Declaration of Candidacy: "Speaking Up for Syracuse"

May 20, 2013

My top two priorities are Fiscal Justice and Jobs.

I will speak up for Syracuse to fund our city and schools. I will organize with the community, labor, and other elected officials to make the rich pay their taxes and the state share its revenues again. Fiscal Justice is how our city will get the money we need for good schools, living-wage jobs, safe neighborhoods, and a healthy environment.

I will also focus my energies on getting 4th District residents their fair share of the city-funded jobs that already exist. I will fight to see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and the Living Wage Law are enforced and that Community Hiring Halls are created to make city residents the first source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs.

Speaking Up for Syracuse

Speech to the Green Party of Onondaga County convention, May 20, 2013

I am asking for your designation as the Green Party candidate for 4th District Common Councilor in the city of Syracuse.

My top two priorities are Fiscal Justice and Jobs.

I will speak up for Syracuse to fund our city and schools. I will organize with the community, labor, and other elected officials to make the rich pay their taxes and the state share its revenues again. Fiscal Justice is how our city will get the money we need for good schools, living-wage jobs, safe neighborhoods, and a healthy environment.

I will also focus my energies on getting 4th District residents their fair share of the city-funded jobs that already exist. I will fight to see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and the Living Wage Law are enforced and that Community Hiring Halls are created to make city residents the first source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs.

I believe this second priority around jobs is something we can accomplish during a two-year term as district councilor. It simply calls for the enforcement and enhancement of existing laws.

The first priority around fiscal justice is simply a fight we must undertake for survival. Without fiscal justice for funding out city and schools, few of the other things we want for our city are even possible.

Fiscal Justice

Public infrastructure and services are the public avenues of private commerce. Syracuse will never lift the more than one-third of our city's people and more than one-half of its children out of poverty, will never retain our dwindling middle class, and will never attract many new businesses to our city until we provide first-rate schools, public safety, and energy, transportation, and communications infrastructure. That takes money.

But the Democrats in power at every level – the President, Governor, Mayor, and Common Councilors – say, “There is no money.” Republicans only echo the Democrats. So they close the Ida Benderson Senior Center. They cut teachers and programs from our schools year after year. Now they are cutting Fire Stations.

But this fiscal crisis is manufactured. We know where the money is. It's on Wall Street. The 1% has it. The 1%'s share of state income has more than tripled from 10% in 1980 to 35% today. Meanwhile, the politicians in power cut the tax rate on highest income bracket by more than half and doubled it on the lowest income bracket. The portion of state revenues shared with the cities has been cut from 8% to less than 1%.

We only have a fiscal crisis because the rich don't want to pay their fair share of taxes. The rich and their corporations use the legalized bribery of private campaign contributions to put politicians in office who will keep rich people's taxes low and make working people pay for the economic crisis the financial oligarchy caused by their wild financial speculations.

Without progressive tax and revenue-sharing reform, Syracuse faces insolvency. A Financial Control Board will replace our elected city government with state-imposed managers who will cut our schools and city services and tear up city union contracts.

But if the rich paid the tax rates and the state shared the revenues like they did in the 1970s, Syracuse would have plenty of money to meet its needs. The state has broken its revenue sharing promise to fund the unfunded mandates and the hosting of big governmental, educational, and medical institutions in our regional upstate cities. The state owes us and it's time to collect.

I've been an organizer for peace, justice, labor and the environment since the late 1960s. As 4th District Councilor, I will speak up for Syracuse and use my organizing experience to help build a movement for Fiscal Justice for Syracuse and all the cites, towns, and school districts in New York State.

Jobs

The fastest way to get good jobs to city residents is to get them their fair share of city-funded jobs.

As 4th District Councilor, I will work to have the Equal Employment Opportunity Program enforced again, including fighting to get the Human Rights Commission re-established to monitor enforcement of this and other civil rights laws.

I will also propose amendments to the Living Wage Law. It should be expanded to cover city employees and businesses receiving city economic development incentives. It should also provide, as the living wage laws in Boston and New Haven do, for city-certified Community Hiring Halls to which all city departments and contractors must go as a first source for new hires to see if qualified city residents are available.

Build Community Wealth

Fiscal Justice and city-funded jobs for city residents address our immediate crises and are my top two priorities. But there are many other important issues I want to address as 4th District Councilor.

