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Politics and Government

Planning departments merger could spur more government consolidation

Ellen Abbott

The city of Syracuse and Onondaga County planning departments have officially merged. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney signed an inter-municipal agreement Thursday that brings the planning agencies of both governments under one roof.

The move is the latest one that reflects a more cooperative relationship between the city and the county.

The new office joins the city of Syracuse Bureau of Planning and Sustainability with the Onondaga County Planning Agency under one roof, with most staff becoming county employees. There is no increase in either government's budget because of the move.

Both Miner and Mahoney say this consolidation means more streamlined and efficient government. And Mahoney says the planning process is a great place for this to happen, so there can be a more holistic look at Syracuse and Onondaga County.

"While some towns enjoy a population explosion and the city becomes more vacant, that may benefit an individual town, but as a region, that's not helping us. So that's what we mean as planning. Let's look at this as a big picture and figure out a way to do this so all boats can rise," said Mahoney.

Mahoney says she remembers when she and Miner were both on the Syracuse Common Council, and friction between the city and county governments created problems. A decade later, she says there has been an attitude change about the two governments working together.

"A step like today that formalizes a planning department, will live beyond Joanie Mahoney and Stephanie Miner. It's something that should make it so we don't have to go back to the way things always were," said Mahoney.

The Central Planning Department follows the merger of the economic development departments of the two governments, and cooperation with the Save the Rain program. Miner says it's another step to create more rational and streamlined governments in central New York. As for future mergers?  She wouldn't say.

"Part of what has made our efforts successful to date, is that we've done all the hard work and heavy lifting before we've gone to the media. So we're not going to over promise and under deliver, we're going to under promise and over deliver," said Miner.