months of complaints with no real recourse. Now police have an adequate tool to deal with such a compliant.”

Tom Magnarelli/WRVO

Two Syracuse City Council members and three city school board members were sworn in at city hall on Monday. The new and returning office holders acknowledged there will be many tough issues for them to face in their terms.

Friends and family members cheered on as their elected officials took the oath of office in the packed Common Council Chambers.

President of the Syracuse Common Council Van Robinson was sworn in for a second term. He says it's his job to assure the people that Syracuse will not go down the road of bankruptcy, and that the city needs to grow.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse Republicans are just a few dozen votes shy of winning back a city office as a race for Common Council will come down to absentee ballots, but the rest of city hall remained solidly Democratic after Tuesday's election.

The two new faces we know of for sure on the Common Council are Chad Ryan in the Second District and Pamela Hunter in an at-large spot. Ryan won Pat Hogan’s old seat, who was term-limited, by beating Republican Alex Walsh with 59 percent of the unofficial vote.

Tom Magnarelli/WRVO

A new generation of politicians in the city of Syracuse are following in their families' footsteps and running for office.

Barring an election day surprise, Syracuse's next common councilor from the 2nd district will be under 30. These candidates say their youth will benefit the city.

Democratic nominee and funeral director Chad Ryan is 28 years old and the son of former Onondaga County Legislator Ed Ryan.

The younger Ryan said the best way to improve the city is to get more residents involved, like by attending neighborhood meetings.

mrsmecomber / via Flickr

The Syracuse Common Council says it has delayed fully turning over control of the airport to a private authority in order to get the deal right.

Councilor Pat Hogan, who chairs the airport committee, says several union representatives and employees still had questions about the deal, which would be a 40 year lease.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse lawmakers are re-working their proposed ban on the use of surveillance drones over city skies.

A draft of regulations were introduced on the council agenda at a study session last week, but were quickly withdrawn.

New draft federal guidelines out on drone use prompted the re-write. The federal rules will be incorporated into the city's, according to councilor Jake Barrett, who chairs the public safety committee.

Members of the Syracuse Common Council are considering beefing up fines for residents accused of disturbing the peace.

These are the kinds of complaints lawmakers hear a lot, according to northside Syracuse councilor Jake Barrett. He says these types of complaints affect the quality of life of city residents, and can be big or small.

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