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Onondaga county executive website corrects ‘bad information’ on proposed government merger

Campbell Public Affairs Institute
Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci at the debate at Syracuse University last week. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney watches from the front row.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney launched a new website to correct what she calls bad information regarding the Consensus recommendations on government consolidation. This comes after a debate was held at Syracuse University last week regarding the proposed city-county government merger.

"I, myself, have heard a lot of inaccuracies," Mahoney said. "I think it is unfair to the group to let the conversation go without correcting the record. There is this notion that it is bad for the suburbs for 'a, b, and c' reasons, and it is bad for the city for 'a, b, and c' reasons. A lot of that is based on bad information. If you give people good information, treat them with respect, complete information, not just soundbites, and let them make a decision, they'll make the right call." 

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner were panelists arguing against the merger at the debate, sponsored by SU's Campbell Institute. Mahoney’s new website's first example is a statement Antonacci made that there has been no savings since the county ceded control of its water operations to an independent authority. She said there is a savings of $1 million a year in salaries.

“We were able to close a building and now not have to pay maintenance, rent, utilities," Mahoney said. "We don’t have to have IT support, facilities support. The county is saving a lot of money.”

Antonacci said the water rate on the county’s water bill has not gone down since the change.

“So I guess my question is if we saved all this money, why is the rate payer not seeing it this year?” Antonacci asked.

He has his own website taking questions from the public regarding Consensus and Miner has one too.

"I'm glad that she's putting out a website," Antonacci said. "It's good that she's getting involved. Let's see what they come up with. I've been doing this since the start of Consensus. We've been taking questions from the public since the beginning. In Onondaga County, our state mandates are up over $10 million this year. When the findings come back that the mandates are really what’s driving our property tax bill, what is the county executive going to do then?”

Again, Mahoney said here is another example of misinformation. She said the state put a hard cap on Medicaid but acknowledges the mandates are an expensive bill. The tradeoff, she said, is counties get to collect sales tax.

So, these websites addressing Consensus, operated by elected officials with different points of view, will show information backing up their own claims. And Mahoney's claim is that a city-county merger is inevitable. She said the city's deficits make it only financially solvent for a couple more years.

"And if people who live in the suburbs and in the rural areas think that we will be a thriving community with a city that is fiscally underwater, then I think they're mistaken," Mahoney said.

The Campbell Institute's debate, moderated by WRVO's Grant Reeher, will air on WRVO  Sunday April 23, at 7 p.m..

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.