A Plan For My First 100 Days

As Mayor, we will hit the ground running and take immediate action to address the complex issues that Syracuse residents care about. This document represents what I plan to accomplish in my administration’s first 100 days. Let’s get to work!

VIEW THE PLAN

The Issues.

As a city, we face many challenges. Together, I hope that we can find and develop solutions that benefit everyone as we move into the future.

Questions?

Answer: Yes, I support Syracuse remaining a sanctuary city. There are believed to be 2,449 undocumented individuals in Syracuse, many of them children, who are trying to gain a foothold in a new country. We cannot leave them unprotected.

OPPORTUNITY: Undocumented individuals represent only 0.4% of Syracuse residents and 6% of immigrants living in Syracuse. There are 40,800 foreign-born, lawfully emigrated individuals living and working in Syracuse, an increase of over 42% between 2000-2014. Of this number, 5658, are refugees. Many of these individuals need safe housing, training, and well-paying jobs, and we need to work together to help them build their lives, families, and communities in Syracuse. For an informative report on this subject, click here.

Answer: I do not support this plan. I will not support any plan that silences the voices of Syracuse residents, burdens them with legacy debt and further isolates impoverished neighborhoods.

OPPORTUNITY: As your mayor I will take the lead and engage city residents, the private sector, community-based organizations, and government partners .We will present a plan that modernizes government, delivers services more efficiently and empowers our city.

Answer: Of course! Half our kids live in poverty, and we have the highest rate of concentrated poverty in the U.S. among African-American and Latino residents. This is UNACCEPTABLE, and these conditions will change on my watch. Our kids deserve better.

OPPORTUNITY: My #1 priority will be to drastically decrease our poverty rate before the end of my first term. My plan will focus on making quality housing affordable and support home ownership over a lifetime of renting; expedite enforcement against slumlords responsible for the squalid conditions in which many low-income residents are living, and establish work training opportunities that will lead to well-paying jobs, some of which already exist in the City, but lack the appropriately trained labor force. We will focus on neighborhood revitalization, while engaging individuals and institutions within our city to support these efforts.

Answer: As we know, I-81 is a multi-billion dollar projects primarily paid for by the federal government. Our city will take full advantage of this investment. In my view, the best project design is the one that can be expected to yield the most City revitalization and green spaces. I am prepared to look at all options and will not simply agree with the easiest option. I will work with the State of New York and require that these dollars be spent to provide jobs for local people, and I will work to ensure that the plan leaves Syracuse with thriving neighborhoods.

OPPORTUNITY: Former City of Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll is leading this effort on behalf of his hometown. I have every confidence in Commissioner Driscoll’s openness and willingness to listen to a plan presented by the City. It is time to have a conversation about what WE want our city to look like, and my administration will make sure the expectations of the city residents are fully met.

Answer:  In Syracuse we have people without a pathway to a job and people fearful of losing them. My jobs plan will have multiple layers:  entry-level opportunities for those just starting out; support for small business and entrepreneurship; and, efforts to spur market expansion for the world-class companies already in the region.

OPPORTUNITY:  Syracuse was created and still is a global hub of economic activity.  We need to think of ourselves in this way; market ourselves in this way; and, showcase our skilled workers and expertise to those who do not know us—yet.

Answer: The recent surge in violent crime and heroin-related deaths in Syracuse requires a block by block focus on root causes: neglected properties, guns, youth without jobs or hope. The solution lies in a comprehensive management approach to encourage choices that lead to safe neighborhoods and productive behavior. We will focus our efforts and resources by engaging neighborhood residents and community organizations like never before, to identify the sources of the problems and potential solutions.

This will involve:

  • Improving blighted conditions and addressing abandoned properties that have become havens for drug trafficking;
  • Increasing police staffing levels, training, technology, and roles in the community to better identify and deescalate conflicts and respond to patterns of concerning behavior before a crime occurs;
  • Engaging the healthcare community in strategies to combat drug addiction; and,
  • Engaging local educators to train young people for available jobs that pay a sustaining wage.
  • Creating a “gun court” modeled on an effective initiative led by Mayor Lovely Warren in Rochester, New York that dedicates one judge solely to weapons charges as a means of streamlining the adjudication process and reducing the number of guns—and people inclined to use them—on the streets. This initiative cut violent assaults in Rochester by 19% in one year, and we should replicate it in Syracuse.
  • Using all available public safety technology in our high crime neighborhoods to prove the city is serious about protecting the quality of life of our children.
Answer:  The City of Syracuse must consider its future in light of social, economic, and environmental sustainability and with an eye to remedying past decisions that have disadvantaged some neighborhoods over others.  Priorities include:  improving available housing options for middle income and lower income residents; repairing or replacing water infrastructure; enhancing public transportation; completing and extending the Onondaga Creek Walk and Erie Canal Trail to encourage people to travel the City by foot and bicycle; focusing on empty lots currently held by the Land Bank with a coordinated system of urban parks, forests, and gardens that will be aesthetically pleasing, create jobs, and encourage private investment in real estate, thereby increasing adjacent property values; and, seeking out opportunities to rehabilitate and repurpose former industrial sites.

