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Upstate mayors push back on narrative of fed aid as bailout for poorly run Dem cities

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan with other upstate mayors.

The New York State Conference of Mayors say they are united in calling on the federal government for aid to support municipalities struggling with tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, due to the coronavirus. Some upstate mayors pushed back against the narrative that the money is a bailout for their cities. 

Binghamton Mayor Rich David said this is not a red state, blue state or political issue; it’s about doing what’s right for the country.

“The concept that you would ignore the needs of municipalities that have a problem that is not of our own doing, is frankly ridiculous,” David said.

But Democrats in the House have passed stimulus aid with funding for states and cities. Republicans in the Senate have not. Just this week, the president tweeted that the House speaker wants to bail out poorly run, Democratic states. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said that portrayal of Democratic municipalities is smoke and mirrors.

“To suggest that it is because these are poorly run places, is an insult to every elected official at the local level, who do this work, often times getting low pay or no pay, because they care about their communities,” Sheehan said.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
WRVO Public Media
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

She reiterated that for decades, New York State has sent more money to the federal government than it gets back. She bragged about the budget of the city of Albany, as did other mayors, who painted a rosy picture of their economic situations before the pandemic. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick said it shouldn't be a choice between helping cities or helping the economy grow.

“Don’t let them fool you, don’t let them divide you,” Myrick said. “Don’t let them think you can either root for the private sector or root for your local governments. Neither of us will succeed unless we all succeed.”

Myrick gave praise to Democrats and Republicans. He applauded New York Sen. Charles Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, for holding firm on not voting for a stimulus bill without state and local aid. Myrick also recognized Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) and the Problem Solver's Caucus in the House, for a bipartisan proposal, which also includes that funding.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the longer cities go without financial help, job losses and cuts to services will only get worse.

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.