Sustainable Syracuse: The Green Alternative to Destiny USA

From Howie Hawkins' 2005 campaign for Mayor

Public power may be most popular plank in the Green platform. But whether we build Destiny USA or a Sustainable Syracuse is the most important issue facing the voters in this election. The decisions around this issue will shape Syracuse for a generation.

Both major party mayoral candidates, Driscoll and Mahoney, support the Destiny USA project. The Green Party opposes the Destiny USA project because it subsidizes a private developer to be the city's planner. Its marketing hype about powering it with renewables does not change its basic character as anti-ecological monument to sprawl and consumerism that depends on exploiting cheap labor and natural resources the world over. Destiny USA would make Syracuse itself a barracks for low-wage workers who service upscale tourists.

As the Economic Research Associates (ERA) studies in 2000 commissioned by the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) reported, the 3100 jobs in the current 1.5 million square foot mall pay an average of $6.67 an hour in 1999 dollars. 75 percent of these are full-time and 25 percent are part-time with an average of 20 hours per week. ERA projected these pay scales and full-time/part-time ratios would continue with the expansions based on industry averages.

What is now called Phase 1 of Destiny USA and seeking a 30-year property tax exemption and $200 million in SIDA bonding is basically the same Phase 1 Carousel Mall expansion studied by ERA five years ago. It would add 2400 jobs with an 800,000 square foot expansion. Phase 2 would add 6500 jobs with a further 2.6 million square foot, resulting in a total of 12,000 jobs in a 5 million square foot retail and entertainment mall, paying an average of about $7 an hour in current dollars, or about $14,000 a year.

That future is not a good destiny for the working people of Syracuse .

And Destiny may fail economically. What then?

Sustainable Syracuse is not one big project but a large number of smaller projects that fit into an overall city plan. As "œnew urbanism" city planner Andres Duany has said, "What a city requires is slow, patient work by excellent government and many small investors."

The ideas in Sustainable Syracuse draw upon the County Settlements Plan drawn up by Duany as well as elements of the city's Comprehensive Plan, studies commissioned by the Metropolitan Development Association that promote developing the economy by building upon existing assets and industry clusters, and studies by SUNY ESF designers and architects, particularly the Onondaga Creek Corridor Studies led by Professor Emanuel Carter.

What the Greens have added to this mix is an emphasis on the need for democratic political and economic institutions that empower the people of Syracuse to make and carry out their city and neighborhood plans.

And because we believe the people of Syracuse should make the ultimate planning decisions, we present this vision of a Sustainable Syracuse as the beginning of a discussion, not the final word.

SUSTAINABLE SYRACUSE : BASIC CONCEPTS

Let us first lay out Sustainable Syracuse conceptually before outlining the elements of the vision.

To give it mission statement, Sustainable Syracuse means neighborhood-directed development using green technologies and widespread community ownership to create living-wage jobs in a city that is ecologically and economically sustainable.

Sustainable Syracuse means good jobs. It means directing city resources toward the creation of thousands of $40,000 a year manufacturing and construction jobs – and not $14,000 a year jobs servicing tourists at Destiny USA

Sustainable Syracuse means widespread community ownership. It means creating dozens of new manufacturing plants in Syracuse where the wealth they create stays in Syracuse through various forms of community ownership –and not subsidizing one big private developer for Destiny USA and its absentee-owned chain store tenants to suck profits and wealth away to corporate headquarters. It means revitalizing downtown and the neighborhood business districts with locally owned retail businesses – and not subsidizing Destiny USA to compete against every other retail and entertainment business downtown and in the neighborhoods.

Sustainable Syracuse means environmental health and productivity as the basis for economic security. It means rebuilding Syracuse itself green by retrofitting its infrastructure, buildings, and enterprises for the efficient use of renewable energy and recyclable materials and not putting a veneer of renewable energy on a Destiny USA development that remains dependent on unsustainable global transportation networks and production processes to support it.

Sustainable Syracuse means the people plan their city and neighborhoods and the developers bid to work on parts of that plan –and not making the private developer of Destiny USA the effective city planner for Syracuse.

This position paper, and the vision map and pictures that accompany it, are the start of a conversation. The ultimate decisions should be made by the people of Syracuse through a neighborhood-directed development process for both the citywide urban design decisions and neighborhood community design decisions.