OPPORTUNITY:  City government does not need to do it alone.  When I am Mayor, I will engage our many local experts to help develop a sustainability-focused development plan and provide input on the potential long-term effects of the actions we take to address today’s challenges.

Answer:  Currently, the Syracuse City School District consumes over 50% of the total budget of the City, and we need to see stronger outcomes from this investment even as we acknowledge that our schools are challenged by the exceptionally high proportion (over 70%) of enrolled students who struggle through each day in poverty.  The economic opportunities of a community are directly tied to its workforce’s education level, and we owe it to our kids–and ourselves–to prepare the next generation to work in existing and emerging fields.

We need to start with the basics:  kids need safe passage to a safe school where learning can happen.  SCSD spends almost $21M on a combination of contracted ($18.4M) and CENTRO ($2.4M) transportation services and pays another million dollars annually for drivers, mechanics, vehicles, and related insurance.  The District has requested an additional $4.6M to bus students living between 1-1.5 miles from school–meaning that many students still will be expected to walk in Syracuse winters through troubled neighborhoods.  Simply put, a more cost-effective strategy must be developed to bus every child to and from school and the savings reinvested in teaching and learning.  I will work with SCSD and CENTRO to deliver such a plan.

OPPORTUNITY:  As Mayor I also will work with SCSD to develop a strategic plan that moves us from the current high school graduation rate of 61% to at least the NYS average graduation rate of 79% within the span of years it takes to educate today’s kindergarteners.  We will focus on our youngest learners to get them the right start and support our middle schoolers to dream about a bright future and stay in school so that these dreams may become realities.

