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Democratic candidates running to challenge Walsh for Syracuse mayor

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
The Syracuse Common Council.

The race for mayor in the city of Syracuse is becoming clearer. Mayor Ben Walsh, an independent, will at least face a Democrat as he runs for reelection.

Walsh won’t grade himself on how he’s done over the past three years, but despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the city is headed in a good direction.

“Poverty has declined,” Walsh said. “Median household income has gone up. Crime has gone down. Number of vacant properties in the city of Syracuse has gone down. Graduation rates have gone up.”

But two Democratic Syracuse common councilors, Khalid Bey and Michael Greene, say a change is needed. This month, they each announced they’re running for mayor.

Walsh will run as an independent again, and said his priorities are to the people, rather than a party. But Greene, who has been on the council for three years, said that nonpolitical independence has created a leadership void that’s been filled by a Republican congressman and county executive. He said Walsh is a consensus builder, but in a heavily Democratic city, stronger, more definitive leadership is needed. Greene contends Walsh hasn’t pushed any progressive policies.

“Syracuse is kind of at this crossroads as a city,” Greene said. “Either we’re going to make progress and become a destination city people want to live in, or we’re going to continue down this path of regression.”

Bey has been on the council for nine years. He said he’s running to further solidify the foundation of the city. Improving housing stock and neighborhood business corridors, he said, are key. He wants to reduce what he calls the leakage or redundancies in city services.

“We need to make sure we are managing the assets correctly,” Bey said. “We need to make sure we’re not doing things 2-3 times over.”

Bey suggests Walsh was the right mayor, following the politically divisive Miner administration, but that kind of approach isn’t needed anymore.

The city’s Democratic committee members will choose the party’s designated candidate sometime in mid-February. So far, no Republicans have expressed interest in running.

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.