Our purpose now is to show that there are alternatives to Destiny USA . The developers have been calling the shots in Syracuse . We need to reverse that relationship. The people should make the basic plans and then the developers can bid on fulfilling pieces of those plans.

To have that kind of participatory planning process, we need to make several institutional changes to expand the city's development capacities that we will outline at the end.

But we will begin with the big urban design questions and then look at some of the economic opportunities for infrastructure renewal and green manufacturing before then outlining the institutional changes needed to support neighborhood-directed development.

Sustainable Citywide Urban Design

Here we outline a sustainable vision of the citywide urban design questions.

A People's Waterfront, Not Destiny USA

Syracuse can become a sustainable city of neighborhoods based on green technologies, community ownership, and a vibrant neighborhood-based civic, commercial, and cultural life. The Inner Harbor/Oil City area is prime real estate that should be developed as a model of ecologically sustainable neighborhood development.

Here we call for a People's Waterfront instead of Destiny USA . The city should get back the development rights to the Inner Harbor/Oil City area and develop a model "new urbanism" neighborhood with high-density mixed-use development and mixed-income housing. The Inner Harbor waterfront areas should be a public park.

In the longer run, the shoreline should be developed as a park for the people of Syracuse to enjoy, with the sewage treatment plant, the industrial businesses, and shopping mall stores removed to an eco-industrial park along the Erie Canal corridor, with a Peace Park museum to commemorate the Haudenosaunee Peacemaker and celebrate the restoration of Onondaga Lake .

Greenway Network

A sustainable city needs an energy-efficient, convenient system of public transportation. Sustainable Syracuse envisions replacing key streets with park-like corridors for pedestrians, bikes, and light rails that link homes to schools, parks, shopping districts, and workplaces. As the Greenway Network develops, neighborhood shopping district streets can become pedestrian malls and traffic calming measures in residential neighborhoods can further reduce the erosion community street life by traffic.

Replace Elevated I-81 with a Greenway

Sustainable Syracuse envisions taking down the elevated section of Interstate 81 and replacing it with a Greenway that includes light rail into downtown. A large parking structure would be built on surface lots near the Dome to accommodate downtown and university commuters. The elevated section of I-81 is too expensive to maintain due to road salt corroding concrete and steel structure. It has functioned as a barrier isolating Syracuse University from Downtown and the South Side. The Greenway will reconnect the university with Downtown and the South Side.

Erie Canal Corridor

Instead of building a phony Erie Canal inside the Destiny dome, Sustainable Syracuse envisions re-digging the Erie Canal from the Lake , through downtown and out Erie Boulevard to create a broad East-West linear eco-industrial park. The canal in Providence RI the Avon-Kennet canal in England have been restored canals with great economic benefits. Buffalo is beginning to restore its section of the Erie Canal . New York State has money to develop the whole Erie Canal corridor. Syracuse should take advantage of the Erie Canal corridor that built the city.

As one of the drawings shows, a light rail line would run along one side of the canal and a bike and pedestrian path along the other side. Both ecological manufacturing plants and high-density urban village shopping districts would be developed along this new waterfront property.

The eco-industrial park would develop dozens of ecological manufacturing plants employing thousands of factory workers. The existing freight rail line and Interstate 690 would service shipping needs. Commuting workers could ride the light rail line along the canal.

Several high-density mixed-use urban villages along the canal, with ground-level retail and upstairs apartments, will provide a shopping district for nearby neighborhoods as well as factory workers, canal visitors, and shoppers taking light rail to the stores. This will create attractive "riverfront" shopping districts along the canal in place of the kind of mundane suburban-style shopping strip along Erie Boulevard that can be found anywhere in the US.

Onondaga Creek Corridor

In introducing the Onondaga Creek Corridor Studies focused on the renaturalization of Onondaga Creek as a catalyst for civic, environmental, and economic revitalization on the South Side and Syracuse , Professor Emanuel Carter, a landscape architect at SUNY ESF, says, "Onondaga Creek has the potential to be THE civic and environmental highway through the city." Sustainable Syracuse envisions two civic and environmental highways criss-crossing the city, the Onondaga Creek Corridor and the Erie Canal Corridor, which Carter referred to as "the ghost of a canal corridor through Syracuse" that has the same potential.