Lead poisoning in our children is an entirely preventable condition in Syracuse yet the city administration sits idle doing nothing. Why? Because our city refuses to pass a more stringent rental registry policy to empower our codes enforcement. Rochester has seen a 90% reduction over the last 15 years in children with elevated lead levels because of aggressive anti-lead efforts. While Syracuse has been unsuccessful in its three most recent attempts to get lead remediation funding from HUD, the city’s lead problem does not lie in its inability to garner federal funding. These funds never came close to addressing the issue of lead poisoning at the scale needed. Even when the city was successful in obtaining these funds, the maximum award only addressed fewer than 100 units a year. Consider the fact that there are over 35,000 rental units in the city that have the potential for high lead levels. The answer to the problem is proactive code enforcement that requires periodic inspections of all rental property to ensure they are not poisoning kids. NYS currently requires regular inspections of all buildings containing three or more residential units. However, there is no required inspection for one- and two-family rental units which make up almost 20,000 households, many with children. This will change when I am mayor. It’s easy to blame other tiers of government, but the solution lies with us here locally and how we deploy our resources to protect our children.
We make our city a better place by focusing on our kids and their futures. As a strong proponent of the Syracuse City Schools’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program, I recently toured a CTE career fair at Fowler High School where I met Lieutenant Commander Craig Rosen, U.S. Navy (retired) and his Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students. They invited me into their classroom where I shared my story of hardship and overcoming it through service. We created a connection through our shared desire to serve and I continued to join the students through their journey, including at events like the Eastwood Memorial Day parade. The experience is best described by LCDR Rosen himself: “Our JROTC youth are eager to do well in life, and while they may face challenging circumstances, they are committed to doing well for themselves and their families while serving others. Juanita graciously took time to speak with our JROTC cadets and discuss how her decision to join the military was one of the best decisions of her life. Since that initial discussion, she continued to actively engage and motivate these students. Whether attending their events or joining them in uniform on Memorial Day, she has exemplified how the decisions they make today will have untold positive effects in the future. Her dedication to the young people of this city is inspiring and I couldn’t think of a better role model for our children than her.”
I plan to be a mayor who prior to finding solutions will first assess the factors behind a problem. While consolidation may be an option when considering costs, a thorough review of any activity to be merged must be conducted to ensure such a move has a beneficial response. Perhaps a cost problem is due to inefficient management or is fixable with a different operation process. Consolidation may not always be the best solution and if we jump too quickly it could have a negative impact on overall services causing more problems. A great example is zoning. As a county-city effort it hasn’t worked. Just ask any business owner who has tried to pull a building permit, or simply count the number of Family Dollar Stores lined up in our neighborhoods. While the towns and villages of Onondaga County each utilize personal zoning control for the betterment of their streets and industries, the city of Syracuse has to adhere to the county. The result is county staff who don’t live in our city with significant authority to arbitrarily agitate business, weaken our neighborhoods and forego opportunity for good local jobs. Consolidation should be the last option if we want the best for Syracuse.
Walk through our city and you will notice that schools are at the heart of every neighborhood. This intentional placement demonstrated our commitment to providing all Syracuse children with a quality education. Almost 100 years later, these schools still sit at the heart of the neighborhoods, yet their varying state of deterioration represents a failure to still provide a quality education. Specifically, Blodgett School, which falls in one of the poorest zip codes in our city and state. We need to listen to the voices of the people living in this neighborhood who are telling us that they want the school to remain open. Closing this school is not an option. These kids deserve a school they can call their own and that cares about them. I agree with the parents who said the focus should be interior renovations over masonry work on the exterior. I will advocate for fixing the roof and any other exterior construction that ensures the safety of our students. I will then advocate for immediately removing asbestos inside the building, improving accessibility and security to meet standards, renovating the gymnasium, and ensuring classrooms provide an environment that facilitates learning. Our elected officials need to stop telling us what can’t be done and find ways to leverage state resources especially when it comes to our children’s education. As mayor, I will utilize my relationships with the county, state and private sector to find the money needed to fix all our schools. Our children are worth it.
Having served on her senior staff for the first 19 months of her administration, I had a unique perspective into the mayor’s leadership style and her approach to governing. She is smart with good intentions and I commend her for declaring Syracuse a sanctuary city, raising the minimum wage and advocating against a city-county merger. However, I would only assign the mayor a grade of C for her eight-year tenure in office. Her divisive leadership style impeded her ability to implement substantive change. Our city faces many serious challenges such as poverty, crime, public health, economic development and education. Addressing these concerns requires collaborative and cooperative relationships with community, regional and other government partners. As mayor, I will use a combination of executive, legislative, intergovernmental, and community-driven actions to create visible changes in people’s lives. We will not be daunted by the fiscal challenges or past ways of doing things with which we will be greeted on our first day in office. Rather, we will utilize every resource, expert, and potential partner available to us to solve problems on behalf of real people. I am the only candidate to present a 100-day plan and I encourage you to read it to see how we will take immediate action to address the complex issues that Syracuse residents care about. 
The one thing we can do immediately regarding poverty, at no extra cost to the taxpayer, is prioritize how we protect our kids. When I am mayor, all city departments will focus on the health and safety of our children, especially those living in impoverished neighborhoods, while delivering their services. This directive will include teams of city employees from code enforcement, neighborhood development, water, police, schools and more. As public servants, we will work together daily with neighborhood representatives to proactively exchange information, while quickly and efficiently addressing the short and long-term needs of children. Ensuring that families with young children reside in stable housing and healthy environments is one of the most concrete ways to address poverty. Studies have shown the most effective anti-poverty programs focus on the early development of children. With summer approaching, we should institute an “all hands on deck,” city-wide effort concentrating on the wellbeing of our kids. With the right leadership, the city can change from the reactive, complaint-driven model currently utilized, to a more proactive and genuinely helpful one. We will quickly establish block-by-block information that could result in better living conditions, safer neighborhoods, and more engaged residents. As mayor, I will also work directly with the Onondaga County Health and Social Services Departments, the local Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) and the Early Childhood Alliance (ECA), to ensure the city plays a key role in providing a nurturing, safe and stable environment for all our children.
After researching this issue to great length and having conversations with many people in the worst affected neighborhoods, I agree with the DEC report that culling methods are the most effective way to control the deer population in our urban neighborhoods and keep our children safe from disease. The over population of deer has moved beyond just a nuisance of property damage; we are seeing a huge increase in individuals diagnosed with Lyme disease over the last decade. Our children’s safety must be our number one priority. Research shows that other methods are either not effective or are cost prohibitive in reducing population numbers. Catch and release is not a realistic option for two reasons: 1. A permit is required to move deer into new locations with very few options available for release; 2. If deer are able to be relocated it is costly and many do not survive in the new, unfamiliar territory. Fertility control is also not a viable option because it is expensive and does not solve the immediate problem as it takes years (sometimes decades) for populations to significantly decrease. Utilizing a controlled culling of the population will allow for an immediate reduction in the deer population, with significant donations made to the local food bank, helping to feed hungry families in our city. Individual home owners can also act. Regularly check your children for ticks after playing outside, landscape with plants that are less attractive to deer, and add repellents or frightening devices to your yard.
My campaign has always focused on service from the bottom up. When I am mayor my administration will institute a bold campaign to highlight a new standard for city government – respect and compassion for all city residents in every neighborhood. This initiative will hold city accountable for all services and interactions with the public. Moreover, we will implement the following:

