Consolidation discussion in central NY could soon heat up
The discussion over consolidating government in Onondaga County will begin in earnest in the coming days. And, it should be a lively debate.
The starting point for this discussion is Consensus CNY, the commission on local government modernization that was formed two years ago by the city of Syracuse, Onondaga County and some non-profit groups. It’s expected to issue preliminary recommendations by the end of this month.
According to the winning proposal in the state’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative competition, the proposal could involve letting the voters decide whether to create what would be the second largest municipal government in the state by merging the city of Syracuse with Onondaga County. And the notion has some political clout behind it.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called it “a smart idea.” He believes combining resources are the steps that can help keep governments solvent.
"If you can’t find any efficiency in government, then look for ways to cooperate with other governments to reduce the cost. Shared services, consolidation,” the governor has said.
And the idea has some political supporters locally. Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson believes there could be stumbling blocks, especially in regards to schools. But in the end, he says he thinks itt can be accomplished.
"It’s been done elsewhere in the country and has worked successfully, and I think it could be done successfully here," said Robinson.
But some local politicians also are also detractors.
“I don’t think we’re ready for it,” said Syracuse Councilor Khalid Bey. He believes there’s too much bad blood between the city and county for it to happen at this time.
“The gerrymandering that happened at the hands of the county legislature that the Dem[ocrat]s sued for, for what they called gerrymandering and institutionalized racism. If those kinds of thoughts would be behind what a new consolidated government would look like, it’s not a government that I want,” said Bey.
Consensus is planning a series of public meetings on the issue in coming months, before releasing a final recommendation this spring. And CenterState CEO president Rob Simpson believes putting the decision in the hands of voters is the best way to go for an issue like this.
"The most risk-taking element of our proposal is ensuring that the voters themselves have a chance to vote on a new structure of government in the 21st century in Onondaga County."