We want to emphasize the civic importance of these potential corridors. In Carter's words,"Citizens in their respective enclaves have had sixty years to get used to being distant from one another and afraid of one another. One of the advantages of the Onondaga Creek civic and environmental highway is that it would be the first landscape in Syracuse , since the advent of universal automobile ownership, in which so much mileage would be open to so many people to engage each other and come to know one another. Clinton Square is too small. Our many festivals are too fleeting. The city of Syracuse and the surrounding towns and villages need citizenship. Small plazas, temporary events, interscholastic sports won't do it. There must be public space where anyone can meet anyone and learn that: (1) they won't get hurt and; (2) they might find common ground. Without this possibility Syracuse , Onondaga County and the surrounding Central New York region will be socially unsound and economically non-competitive. This then is the potential promise of an improved Onondaga Creek corridor. It can be a physically beautiful catalyst for economic, social and environmental restoration."�

The Erie Canal would be our eco-industrial corridor. Onondaga Creek could be our garden city and urban agricultural corridor. The creek would be restored to a more natural state, with some small ponds and low-head hydro dams, biological sewage treatment in "living machines," � greenhouses and urban agriculture, and ecological housing, retail, and restaurant development at periodic junctions along this new waterfront property.

Neighborhood-Based Planning

The most important feature of the Sustainable Syracuse vision is not the particulars we have suggested, but empowering the people of Syracuse to make the decisions on the particulars. Sustainable Syracuse envisions Neighborhood Assemblies in each of the city's real neighborhoods where residents can debate, decide, and instruct representatives on citywide urban design questions and determine their own neighborhood community designs.

Within the framework of a general citywide urban design, each neighborhood will need to develop the details for their own community. As discussed below under the section on Institutional Reforms, Syracuse needs a Planning Department that provides expertise to help the Neighborhood Assemblies deal with planning questions. And it needs a Municipal Bank with a business development arm that can help plan, finance, and advise the new community-owned businesses we want in our neighborhood shopping districts and along the eco-industrial Erie Canal corridor and the more agricultural Onondaga Creek corridor.

SUSTAINABLE Infrastructure AND GREEN INDUSTRIES

Public investment in rebuilding a sustainable infrastructure of Syracuse and private and public investment in eco-manufacturing and urban agriculture can create thousands of living-wage jobs within the city and often within walking distance in our neighborhoods.

Renewable Energy

Every building in Syracuse should be an energy producer with solar heating and panels producing electricity. Every building in Syracuse can improve its energy efficiency through better insulation and more efficient appliances. Syracuse can become energy self-sufficient through a mosaic of renewable sources including wind, solar, low-head hydro, and biofuels. Other cities are doing it. Syracuse should, too.

Powering Destiny USA with renewables when the whole project is dependent on shipping people and things to the mall through a transportation system thoroughly dependent of fossil fuels is not a sustainable model. Rather than centralized shopping and entertainment that brings people and products to central locations, sustainable economies will bring products, many more of them locally produced, to people in their neighborhoods. Petrogeologists argue over whether gas and oil production are peaking now or, in the most optimistic projections, two or three decades from now. Either way, now is the time to get ahead of the curve and move a sustainable economic model. As energy prices rise, global supply chains and long metropolitan commutes become less viable economically. Syracuse should move toward a sustainable model before rising energy costs catch it in a bind.

The Apollo Alliance is a coalition of labor, environmental, religious, and business organizations promoting public investment in renewable energy to create good jobs and energy independence. Their study for New York State shows that a 10-year investment strategy to develop renewable energy sources, mass transit, and energy efficiency would create 228,100 permanent jobs, including 31,320 manufacturing jobs and 25,635 construction jobs. Prorating this for Syracuse , a 10-year project would create about 2300 permanent jobs, including 310 manufacturing jobs and 300 construction jobs.

A 10-year project to develop a reliable, affordable, renewable local energy base is a realistic timetable. Woking , England , a city of 90,000 has developed a renewable base of energy sources that provide 135 percent of their energy needs. Because National Grid is paying £1 for energy Woking puts into the grid and charging them £7-£10 to get the same amount back, Woking is developing its own energy transmission and storage system so it can become independent of National Grid's grid. (Yes, it's the same National Grid we now pay our utility bills to in Syracuse.) The big city of London recently hired Woking 's engineer to develop a 10-year plan to develop its own renewable energy base and independence from National Grid.

