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Miner, Mahoney at odds over failed consolidation of county & city economic development agencies

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
In June 2013, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney signed an agreement to merge the city and county planning agencies.

An experiment in government consolidation has failed in central New York -- a victim of a difference of opinion over how to create jobs and promote economic growth in Syracuse and Onondaga County and the continued deterioration of the relationship between the mayor and county executive.

Three years ago, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner used a public signing ceremony to trumpet the merger of the county and city planning agencies, calling it an example of a streamlined and more efficient government. Now, a similar attempt with to merge economic development agencies lies in tatters, following months of disputes over tax deals for developers, overshadowed by an increasingly frosty relationship between Miner and Mahoney.

Miner officially brought an end to the consolidation experiment this week, with a letter to Mahoney accusing the county of keeping the city out of the loop on a number of deals that offer developers tax breaks, and creating a “development through desparation” strategy that only lines the pockets of developers.

"I have said this privately and I’ve said this publicly, that we need a new and better approach, based on the fact that we are equal bargaining partners with developers, and that when developers get lucrative tax breaks, we have to ensure that the community gets tangible, immediate benefits,” said Miner, in an interview with WRVO News.

Mahoney’s response: Miner has some sort of political agenda, initially leading the public to believe the city was being evicted from the office, before turning to the excuse of philosophical differences. Mahoney says the county will continue to work on economic development projects without cooperation from the city. And she looks ahead to the day when Miner, who can’t run again because of term limits, leaves office in 14 months.

"It’s a very short time until we have a new administration that can maybe reconsider, do things in the best interest of the people who live here, rather than furthering our own personal agendas,” said Mahoney, in an interview with WRVO News.

One thing Miner, a Democrat, and Mahoney, a Republican, agree on is that even though there are public disputes between the two -- the county and city governments continue to work together in other ways.

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.