  • Establish a 311 System for all city inquiries and questions to allow for a response within 24 hours;
  • End the practice of shutting off water where children, the elderly and the disabled are residing;
  • Expedite all court cases against landlords involving lead in the homes where children live;
  • Clear snow from all sidewalks throughout the city;
  • Fix potholes and minor street repairs within three days;
  • Allow for convenient online payments of all city-wide collections and fees;
  • Hire a police chief that is committed to rebuilding trust between police and the neighborhoods they serve;
  • Bus all children to school who live more than one mile away or are under the age of 12 years old;
  • Modernize codes enforcement to ensure all quality of life issues are resolved in a timely and professional manner;
  • Create quality jobs through neighborhood revitalization; and
  • Expedite the permitting process for homeowners and small businesses.

While the idea for respect and compassion of all citizens may not be exciting, it is an expectation our city government has failed to meet. We will do better.

While the city could raise property taxes to help shore up the operating deficit, that is not where I would choose to start. To begin with, property tax revenue is a relatively small piece of the revenue puzzle (roughly 15%) so to balance the budget this way would require huge increases in property taxes to make even a small dent in the fiscal picture. Secondly, the property tax burden falls on only half of Syracuse property owners due to the large number of tax-exempt properties therefore an increase on its own would be less than equitable. Many people have come to me asking that their property taxes be raised to improve city services implying that these services are not currently adequate. That is why I would choose to start by performing an in-depth review of how city services are currently managed and delivered. I’m confident we can find ways to streamline, consolidate and coordinate the city’s operating departments in ways that would provide noticeable results in its ability to deliver on its obligations to the public. My goal as mayor would be to work toward a financially self-sustaining city and to make Syracuse a more desirable place to live. These two objectives go hand in hand. When we focus on meeting the needs of our neighborhoods and main streets, private investment increases and property values rise. This will buttress the fiscal health of the city, allowing us to be more creative in building revenue to close the deficit gap.
While I can understand the concerns of their constituents, I disagree with the council’s decision to cut funding for the Land Bank. The Land Bank is both an economic and neighborhood revitalization tool. While many cities are beginning to form them, Syracuse has one of the most effective in the country. The Land Bank has accepted more than 1,200 severely tax delinquent structures from the city, the majority of which are blighting influences on the properties and neighborhoods surrounding them. The existence of a land bank allows the city to be more aggressive in its tax collection/seizure process resulting in more than $11 million increase in the city’s collection of delinquent taxes. The problem arises when the land bank does not benefit the city as a whole, focusing primarily on more affluent areas. A land bank is meant to foster growth in all neighborhoods, specifically those that struggle with housing dilapidation, crime, and lack of economic growth. As mayor, I will work with the council to support the Lank Bank, while developing a city-wide, strategic plan that proactively engages community residents and offers a vision for all neighborhoods. The program will be strengthened by developing an interconnected system of public green spaces, housing restoration projects, new infrastructure, community buildings and much more, helping to accelerate revitalization. To see more initiatives I will implement as mayor, read my 100 day plan. I will be a mayor for everyone, and everyone will have a voice in their neighborhood planning
Yes, I support Syracuse remaining a sanctuary city. As a young child, I witnessed my father, a United States Citizen, harassed by border patrol. No one should ever be a target by law enforcement because of the color of their skin, accent, or the way they dress. There are believed to be 2,449 undocumented individuals in Syracuse, many of them children, who are trying to gain a foothold in a new country. We cannot leave them unprotected. We will be a community that values diversity and the contributions of all residents. Undocumented individuals represent 0.4% of Syracuse residents and 6% of immigrants living in Syracuse. There are 40,800 foreign-born, lawfully-emigrated individuals living and working in Syracuse. Of this number, 5,658 are refugees. Many of these individuals in addition to their safety need safe housing, training, and well-paying jobs, and we need to work together to help them build their lives, families, and communities in Syracuse. As mayor, I will combat crime so people can feel safe and provide resources to educate all Syracuse residents on their rights and where to seek support if they feel unlawfully harassed. I whole-heartedly believe it is a mayor’s obligation to stand up for all her constituents. As a leader of this city, the mayor should provide a voice to those who cannot speak and always fight for what is right. 