The best way to increase living-wage jobs and expand the city's property tax base is to build community wealth. I oppose giving tax breaks to every private developer and will fight for an economic development policy that focuses on building community-owned enterprises where the wealth created is anchored to our community by democratic ownership structures.

That means worker and consumer cooperatives should be prioritized for economic development policies and incentives.

That means creating a Municipal Development Bank with an entrepreneurial department that can plan, train, finance, and advise cooperatives.

That means replacing National Grid with a Public Power Utility in order to cut energy costs, improve customer service, and build clean, renewable energy sources.

That means ensuring that the pending Time Warner franchise agreement uses the public access portion of the franchise fees to fund a community-controlled nonprofit media organization that provides programming, staffing, and training in all forms of community media, including cable channels devoted to Public Access, Educational, and Governmental programming, community radio, community newspapers, and web-based media.

That means that Syracuse should establish its own community-owned Broadband Utility for first-rate broadband – including internet, cable TV, and phone services – to provide faster, lower cost service than the corporate telecoms do. World class broadband will attract business. Universal coverage – unlike Verizon, which stopped laying fiber after cherry picking the more affluent city neighborhoods – will connect all our people to the modern digital world of public and cultural affairs.

These kinds of community-owned enterprises will build wealth for all in Syracuse to enjoy. They will create the public avenues that private commerce needs to thrive.

Sustainable Syracuse

I could go on outlining many more policies I favor for fair elections, neighborhood assemblies, public safety, equal justice under law, and housing and neighborhood development.

But let me conclude by returning to the Sustainable Syracuse vision we raised in my 2005 campaign for Mayor.

We still believe that Syracuse can get ahead of the curve and prosper from leading the transition to the zero-carbon economy, which the world needs to avert catastrophic climate change. We can build regional organic food and clean energy self-reliance, and an ecologically sustainable and diverse manufacturing base, that sets an example and could be our greatest export.

The 4th District should play a central role in this transition. It is time to bring together and employ the technical expertise and the idle labor, land, and buildings located right in the 4th District to build an ecologically sustainable prosperity.

We can start in the 4th District by reclaiming the Interstate 81 Corridor that tore our district in two. It is time to Green the Interstate 81 Corridor and build a New 15th Ward Neighborhood that is a model of sustainable prosperity. We should push for a take down of the viaduct, a rerouting of through traffic onto I-481, and the building of a green neighborhood – a car-free neighborhood supported by public transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, with a central park surrounded by mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-age development. Instead of rebuilding the rebuilding interstate viaduct, or replacing it with an even more air polluting stop-and-go boulevard, we should demand the investment in a metropolitan mass transit system capable of conveniently and affordable moving in and out of the city most of the over 62,000 commuters – 44,500 of them to the Eds and Meds in the 4th District next to the I-81 viaduct.

Why 4th District Councilor

So why not take these issues into the mayoral race? That is a question we wrestled with for months.

The Mayor's race would be a larger forum for advocating these policies. If we won, we would have more power to implement the policies.

On the other hand, it would be harder to win the mayoral race. We do not have the capacity to raise anywhere near the million dollar budgets that recent mayoral candidates have spent on staffing, polling, mailings, and advertising.

Moreover, after so many campaigns in which I and other Greens have raised the issues, it is time for Greens to start winning elections in Syracuse and demonstrate we are more than a voice, we are the viable alternative.

I received 3% in my first race for at-large councilor in 1993. In my runs for 4th District Councilor, I have climbed the ladder to 14% in 2003, to 40% in 2009, and to 48% in 20ll.

So the chances of winning in the 4th District Council race are better.

The mayoral race was still tempting when the dynamic appeared it would be a one-on-one contest of policies and personalities. But it has acquired another dynamic as more candidates have entered, and are expect to enter, the mayoral race. 

This last factor was the final tipping point for us.

The 4th District Council race will be no easier for me in 2013 that it was in 2011. In 2011, it was an open seat. In 2013, my opponent is the incumbent with better name recognition than before.

The 4th District is small enough, however, that I will be able to communicate my message to the voters one-on-one on their doorsteps, on the phone, and in campaign mailings.

All I can guarantee is that the voters of the 4th District will know what their options are. But with the help of small donors and big volunteers, we can win this election.

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