Syracuse Post-Standard

How could the Common Council improve the way it serves the public?

Hold council meetings and hearings in the evenings when more people can attend. Broadcast council meetings and hearings on cable TV. Make broadcasting them by a membership-based, nonprofit Community Media Center that is funded by cable franchise fees a requirement for the renewal of Time-Warner's franchise.

What is the No. 1 problem you would like to address as a councilor?

Unemployment and poverty wages. Ensure that city residents and minorities have an equal opportunity to get city-funded jobs with city contractors and city departments by (1) restoring and updating the Equal Employment Opportunity Program and the Human Rights Commission and (2) establishing Community Hiring Halls as the first source for qualified new hires for city-funded jobs. Raise low wages by (1) expanding Living Wage Law coverage to include city employees and employees of businesses receiving tax breaks and (2) developing working cooperatives that share profits as higher wages among their worker-owners.

How can Syracuse overcome its looming financial problems?

By campaigning to get New York State to restore its previously legislated levels of revenue sharing and school aid in order to fund the now unfunded mandates from the state. State revenue sharing was established to enable cities like Syracuse to provide decent services to residents and commuters alike where big non-profit, tax-exempt institutions (universities, hospitals, four levels of government agencies) are the major employers and economic engine of the entire metropolitan region. For the state to preach fiscal self-sufficiency to Syracuse with its limited property tax base is to set up the city for fiscal failure and takeover of our elected city government by a state-appointed Financial Control Board. We must demand that the state stop defaulting on its fiscal responsibilities to Syracuse and its schools and provide the revenue sharing we paid for with our state income and sales taxes. We should also ask the state for the right to introduce a progressive city income tax on commuter incomes as well as resident incomes. The income tax revenues can be used to close the budget gaps the city and schools face. If the state restores promised revenue sharing, the more progressive income tax can be used to reduce the more regressive property tax.

Why should voters elect you?

As a Green, I am independent of the Democratic machine, which holds every elected office in the city. The Democrats can't deny me campaign funds or primary me. I am free to speak up for Syracuse for the revenue sharing we are owed by the state, for the 4th District for our fair share of city-funded jobs, and for other progressive changes.

What do you think ought to happen with Interstate 81?

Take down the elevated highway, reroute through traffic onto I-481 (only 12% of I-81 city traffic), and build a sustainable neighborhood in the old 15th Ward, with a central park surrounded by mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-age development, supported by mass transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure that minimizes the traffic footprint. The I-81 fix should focus on how to move people and goods – rather than just on how to move traffic – safely and affordably without pollution. We need fewer trucks, cars, and parking lots and more people, housing, business, jobs, and parks on this prime real estate. Central city residents who don't have personal cars have as much right to mobility as the suburban commuters to Downtown and University Hill. The I-81 solution should minimize the air pollution from car and truck traffic that contributes to the high rates of asthma and other lung disease in the central city. Mass transit supported redevelopment would improve conditions for residents, commuters, businesses, and institutions in the I-81 corridor through the heart of the city.

As a councilor, would you vote to sell owner-occupied tax-delinquent properties to the Land Bank?

No. Not when there are many hundreds of vacant and investor-owned properties on the city's list of 3,500 tax-delinquent properties. I would only vote for seizing owner-occupied homes when a financially-distressed owner-occupant has negotiated a prior agreement with the land bank to retain occupancy rights as a renter, or when the owner-occupant is not financially distressed but truly delinquent by refusing to pay taxes they can afford.

What one thing would you do to improve the quality of life in your district?

Improve policing and community/police relations. Quality of life problems like car break-ins, noise, vandalism, and car accidents without injuries often receive no response because calls to the police are up, the number of officers is down, and thus higher priority calls take precedence. I will speak up for the restoration of promised state revenue sharing so the 50 budgeted but now unfilled police positions can be hired and so more city residents and minorities can be hired to fill those positions. I would prioritize community policing, where cops walk beats and get to know the neighbors, business owners, and the problems in a neighborhood so they will work together to resolve small problems before they become big problems. I would resist the increasing militarization of policing. We don't need an armored troop carrier. Syracuse is not Bagdad. We need smart peace officers, not an occupying army. Not only is it a problem that officers often cannot respond, but too often they disrespect and mistreat residents when the do respond. To improve community/police relations, I support restoring the Police Activities League for youth sports, arts, and educational programs and making police cooperation with the proceedings of the Citizens Review Board a condition for approval of the next police union contract.

 

 

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor