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Consensus public meetings resume tonight

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News file photo
Residents speak at a recent public meeting in Syracuse on the preliminary report issued by Consensus CNY

Residents are being asked to offer up opinions about government consolidation tonight at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse, the latest public forum about modernizing the way government runs in Onondaga County.  It’s the first session since Consensus CNY decided to take the public engagement portion of the process into mid-Spring.

Thousands of people have come to the forums, and more have logged on to the Consensus website since this public engagement process started four weeks ago, according to panel member Melanie Littlejohn.  And she says the thing members of Consensus have learned in that month, is that residents need time to digest the issue.

“What I’m hearing is folks really want to take a deeper dive in the data and really sit with the data, to come up with their recommendations,” said Littlejohn. “And I think we’ve got to allow that to happen.”

There are 51 proposals Consensus has included in an 80-page report that explores ways to modernize or consolidate local government. The biggest and most controversial would create a single, county-wide metropolitan government.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come out strongly in favor of the concept.  In a community that’s been skeptical of decision making processes in the past, Littlejohn says it’s important for people to know their input still counts.

“Even if they believe, the deal is cooked, as someone has told me before, it’s not,” she said. “This is the people.  This is their voice.  This is their decision.”

Several more public forums have been added to the Consensus website since it extended the public engagement period to May 1.  At that time, Littlejohn says Consensus will infuse public comments into a final document, which should become public by late spring.  And that’s when Onondaga County will know whether voters ultimately will decide whether to create a county-wide metropolitan entity.

Upcoming meetings:

February 29 - Southwest Community Center, Syracuse. 6:00-8:00 p.m.

March 1 - Grace Episcopal Church, Madison St., Syracuse. 5:30-7:30 p.m.

March 2 - Cicero Senior Center, Lathrop Dr., Cicero. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.