The main issue in the City Auditor's race is simple. Marty Masterpole hasn't done the job. Howie Hawkins will. Masterpole has failed to fulfill his responsibilities as City Auditor under the city charter and city budget. This race is a voters' audit of the City Auditor.
Howie Hawkins, a Green Party member, will provide checks and balances on city government where Democrats now hold every elected office. Hawkins will have the independence to perform audits that may be unwelcome by some, but will help the Mayor, Common Council, and city departments and agencies do their jobs better.
From a lifetime working on construction sites and loading docks, Howie Hawkins knows you have to work hard to keep your job. The current city auditor, Marty Masterpole, is not doing the job. Howie Hawkins will.
Hawkins will meet the auditing requirements of the city charter and budget. The city budget expects 8 financial audits and 3 special audits per year. Masterpole has produced only 4 audits a year since taking office in 2012, far fewer than his 2004-2011 predecessor (see the published audits).
The city charter expects monthly audits of the Department of Finance; annual audits of all city departments, the school district, and the housing authority; and an external audit of the auditing department every other year. None of these charter requirements are being met. Hawkins will work hard to meet the expectations of the city charter and budget.
The city charter requires the hiring of a Deputy City Auditor who is a Certified Public Accountant or has three years experience in municipal auditing. The Deputy City Auditor's position is key to doing quality, professional audits. The current Deputy City Auditor is not qualified. Howie Hawkins will hire a qualified Deputy City Auditor.
Howie Hawkins will bring best practices from other cities's auditors to Syracuse:
- Environmental Audits
- Tracking economic and social indicators of public welfare and environmental sustainability
- Checkbook Syracuse: A Syracuse version of New York City's award-winning online "Checkbook NYC" transparency tool that tracks the budget, revenue, spending, payroll, and contracts, including minority and women's business enterprise contracts, in real time
High Priority Special Audits
An important component of the City Auditor's job is to identify risks and recommend actions to reduce risks. Howie Hawkins will prioritize special audits that will have the most impact on the future of Syracuse, such as:
- Long Term Fiscal Outlook – projections and options for sustainable revenues
- Annual Tax Expenditure (Tax Breaks, "Corporate Welfare") Report
- Annual Living Wage Report (including city agencies and contractors not covered by the Living Wage Law)
- School Receivership – The fiscal and employment impact of 18 of 34 city schools being taken into receivership by the New York State Education Department for likely privatization as charter schools.
- School Segregation – Race and class segregation in city school attendance zones and between city and suburban districts.
- Predatory Lending and Community Reinvestment Act Compliance
- Implementation and Monitoring of the Equal Employment Opportunity Program
- Updating the 2008 Time Warner Cable Franchise Audit
- Updating the 2003 Audit of the Costs of Drug Law Enforcement by the Police Department
- Implementation of the 2014 "Ban the Box" ordinance
Open Communications and Transparency
Howie Hawkins will institute an open door policy to encourage communications from and to the people of Syracuse. Residents will be encouraged to write, phone or stop by the office whenever they want to ask questions or make recommendations.
Hawkins will hold neighborhood meetings to report on the work of the City Auditor's Office and listen to residents concerns.
He will also convene an advisory committee of auditing, accounting, financial, legal, and policy experts to help the City Auditor's Office do the best job possible.