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Politics and Government

Bucking tradition, Syracuse councilors defer to Democratic committee to fill vacancy

Tom Magnarelli
Councilor Susan Boyle will step down next month.

Syracuse Common Councilor Susan Boyle is stepping down to take a job working for Onondaga County, and the process of replacing her is getting some blowback. A majority on the Democratic-controlled council said they will vote to replace Boyle with the district candidate chosen by the Democratic committee.

When there is a vacancy, the council usually solicits resumes and holds interviews before nominating and voting on someone to fill the position. But Democratic Majority Leader and Councilor-at-Large Steven Thompson said that’s not happening this time, and it has to do with the new state voting reform measures recently signed into law.

Combining the separate state and federal primaries to one day in June has pushed up Democrats’ meeting to designate candidates to February, close to when Boyle steps down.    

“Our belief was that if we went forward and appointed somebody and it turned out that they weren’t the designated candidate, that it would cause some strife there," Thompson said. "So we decided that it was best to go forward with the committee’s decision on that.”

Whoever is appointed will have to run in a general election this fall. But Councilor Joe Carni, the council’s only Republican, said having a political committee essentially appoint the next councilor is not how the process is supposed to work.

“I just don’t believe that it’s fair to the public to allow one single party to automatically determine who is going to be presented to the council as the appointment and that’s who the council is going to blindly go with," Carni said. "I don’t see that as best practice. We're at a time where the public is calling out for more transparency, more types of people, different political affiliations, we have an independent mayor. It seems counterproductive to allow a political committee to decide who our next councilor is going to be."  

Carni said the vacancy should be filled by the best candidate, regardless of their political party. After a candidate is designated by the Democratic committee, the council will vote and a simple majority is needed for that candidate to fill the seat.