Mass Transit: Greenway Network

An energy-efficient public transit system is central to the efficient use of renewable energy sources. The political moment has arrived to push for a Greenway Network, including light rails through out Syracuse and its suburbs. 7 out of 10 Americans said they want to put public investment into mass transit instead of highways in a mid-September AP poll. As high energy prices hammer us this winter, this point of view is likely to rise.

Processing Regional Farm Products for Food and Industrial Feedstocks

One of the industry clusters the Syracuse region already has is processing agricultural products. Ecological manufacturing processes are based on moving from dependence on non-renewable, toxic "hydrocarbon economy" based on fossil fuel-based feedstocks to a "carbohydrate economy" based on to renewable and biodegradable agricultural feedstocks. Ecological manufacturing opens up many more opportunities to link eco-industries to the region's farms, both urban and rural, in addition to food processing.

Biological Waste Treatment

Syracuse's combined sewer lines are over a century old in many places. Sewage and rain run-off lines need to be separated to prevent combined sewer line overflows into Onondaga Creek and other tributaries. Moreover, the county's Onondaga Lake clean-up plan may not meet the court-order standards, according to the Freshwater Institute. And those standards are not high enough to create a creek and lake that will eventually restore it to status where the water is drinkable and the fish can be eaten.

Syracuse's sewage is a resource that could provide energy and nutrients for fertilizing agriculture if it were treated by biological instead of chemical means. "Living machines" have been developed to do this. The first stage is anaerobic digestion with methane as a byproduct creating a renewable source of natural gas. The second and third stages involve running the remaining nutrients through swamp-like "living machines" that can grow crops in greenhouses, biofuel feedstocks for a renewable source of ethanol, and agro-industrial feedstocks for eco-manufacturing.

Water

Another infrastructure system that needs to be renewed is the water system. Public health would be improved by disinfecting the water with ozone instead of chlorine, which is a carcinogen and combines with organic compounds to create hormone-mimicking chemicals that are detrimental to health and often carcinogenic. There is the ongoing process of removing lead service pipes and developing incentives to remove lead pipes in existing buildings. Finally, we should stop fluoridating our drinking water. Fluoride is a toxic waste product of phosphate fertilizer production and studies show that its addition to drinking water does not reduce tooth decay but does lead to higher rates of tooth fluorosis, osteoarthritis, and cancer, particularly bone cancer. Unions representing Environmental Protection Agency employees and other public health professionals have asked Congress to impose a nationwide moratorium on drinking water fluoridation programs, as Europe has done. Several US cities have made this move recently and Syracuse should too.

Waste Recycling

Syracuse can do much more in the way recycling. Planning of the eco-industrial park along the Erie Canal corridor should emphasize cradle-to-cradle manufacturing networks where the wastes of one factory are the raw materials for others. Two of the foremost American experts in this field, William McDonough and Michael Braungart, have been hired by China to develop seven sustainable new cities based on cradle-to-cradle manufacturing. We should give them some work in Syracuse , too.

Many of the wastes now burned at the OCCRA plant could be recycled. Many used products could be remanufactured into new products. Planning for the eco-industrial park should see these wastes and used products as potential raw materials.

Environmental Services and Engineering

Environmental services and engineering is one of the industry clusters in which Syracuse is well situated with its confluence of technology companies, related university-based resources, and the developing Center for Excellence focused on this area. It is an industry that can thrive by applying its knowledge to help Rebuild Syracuse Green.

To add support to this sector, the Sustainable Syracuse vision map has a University Landing urban village on the Erie Canal near the Center for Excellence that would be focused on green technology development

Eco-Industries

The spreadsheet appended shows the average workforce and payrolls of manufacturing plants in each of the 21 industrial sectors used by North American Industry Classification System. The numbers come from the 2004-2005 Statistical Abstract. The point is that relatively small manufacturing plants are normal and efficient.

If we were to develop 250 manufacturing plants of all kinds along the Erie Canal eco-industrial corridor of according to these averages (42 workers and $1.65 million payroll per plant), we would create 10,500 new manufacturing jobs paying $40,000 a year and add $413 million in payroll income to workers in the Syracuse area to spend in the local economy.

That is the Sustainable Syracuse alternative to the full Destiny USA build-out providing 8900 mostly retail jobs at $14,000 a year and a $125 million a year payroll.

