Meet the candidates running for Syracuse mayor: Khalid Bey
With Syracuse’s mayoral primaries right around the corner, WRVO’s Madison Ruffo spoke with each candidate to discuss their platforms. Each of the five candidates is being featured throughout this week continuing today with one of the city’s two Democratic candidates: Khalid Bey.
Khalid Bey prides himself on his Syracuse roots. As a graduate of Corcoran high school, resident on Syracuse’s south side, and common council member for the past decade -- Bey doesn’t see his mayoral campaign as a personal goal, but as an obligation to his community.
“I almost feel I need to run if our city has to be sustainable,” said Bey. “So it's more about our condition and not about me, if that makes sense. But certainly my experience, my understanding of government, is what's required to show up the city of Syracuse.”
While he says the current mayor, Ben Walsh, has the best intentions, he feels the current administration has been ineffective at achieving the goals of a local government.
“I don't believe that this administration is in any way malicious,” he said. “I just don't think, you know, they are as experienced as they need to be.”
To Bey, the goal of local government should be to optimize quality of life while minimizing cost.
“If it's not your intent to leave money in the taxpayers pocket, you should not be in government,” said Bey. “How can I make your life great at the most affordable cost possible?”
So, how does he plan to make the lives of Syracuse taxpayers great? He says quality and affordable housing is at the top of his list.
“What's required to strengthen a city? Population,” said Bey. “You either need to retain and/or attract people, but that's done first for quality housing.”
He said providing appealing and attainable housing is key to strengthening a neighborhood.
“Right next to quality housing is a safe neighborhood, great performing schools and jobs–access to jobs.”
That’s why Bey plans to use $20 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan funds toward fixing and replacing vacant housing.
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN
So, what else does he plan to do with the $123 million? He said first and foremost he’ll put just shy of half into the city’s reserves.
“Putting aside 60 million ensures that we have a fully funded budget for the next seven to 10 years,” he said.
He’d also like to use $20 million toward municipal broadband, $10 million toward revolving small business loans, about $2 million toward the Greater Syracuse Land Trust, and $2 million toward making much-needed improvements to the historic Landmark Theater.
Bey did also vote in favor of using $75,000 of the funds for the controversial basketball mural that was originally supported by Mayor Walsh and approved by the Common Council before it was subsequently vetoed by Walsh amid public backlash.
Bey said the mural’s meaning was overshadowed by politics.
“To make a feel-good gesture, considering the type of racial tension we had the year prior, there's no way they could have expected that they would have gotten that kind of backlash for a feel-good piece,” he said.
Another top priority of Bey’s is establishing a precinct-based community policing model.
He said establishing a familiar and positive police presence is key to effective policing and to decreasing violence, especially among adolescents.
“Putting police in close proximity to kids and ultimately their parents is how you prove camaraderie, it's how you establish relationships, it's how you improve communication,” he said.
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS STATUE
In terms of the Columbus statue, Bey simply says it’s not his business.
“I wouldn't make a unilateral decision for something that I don't have direct cultural relation to, right,” he said. “It doesn't impact me specifically, as much as it does our Italian community or our Native American community.”
If elected, Bey would be Syracuse’s first Black mayor and he says that while addressing racial tension is a personal responsibility, his leadership can help build trust between local government and communities of color.
“For people who look like me, they'll start to believe in our political process right now,” he said.
So why does Bey say he should have your vote for the June primaries and November election? He says his track record on the common council is proof that he knows how to get things done.
“I most certainly execute and people are my number one priority,” said Bey, who added that people shouldn’t vote for him because it’s him–vote for yourself.
“To vote for me is not to do me a favor,” he said. “As an individual, I'm fine. You're not doing me a favor. You got to invest in your interests. Think about what your interests are, in fact, what the interests of your families are, in fact, your community and you vote your interests. Hopefully, those interests are the same ones I just talked about.”
This is the second episode in this week’s series highlighting each of Syracuse’s mayoral candidates ahead of the June 22 primary. You can find the rest of the stories in our series here.