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Syracuse council candidates defend their records, offer new ideas

Tom Magnarelli
Councilor Helen Hudson (left) and Democratic challenger Sha’Sha Wheat are running for Syracuse Common Council president. ";

Syracuse common councilors and their challengers are defending their records and offering new ideas ahead of the upcoming election in November. A recent public forum for all the council candidates focused on jobs, the city's finances and police.

The two women running to be the next council president debated the importance of city contractors hiring Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises or MWBEs. The Democrats’ designated candidate, Councilor Helen Hudson, said she has been strengthening MWBEs. 

“That’s why I work with the black minority contractors to ensure that we get them working and get them on some of these projects,” Hudson said. "I've been on the council seven years and I think I've done quite a bit on the council in seven years to try to make sure that our community gets what they're supposed to get."   

Hudson’s challenger, Democrat Sha’Sha Wheat said the city should close the loopholes that allow contractors to be exempt from the requirement to hire a certain number of MWBEs.

“The jobs are leaving," Wheat said. "You see a lot of construction going on, but there is very little MBE participation.”

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
The candidates for Syracuse councilor-at-large.

The four candidates vying for two open councilor-at-large seats scored points on a variety of topics. To increase the city’s tax base, Councilor Khalid Bey, one of the Democratic party’s designated candidates, said he would urge the state to obligate large, tax-exempt nonprofits to pay impact fees.

“So we have to make large nonprofits responsible for the taxes we lose,” Bey said. "We obligate our military bases to pay impact fees when their footprint gets too big so municipalities don't suffer. We have to follow suit."

The other designated Democratic candidate, Timothy Rudd, wants to double the number of summer jobs for young people.

“It keeps you busy," Rudd said. "It gives you money that you can spend into your family and it trains you for your next job.”

Green Party candidate Frank Cetera said he would fund a program to encourage worker ownership of businesses which he said other cities in New York are doing.

"And here we sit, again, one of the last to pick up the helm, to stabilize communities, stabilize jobs," Cetera said.

And to create more community policing, Democratic challenger Gary Morris said he wants police officers to get out of their cars and introduce themselves to neighbors.

“We do need them because of the world we live in," Morris said. "But we don’t need them killing us.”

Residents also got a chance to hear from council candidates running in the city's five districts.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.