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Katko sets sights on addressing Syracuse's poverty problem

Ellen Abbott
Republican congressional candidate John Katko stands with community leaders in front of Syracuse's Southwest Community Center.

In the waning days of the election, Republican congressional candidate John Katko is focusing on poverty.

Katko, a former federal prosecutor in Syracuse, says he’s seen up close the poverty plaguing the 23rd poorest city in the country.

"I remember many times walking up a dark stairway, trying to find a witness with one of the agents, knocking on the door, not knowing what’s going to happen when the door happens," Katko said. "But when that door opens, you see unbelievable living conditions in the city of Syracuse. Where is the outrage? Where is the concern?”

If elected, Katko says he’d do more than funnel money into poverty programs.

“After the election, one of the things I’m going to do is create a strategy, a plan," Katko explained. "I think it’s going to be something along the line of Big Sisters, Big Brothers on steroids. We’re going to target youth that need mentors, and we’re going to pair individuals up with the suburbs, the city and work with people like Mary and Odell, to make this city a better place.”

Katko is referencing Mary Nelson and Odell Rice, well-known community leaders in Syracuse who recently offered their support of the Republican in front of Syracuse's Southwest Community Center.

Katko also lamented what he called a lack of attention on the high poverty rate in the city of Syracuse.  

“We have to start the dialogue," he said. "That’s what this is about today, is the dialogue and bringing some light to it. And I’m going to bring some light to this as a congressman. I’m going to be down at the Southwest Community Center. I’m going to be over at Mary’s place. I’m going to try and help Jackson. It’s not about just getting grants and throwing money at the situation, it’s about getting people involved."

The Republican says programs like this will offer poverty stricken youth perspectives they don’t have now.

“These kids need mentors, these kids need leaders," Katko said. "These kids need something to look up to besides a street-level drug dealer with a pocketful of cash.”

Katko faces incumbent Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei in the election for the 24th Congressional District, that includes all or parts of Cayuga, Wayne, Oswego and Onondaga Counties.