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Syracuse councilor-at-large candidates focus on crime and the economy

Daniel Lobo/flickr

The September 10 Democratic primary for two city-wide councilor-at-large seats in Syracuse puts the spotlight on crime and the economy.

The four-way race pits two incumbents, Lance Denno and Jean Kessner, who were not endorsed by the city's Democratic Committee and who have been at odds with the administration of Mayor Stephanie Miner at times, are running against two party favorites, Pam Hunter and Jeff Wright. Three of the four joined Grant Reeher for a forum on the Campbell Conversations.

While applauding much of the work the Syracuse Police Department does, all agree that it needs to be better connected to the community.

Hunter believes part of the responsibility for that lies within city residents.

"More community based, trying to get people engaged in their own safety, is going to be important. We can't rely on x number of officers all the time, we have to be responsible ourselves," Hunter said.

Jeff Wright says this community connection is especially important when many crimes go unsolved because witnesses won't come forward.

"We need to find some way to connect them better with the community where these safety issues are, where these crime issues are really very serious, so that we can extract from these people the information needed when crime happens. The community has to help," Wright said.

Denno believes creating a better connection with the community lies with Police Chief Frank Fowler. He calls on Fowler to create a more effective policing model, and an atmosphere where police officers are more responsive.

"We need to have a police chief that is holding his officers accountable to the public, and is responding to the Citizens Review Board," Denno said.

The incumbent notes a lawsuit involving police seen using a taser to get a disabled man off a CENTRO bus and other lawsuits that he says are indicative of a police department where there is not enough accountability by officers.

On the economy, Denno said councilors have made suggestions to add to the revenue gap, by increasing things like franchise fees and parking fines.

"There are a lot of additional steps that the city can take and that the council has proposed. The idea that the council has not proposed anything, and that there is not council agenda, is simply not accurate," he said.

Hunter suggests those proposals won't solve the problems, saying there has to be more of a financial plan.

"You can't nickel and dime and put Band-Aids on some of these things. It's like the roof on your house. You've got to make plans to fix it before that roof caves in"

Wright wants to support businesses that are already inside city limits and focus more of the city's purchases on local vendors.

"I'm not just saying carte blanche give somebody business just because they're operational within city limits. I'm saying, lets make it reasonable. Let's make it competitive for them to do business within our boundaries."

Kessner was not available to participate in the forum.

More of this forum can be heard on the Campbell Conversations, Sunday at 6:00 p.m.