Destiny USA claims huge multiplier effects from their retail businesses and employment. But no one would argue that manufacturing does not have a much greater multiplier effect. The value-added nature of manufacturing creates wealth and serves and the foundation for the service, retail, and government sectors. As long as Syracuse workers are making real things that the local community and other markets can use, our economy will be strong and stable. An economy dependent on tourism and consumerism is at the mercy of market forces beyond its local control. Between the unsustainable record-level US trade deficit, soaring federal budget deficits, and record-level US consumer indebtedness financed by housing bubbles in many regional US markets, it is not good timing to bet Syracuse's economic future now on tourists and consumers.

As to what these eco-industries might be, we have already touched on energy and processing agricultural products. The possibilities for eco-industries are endless. It depends on what we can produce for local and larger markets. Polymer electronics, LED lighting, carbon nanotube electronics, and electronics recycling and remanufacturing may be particularly promising at this time. Wood products, paper, printing, dry cleaning, soaps, brick works, ceramics, biodiesel, glass works, machinery, electrical equipment, efficient light bulbs, furniture, apparel, and green chemicals are all products that could serve a local market if not larger markets. Moreover, Syracuse is strategically located by transportation networks and proximity to metropolitan markets from Pittsburgh and Cleveland , to Toronto and Montreal , to the heavily populated northeastern seaboard corridor. Syracuse should not give up on manufacturing. To the contrary it should lead the way toward ecological manufacturing.

How to develop this eco-manufacturing sector is what we will turn to next.

Institutional Reforms: Democratic Planning, Public Investment, and technical capacities

According to Forbes magazine a few years ago, Syracuse gave away $2 billion in tax breaks, grants, and other economic incentives over a five-year period in the late 1990s. That is $400 million a year. That public money should be used as public investments in assets that are anchored to our community by their ownership structures. The Green alternative to subsidizing private developers and absentee owners with corporate welfare is public investment in community-owned enterprises. If the public invests in a private enterprise, we should have the same income and management rights as any other investor.

In addition to using public money for public purposes, Syracuse needs development and planning capacities, specifically a Planning Department in the city administration assist citywide and neighborhood designs and Municipal Bank with a business development arm to develop new community-owned eco-industries as well as retail businesses in the business districts of the city.

But the citizens of Syracuse should direct all of this planning and development, so we start there.

Neighborhood Assemblies for Neighborhood-Directed Planning

We need replace the eight, too-big, merely advisory TNT sectors with empowered Neighborhood Assemblies in the real neighborhoods in the city that people identify as such. There are probably between 25 and 40 such neighborhoods in the city and the process of setting up the Neighborhood Assemblies should determine that.

The Neighborhood Assemblies would be like New England Town Meetings where every resident has a voice and a vote. They would determine neighborhood community designs, instruct their city representatives on the city planning and other questions, guide the delivery of city services in their neighborhoods, and elect representatives to Common Council, the school board, and other citywide commissions from each neighborhood.

These grassroots democracies would in effect make every Syracusan a legislator and make the Mayor, Common Councilors, and other representatives work for them and implement their decisions. They would give a political form through which the vibrant civic life a city needs can be expressed. They would be housed in neighborhood schools, which would also serve as neighborhood city halls.

With respect to planning, the Neighborhood Assemblies would annually review the city's Comprehensive Plan and make recommendations for changes to be carried by their neighborhood representatives to Common Council and any relevant citywide commissions. And they would annually update their neighborhood community design.

City Planning Department

The city needs own planning capacity if it going to do more than just react to developers proposals. It needs to re-establish a City Planning Department to do real urban and community design, not just administer zoning rules. It should be staffed with urban and community designers, architects, engineers, and artists who can put design ideas in graphic form for the Neighborhood Assemblies and city officials to evaluate. The department should also recruit and facilitate the involvement of professors and students from areas universities in providing this expertise. The City Planning Department would not make planning decisions. Its role would be to provide expert consultation to the democratic planning process based in the Neighborhood Assemblies and to the evaluation of developers' proposals by the assemblies and city officials.

Community Ownership, Not Absentee Ownership

Sustainable Syracuse envisions a sustainable economy based in part on widespread community ownership so that wealth generated here accumulates in our city instead of being drained out by absentee owners.

Let us spell out what we mean by community ownership. In general, we mean ownership forms, both public and private, that anchor wealth to our community. These forms would include:

  • Owner-Operated small businesses

  • Community Corporations where voting shares restricted to residents (e.g., the Green Bay Packers).

