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Perez Williams calls on opponents to reject proposed city-county government merger

Tom Magnarelli
Juanita Perez Williams at Syracuse City Hall.

Democratic Syracuse mayoral candidate Juanita Perez Williams called on the other three candidates in the race to sign a letter pledging not to support the proposed city and Onondaga County government merger outlined in the Consensus report on government consolidation. Perez Williams said her opponents have failed to say where they stand on the issue.

"From day one I've been talking about this," Perez Williams said. "We need to know from our next leader that they're going to stand up for the city." 

The proposal would combine the city and county governments into a 33-member legislative body.

Perez Williams said a merger would silence the voices of city residents, dilute city policies, and isolate the most vulnerable neighborhoods. She singled-out independent candidate Ben Walsh, and said he was for the entire Consensus report, earlier this year.

“It was written by his father," Perez Williams said. "He was supporting the ideas that his father put forward. He talked about it to any audience that would listen. But he heard the pushback. He heard city residents very concerned and knowing he was going to run for mayor, he started to move from that position.”

Ben Walsh’s father, former-Congressman Jim Walsh served as co-chair of the Consensus Commission. The younger Walsh said he never supported Consensus’s proposal for the city-county government merger, but he said he would still listen to other plans.

“We need to be open to new ideas and innovation in governance," Walsh said. "I’ve been open to what has been discussed as it relates to a city-county merger. But I have never said that I would support it."

Walsh, Republican candidate Laura Lavine, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins all said they have not yet received a letter from Perez Williams to sign. Lavine and Hawkins said they are against the Consensus plan. Lavine said she believes the city should not be absorbed under the county. Hawkins said he would not sign the letter because he believes a metropolitan government is needed to desegregate the city's housing and schools.

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.