As a former prosecutor and the only mayoral candidate who has worked directly with law enforcement, combating crime throughout Syracuse will be a priority for my administration. We must begin to implement a comprehensive management approach to dealing with crime that proactively addresses immediate issues while tackling the systemic, root causes of crime our city faces. In 2017, the [police union] agreement will expire. I will proactively negotiate a contract that is fair to the individuals responsible for the public’s safety, while considering our financial realities. I will institute an electronic method to track and manage overtime hours worked. The current outdated system makes it impossible to push meaningful efforts to control costs. I will conduct hiring and fill new academy classes on a smaller scale, but on a more frequent basis. The department will gradually be brought up to adequate staffing, while becoming more diversified to better reflect the demographics of the city. My plan will focus on enhancing police protection and enforcement on the streets by restructuring how we respond to crime. Community assigned police will be seen on the streets and work directly with their neighborhood. In addition, our police will have technological tools and modern resources readily available, which have proven to be successful in other cities. These overlapping strategies must also address systemic issues in our city. My administration will prioritize solutions for our neglected neighborhoods and poverty. We must focus on quality of life issues for all city residents, revitalizing our streets, providing safe housing and building a local workforce for all skill sets.
Over the last two years, Gov. Cuomo has invested $70 million to begin a substantial transformation of the NYS Fairgrounds. Fairgoers responded by setting a record attendance last year. This type of investment is important for our city, region, and state to spur tourism and development. The proposed gondola is another idea put forth by the Governor to attract new tourism and promote our city’s thriving urban core. However, our city has many pressing issues facing it that $15 million could address. The city is dipping into its “rainy day” fund for roughly the same amount of money proposed for the gondola, just to meet its fiscal obligations this year. Moreover, the federal government is threatening to slash and then eliminate the 43-year old Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), the city’s only source of housing money, community centers and workforce development programs. We must consider these realities when spending taxpayer money. With regard to new tourism, I will be a proactive mayor who works collaboratively with the governor and our regional partners to promote the improvements scheduled for the shores of Onondaga Lake, including the completion of the Loop the Lake trail and the city’s developing Creekwalk. In addition, I will propose a national marketing campaign to tell the world the story of Onondaga Lake and honor the Haudenosaunee democracy, first established on these shores. While I commend the governor for taking initiative and looking at all options and ideas, I do not think spending $15 million on a gondola at the State Fairgrounds is the best use of taxpayer money.
Selecting the next police chief is going to be one of the most important decisions the next mayor will make. This individual will be challenged with rebuilding police-neighborhood relations, getting guns off our streets, and solving numerous murders, many involving our youth. As such, before deciding how we select a new police chief we must first identify what qualities he or she must possess. As a former LCDR in the US Navy, I understand the importance of morale among the rank and file. The work of a good police officer is demanding and underappreciated, therefore the next chief needs to be encouraging and hands-on with all his or her staff. In addition, our next chief must be an active listener not only for the officers but the community at large. He or she must set the example, inspiring police and citizens to build trust and responsibility that can deter or resolve crime. Moreover, our next chief will work cooperatively with all law enforcement partners and agencies to ensure coordinated and productive efforts. This individual needs to be resilient and persistent in dealing with gangs, solving violent crimes, and combating guns and drugs on our streets. He or she must also be considerate and responsive to residents that often feel dismissed or ignored. As mayor, I will not make the decision of selecting a police chief lightly and will seek input from residents, SPD officers, and regional law enforcement leaders to select a police chief that is right for our city.
As we have learned from the tragic water crisis in the city of Flint, Michigan and the terrible impacts of hurricanes across the United States, the keys to effective public health crisis response are: early monitoring to prevent and detect risks; citizen preparedness; and effective leadership and inter-agency coordination when a public health crisis occurs.
As a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, I am trained and experienced in the areas of emergency management and crisis response.
With regard to a crisis involving the city’s water supply, the City of Syracuse has responsibility to monitor its status, and I would expect to be among the first to know if a crisis developed. One of my first calls would be to our County Executive as a public health emergency lies with Onondaga County’s Emergency Management Services and Department of Public Health.
As mayor, I would immediately focus on 3 major tasks simultaneously, in coordination with the emergency management system: remediation of the emergency condition affecting the water supply; determining with experts whether residents can continue to use the water supply; and, supporting communication and distribution of needed resources to residents through an integrated media (including social media), community based organization, and street-to-street, door-to-door campaign to ensure that all residents especially vulnerable populations learn about the issue and needed actions.
Responding to a public health crisis requires experienced leadership, the ability to effectively communicate with all involved parties and most important, prioritizing the safety of people.