Syracuse Common Council

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

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.

Luke H. Gordon / Flickr

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.

quinn.anya / via Flickr

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.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A dispute over internet use at Syracuse City Hall is again headed to the courts. The issue over whether lawmakers should sign a city computer use policy hasn’t been able to be resolved through negotiations.

Councilor Kathleen Joy expects the Syracuse Common Council to file court papers in the next few days asking a judge to settle the issue of whether lawmakers should be forced to sign that computer use policy which is required of and agreed to by all city employees. A majority of councilors believe it would allow the Mayor’s office too much access to Council business. 

Syracuse Common Council gains a Republican

Nov 4, 2015
Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

The Syracuse Common Council is gaining something new because of Tuesday night's election results -- a Republican. 

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A number of seats are up for election on Syracuse’s Common Council including one vacancy. Both new and familiar faces are challenging the establishment.

Two years ago, Republican Joe Carni lost to Democrat Jake Barrett by 38 votes for the 1st District seat. This year, 25-year-old Carni is back, continuing his door-to-door campaign and hoping he can edge out a win.

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The Syracuse Common Council voted down a motion supporting Mayor Stephanie Miner’s decision last week to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. Some Common Council members said there are still too many unanswered questions about the plan.

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Many Syracuse residents came out to voice their support last night, for a proposed local hiring ordinance for the city’s construction and service contracts. One concern is to make sure contractors can connect with residents who have the right skill sets.

Last year, Charles Rivers of Syracuse was going to school full-time, working two part-time jobs, one seasonal job and struggling to make ends meet.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A recent study that ranks Syracuse number one in the country for concentrated poverty among blacks and Latinos has ignited activists, who want city government to do something about creating jobs for residents who live in poverty.

At a rally on the steps of Syracuse City Hall, Rev. Nebraska Carter, a vice president of the Urban Jobs Task Force, compared poverty to a cavity in a tooth. 

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Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci and Syracuse City Auditor Martin Masterpole spoke to Syracuse Common Council members on Monday about the audit they recently conducted on the Greater Syracuse Land Bank. The common council will soon hold a vote to determine how and when the land bank will receive $1.5 million in funding for their 2015-16 fiscal year. The audit reported the many successes of the land bank, which acquires tax delinquent properties and has resold 188 properties thus far.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

The developers of the former Hotel Syracuse are looking for a little help from city lawmakers, as they continue to redevelop the historic landmark.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse Common Councilor-at-Large Kathleen Joy is negotiating with Mayor Stephanie Miner’s chief of staff Bill Ryan, to settle a lawsuit brought by a majority of common councilors who refused to sign a computer use policy. Those councilors have been without computer access since the beginning of July. A judge rejected a petition from Syracuse councilors to make city officials restore their computer access while the two sides negotiate a new computer use policy.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration sent letters to common councilors outlining a framework for changing the city's computer use policy. The majority of Syracuse common councilors sued the Miner administration for cutting off their Internet access after they refused to sign the administration’s computer use policy.

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The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously in favor of the redevelopment of a grocery store on the city's south side. The vote comes after years of community organizers trying to entice the supermarket chain Price Rite, to open a new store on the property.

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A majority of the Syracuse Common Councilors are suing Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration for shutting off their computer access on July 1 after they refused to sign a computer use policy. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in state Supreme Court.

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The Green Party in Syracuse is running five candidates for office this year, on what they describe as a a progressive anti-poverty platform. The party says they want to give voters a choice that's different from the current Democratic-controlled common council.

 

Edward Lockhart served almost six years in prison for selling cocaine and he's been struggling to find a job ever since he's been out.

 

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Syracuse Common Councilors have gone on record opposing the idea of resurrecting a junk yard along the shores of Onondaga Lake, near Destiny USA and the Inner Harbor development.  But they are at odds with the mayor’s office over how to do it.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Syracuse Common Councilors have unanimously approved Mayor Stephanie Miner’s $674 million budget, with a few minor changes. Lawmakers added some cash to deal with some perennial problems.

The extra spending amounts to less than $1 million, and covers more water and sewer maintenance and repair, and demolition of hazardous buildings.  

The quiet councilor: Chad Ryan's style in city hall

Apr 15, 2015
Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse city councilor Chad Ryan has served in the chamber for a fraction of the time as some of peers but he’s also asked a fraction of the questions, in public at least.

Councilor Chad Ryan sits at the end of the table during council study sessions or committee meetings, he’ll often wave off his chance to ask a question. It’s not shyness, he says in an interview, but maybe a little humility.

"I guess I wouldn’t say I’m shy," he said. "Certainly tentative about what you say in the chambers."

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