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Onondaga County executive continues to support consolidated municipal government despite opposition

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO File Photo

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney continues to be one of the only public officials willing to let the Consensus Commission proposal to create a municipal government play out. Mahoney suggests opponents are drowning out many of the facts in the debate over government consolidation.

Mahoney is on a political island locally, when it comes to the Consensus Commission proposal to create a new metropolitan government if a public referendum warrants it.

Most local elected officials have bashed the idea: Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Onondaga County lawmakers, and many government officials in between. Mahoney remains supportive and she believes what’s been lost in all the negativity is the fact that voters are the ones with the ultimate say about creating a government. The commission says that government would be more efficient and save millions in taxes.

"If there’s a way to take that report and turn it into a referendum and have the public vote on it, I don’t know what people are so afraid of,” Mahoney says. “If it’s such a horrible, bad idea, don’t they have faith in the people that live here to vote accordingly?”

And then there are the whispers that the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is driving the Consensus proposal. Miner has hinted at it publicly. Mahoney says the timing is a coincidence, and the idea that the state would withhold money from the county for not putting a consolidation referendum on the ballot isn’t accurate.

"There is nowhere in the governor’s proposed budget that threatens us as a locality with our state funding, if we don’t do this, is simply not true. And for some reason, that’s what the word on the street is,” Mahoney says.

Mahoney has been an ally of Cuomo in recent years, while Miner has had more icy relations with the governor. In the end, Mahoney says citizens should look beyond the political grandstanding.

"Somewhere in the local elected official conversation, there is an effort to prevent people from being heard on this, and I really want people to pay attention to that. And that’s really what they’re fighting against, you having a say,” Mahoney says. “That should be troubling to people.”

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.