  • A city-owned Community Investment Trust where economic assistance such as tax breaks are converted to voting shares in a conventional corporation

  • Public Enterprises, like a city-owned power company or the trash collection operation of DPW;

  • Worker and Consumer Cooperatives, including credit unions.

Worker cooperatives are particularly suitable for the kind of development envisioned in Sustainable Syracuse. In a worker cooperative, each worker is an owner with management and income rights. Management rights are exercised with each worker having one vote in setting basic policies and, if it is larger than 10 or so members, in electing the board of directors. The income rights mean workers receive shares of the net income of the enterprise in proportion to the labor each of them contributes. This form of economic organization has several advantages.

It spreads ownership far more widely than other enterprise forms. It develops people as it develops the economy because people expected to act like owners are more likely to do so and because their income depends on being responsible managers as well as effective workers. Co-ops only grow to a size where the economies of scale maximize net income per worker. With conventional corporations, the object is maximizing total profits, which means growing larger than the optimum net income per worker.

These features of worker co-ops mean they tend to have higher productivity for three reasons. First, co-ops don't grow beyond the optimum economies of scale due to their goal of maximizing income per worker, whereas conventional firms continue growing in their quest for maximal total profits even though it means diseconomies of scale that hurt productivity. Second, more effective work means more income for co-op workers, where as more effective work does not improve the income of hourly work in a conventional firm. Third, the smaller, more human scale and democratic management of the co-ops means a better work environment, less alienation and labor-management conflicts, and thus higher labor productivity.

The smaller size of co-ops tends to make market entry easier for new co-ops when new employment is needed. More numerous smaller co-ops competing create more competitive markets that benefit the consumers of their products.

For all these reasons, we think city policies should especially support the development of worker cooperatives.

Municipal Bank

If Syracuse is going to develop the businesses it needs, it needs a much more direct, pro-active way of developing them than trying to attract businesses with public incentives intended to influence business decisions in the market. A Muncipal Bank with a business development department could provide that capacity.

The Municipal Bank could be capitalized by combination of city, resident, and local business deposits, bonding, and perhaps deposits from union pension funds and other organizations. It would provide consumer loans, particularly for home purchases and improvements, as the State Bank of North Dakota has since 1917 profitably for the state even though it aims to operate at cost. In this capacity, it could serve as a yardstick to measure the performance of private banks, particularly in the low-income neighborhoods that have been redlined historically.

The development arm would be modeled after the cooperative bank in Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain , which developed over 70 industrial cooperatives employing some 25,000 manufacturing workers over a 20-year period to turn Mondragon into the manufacturing center of Spain . The development department would have business planners who would develop business plans to meet community identified needs, arrange financing, hire the initial workers and management, and advise them as they got up and running. As the business generated income, it would buy its assets from the bank and that money would return to the bank for financing other businesses. While particularly suitable for worker co-ops, this same process could be used to set up owner-operated small businesses, public enterprises, and community corporations.

Other experiences also inform this idea. One is the flexible manufacturing networks of co-ops developed with municipal support in the Emilia-Rogmana region around the city of Bologna which transformed that region from one Europe 's poorest into one of its wealthiest. Another is a similar low-tech version implemented in the Kerala province of India , which has enabled one of the country's poorest regions in per capita income to have the highest literacy and health indices and lowest rates of extreme poverty in the country.

To give one example of what the Municipal Bank could do that existing business development strategies have failed to achieve, consider the needs for a grocery store downtown. The recently announced upscale-oriented boutique grocery downtown still does not meet the need for grocery store oriented to the low and moderate income residents in and near downtown in the Pioneer Homes, McKinney Manor, Presidential Plaza, and 500 Clinton Street buildings. The city has been trying to entice one of the major grocery chains to put a store downtown for at least 15 years without success. Its obvious there is a market for one. The Municipal Bank's development department could plan such a business, arrange the financing, hire the initial workforce and management, and advise it as it began operations. When it was up and running, it could be sold to the workers co-op, or perhaps as a worker and consumer hybrid co-op since consumers might want have say in the products it carried. The business planners might find that that it would make business sense to develop the downtown grocery as part of a citywide network of neighborhood stores with shared purchasing and warehousing. In any case, the Municipal Bank's business development department could take a much more direct and aggressive role in developing businesses the city needs than economic incentives do.

