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Politics and Government

Democratic candidate for Onondaga County executive wants to bridge city, suburb divide

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Tom Magnarelli
/
WRVO Public Media
Tony Malavenda in Syracuse.

The Onondaga County Democratic Committee selected Tony Malavenda as its candidate to run for county executive this year. Malavenda is a businessman, born and raised in central New York. 

After 40 years, Malavenda and his partner sold their business, which focuses on municipal sewer work. During that time, he would travel the country and watched as other midsized cities like Syracuse thrived.

"I complained about it all the time. Once the responsibilities of the business were behind me, I figured it was time for me to do something about it."

“Back here it just seemed to slowly get worse and worse and worse,” Malavenda said. "I complained about it all the time. Once the responsibilities of the business were behind me, I figured it was time for me to do something about it.”

Sewer overflows, something Malavenda has experience with, has been a problem for Onondaga County. The current Republican county executive, Ryan McMahon, wants to consolidate the sewer pipes owned by the towns, villages and city of Syracuse. Malavenda said that should have been done sooner.

“Are we going to talk about the water pipes in the city that are constantly going bad?” Malavenda asked. “We need to think about this more broadly than now that we have no choice.”

Malavenda said the county needs a different mindset, not based in politics.

“We need to get out of the sort of balkanized culture,” Malavenda said. “County government is almost the worst at that because we’ve always had only one party in charge. The districts are gerrymandered terribly. We need to think more of being a team.”

The future of the elevated Interstate-81 highway in Syracuse, he said, is a prime example of that. Malavenda, like many in the city, wants a street-level community grid, while McMahon, like many in the surrounding towns and villages, supports a tunnel or a continuation of high-speed access through the city.