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Politics and Government

Report looking at consolidating Onondaga County goverments

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
As she enters her third term in office, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney says she will look into creating the framework for a municipal government.

A report on government consolidation in Onondaga County will be released early next year by a Consensus, a commission looking at the modernization of local government. One potential recommendation for saving substantial tax dollars could be the creation of a county-wide municipal government.

Whenever Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney starts talking government consolidation, it generally begins with a story about snow and the 19 towns, 15 villages, and city, county and state snowplows that clear the streets after a snowstorm.

"I mean we literally drive down the street and lift up our plows when we drive into each other’s jurisdiction," Mahoney said.

She said a metropolitan government could change all that by offering all the services that are now performed by several layers of governments. Mahoney admitted the devil though is in the details when you talk about rolling dozens of local governments into one.

"There would have to be representation from the city from the county and the towns and villages and people elected with the whole in mind, and I don’t for a minute think that the public is going to say there is one elected executive person that would decide for the whole," she said.

Syracuse is biggest municipality that would blend into this hypothetical county-wide municipal government. Mayor Stephanie Miner said she’ll wait for specific recommendations from Consensus before weighing in, but she adds any kind of municipal government is going to  have to face the issues dogging an urban center like Syracuse.

"In the last month we’ve had a healthy discussion about concentrated poverty in the city of Syracuse, of concentrated subsidized housing in the City of Syracuse," Miner said. "We have deteriorating infrastructure in the city of Syracuse. So if you’re going to have a task force looking at governance and policy, what we really need to make sure is we look at is solving the long-term issues.”

A combination of state approval and voter referendum would be needed in order to create such a government. Whether there’s the political will to do that depends on whether voters buy into the Consensus report that Mahoney said shows millions of tax dollars saved by consolidating Onondaga County into the second-largest municipality in New York state. The Consensus report is expected to be released in January.