Syracuse Industrial Development Agency

The Industrial Development Agencies were set up by the state to promote manufacturing, but we have gotten away from that with most SIDA projects focused on retail development. SIDA bonding could help finance the eco-industries along the Erie Canal .

To make SIDA more responsive to community and worker needs, the city should put labor and community members on board.

Public Power

Over the years, public power systems (municipals, co-ops, and regional authorities) have served about one-third nation's population and provided electricity for about 30 percent less than private investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have. They have been able to do this because they don't have to pay profits to shareholders and excessive executive salaries like IOUs do.

We are paying among the highest rates in the country to National Grid, a company based in the UK , while the village-owned power company next door in Solvay provides its residents with electricity for one-quarter the cost we pay in Syracuse . We are not only paying for the current cost of producing the electricity we buy, but also for Niagara Mohawk's bad investments in nuclear power, so-called “stranded costs,� that are imbedded in transmission and distribution fees in our utility bills under current state regulatory agreements.

Syracuse should get out from under this burden. Syracuse should replace National Grid with a public power company to provide lower cost power to Syracuse businesses and residents. This step alone will do much to improve the city's economy.

As a public power company, we can develop our own sources of renewable energy, unlike the IOUs in New York that were required to divest their generation plants to energy service companies in a failed attempt to create a competitive market that would lower costs. So much of our utility bill is devoted to paying for the “stranded costs� in nuclear power that there is little margin left for competition among suppliers to provide much relief from the high rates because all suppliers must send their electricity through National Grid's lines.

Workforce Training

Another area of capacities to be developed to build a Sustainable Syracuse is training in green technologies in our high schools and at OCC and BOCES. We need to encourage youth to see these as worthy careers by raising the status of factory, construction, and agricultural work. Part of this is restoring and encouraging artisanship to the building trades, manufacturing, and urban agriculture. And part of it is criticizing the idea that making real things that people use is less important or skilled than pushing papers in office work where people dress as “professionals.� Ironically, more and more of the white collar service and retail jobs pay less than construction and manufacturing jobs and are being deskilled just like construction and manufacturing jobs have been.

Artisanship in the building trades is needed to build upon the architectural heritage of Syracuse as we rebuild it green.

Development without Displacement

Sustainable Syracuse will create a real estate renaissance with waterfront property criss-crossing the city along the Erie Canal and Onondaga Creek corridors. We want to develop the economy without gentrifying neighborhoods and displacing existing residents. That means we need anti-displacement policies that enable existing residents to stay as property values rise, particularly low-income single-parent families and disabled and elderly people.

We suggest three polices here:

Inclusionary Zoning -- All new housing development should include a certain percentage affordable units along with market rate units. That percentage should be linked to the percentage of Syracuse residents who cannot afford market rate housing. With a current poverty rate of 27 percent in Syracuse , that ratio should be at least one in four units.

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) -- CLTs maintain the affordability of housing for people with low or fixed incomes when neighborhoods improve and property values increase. We have one in Syracuse : Time of Jubilee on the Southwest side. A CLT is a not-for-profit landholding corporation that is democratically managed by residents on the land. A CLT issues land leases to homes and businesses in the CLT that secure tenure and use rights to a particular parcel of land. The lease specifies that homeowners may resell their homes, but at a price that equals the equity they have invested, but not any speculative windfall due to rising property values. Under a CLT lease, land maintains affordable because there is no capacity for land speculation or profiteering.

Land Value Taxation -- Syracuse should replace the current property tax with land value taxation that taxes the market value of land sites but not the improvements to housing and businesses on land sites. Land value taxation shifts taxes off of labor and productive capital and onto land and resources, thus collecting ground rent for the benefit of all rather than the profit of a few. Land also maintains affordability when it is freed from speculation and private profiteering. Land value taxation restricts property taxes to the unearned income derived from appreciation of all land in the community, which reflects social investments in schools, parks, and other infrastructure and amenities, not the actions of the owner. It discourages speculators holding on to abandoned city lots and buildings. They have to make the land productive to pay the land value tax. That stimulates inner city redevelopment and discourages sprawl. Land value taxation also makes the property tax progressive because land ownership is far more concentrated than the ownership of home and business assets.

One last word: this vision outlined here is the beginning of a discussion the people of Syracuse need to have. We have offered possibilities, not the last word.

 

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