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Walsh says he is open to ideas of city, county government merger, but not Consensus’ version

WRVO News (file photo)
Independent candidate for mayor of Syracuse, Ben Walsh.

A hot topic among local governments in central New York recently, is proposing ways to share services. But one Syracuse mayoral candidate with ties to the Consensus Commission on government consolidation is sharing his thoughts on its most controversial recommendation.

Consensus made a number of shared services proposals for Onondaga County, but none as contentious as a plan to merge the elected governments of the county and the city of Syracuse into one body with 33 legislators plus an executive. It would eliminate the Syracuse mayor’s office, which is what independent candidate Ben Walsh is running for. He is the son of former Rep. Jim Walsh, one of the co-chairs of the Consensus Commission.  

“I’m also quick to remind anyone that assumes that I’m just going to go along with whatever my dad thinks that my dad is a Republican and I am not,” Walsh said. "I don't think there is anything that I've said that would lead people to believe that I am pushing for a fully consolidated city, county government, other than the fact that my father has been involved in the process."

The younger Walsh said the volunteers that worked on Consensus did it with the best intentions of helping the region.

“Now did the end product perfectly represent the opinions of everyone in the community, certainly not,” Walsh said.

He said he is against Consensus' plan to merge the city, county governments.

“I do not think that that specific proposal in the Consensus Commission’s report, is in the best interest of the city,” Walsh said. "That does not mean that we shouldn't continue to explore new and innovative government structures."

That means he is not completely against the idea of a government merger. 

"I will continue to keep an open mind and entertain proposals for what our government could look like in the future,” Walsh said.

He said when it comes to combining city and county services, he wants to go for the low hanging fruit first, like consolidating the two competing industrial development agencies.

Walsh is running for mayor against Republican Laura Lavine, Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and designated Democratic candidate Joe Nicoletti, who is fending off two primary challengers.

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.