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Syracuse mayoral candidates deliver passionate visions of city's future

Tom Magnarelli
Syracuse mayoral candidates at the 40 Below forum in downtown Syracuse.

Passionate messages on Syracuse’s future came through Thursday at a forum for the city’s mayoral candidates. The candidates spoke to an intimate crowd of downtown’s young professionals.

The event was hosted by the pro-Syracuse advocacy group, 40 Below, in a co-working space. Designated Democratic candidate and common councilor Joe Nicoletti wants them to know his experience and his relationships at the state and federal level will move the city forward.

“I think when you compare over 30 years of working in city government, I think it becomes very clear who has the most talent,” Nicoletti said.

But Democratic primary challenger Marty Masterpole has experience too, on the common council, the Onondaga County Legislature, and as city auditor. He said the next mayor will have to renegotiate sales tax sharing with the county, something he did as a county legislator.

“We had a good relationship with the Common Council, we worked a good deal, it really was positive for city taxpayers and I want to do that again,” Masterpole said.

Juanita Perez Williams is another Democratic challenger who received big applause on topics like innovation and rebuilding neighborhoods.

“We’re going to do it block by block," Perez Williams said. "We’re going to do this in teams. We’re going to be proactive. We’re not going to let things slip through the cracks.”

Independent candidate Ben Walsh has worked with 40 Below before.

“I want to send a clear message that I am the candidate focused on attracting and retaining young people in this community,” Walsh said.

Republican candidate Laura Lavine, who recently proposed mayoral control of the schools, said that could attract more families to the city.

“The way that they’re going to want to live here is if they know that they have high performing safe schools to send their children, then we’re going to be back on the right track,” Lavine said.

Chris Fowler was endorsed by the Libertarian party and said he is about two-thirds of the way through collecting the amount of signatures he needs to get on the ballot. He said he wants to hear what people want.

“Let’s talk about what those things are, and how we move forward and how we become a place where people want to be,” Fowler said.

The Onondaga County Board of Elections invalidated hundreds of petition signatures for Democratic candidates Alfonso Davis and Raymond Blackwell. Davis said he is appealing and said Syracuse is stuck. 

“There is business happening in the city, but it doesn’t include the entire city, it only includes certain segments of the city," Davis said.

And Blackwell hopes voters, “feel the energy,” and write him in.

“We just have to continue to do what we planned on doing, and that’s running a true grassroots campaign,” Blackwell said.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins is also running for mayor but did not attend the event.

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.