Meet the candidates running for Syracuse mayor: Thomas Babilon
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 Republican candidates: Thomas Babilon.
While currently a family court lawyer, Thomas Babilon has previously been an attorney for three mayoral administrations including the current mayor, Ben Walsh. A common theme among those administrations? Babilon said much of the advice he gave to officials was dismissed.
“You would tell them, you know, ‘this is an easy fix. Here's a problem–we can change it or we can do something better or cheaper, more efficient’ and they wouldn't want to do it,” he said. “On every level of government, you will get pushback.”
So, in alignment with the old adage “if you want it done right, do it yourself,” Babilon decided to run for mayor.
He has tried his hand at running for public office before–two years ago when he ran for the common council as a libertarian. But this will be his first time as a Republican.
So what are the big-ticket items on Babilon’s platform?
“My two primary priorities would be definitely public safety and economic development,” said Babilon.
On the public safety front, he wants to use some of the $123 million of Syracuse’s American Rescue Plan money to hire more police officers and establish an auxiliary police force which would respond to property crimes and smaller incidents.
He would also like to see more cooperation between the current police force and the Citizen Review Board.
“I think that the police chief needs to work more closely with the Citizens Review Board,” said Babilon. “I don't see that happening. I've never seen that happen in the past.”
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN
In addition to public safety, Babilon would like to use the rest of the American Rescue Plan funds on things like helping homeowners avoid tax liens and stay in their homes and infrastructure.
“Before we start spending the money on other things, we should look at our infrastructure needs, like the water, like the roads, which are our two most impending issues,” he said.
He says he could easily spend the entire $123 million on water infrastructure, but that he’d like to spread the wealth and certainly not use it for a basketball mural.
“One thing that I would not use it for is these little pet projects that are feel good projects like the mural, I think that was just a ridiculous use of funds,” said Babilon.
The controversial mural was initially supported by Mayor Walsh and approved by the Common Council, but was eventually vetoed by Walsh amid public backlash.
He says that $123 million is really not that much money and that it’ll be gone before we know it.
“People think that $123 million ‘Oh, it's so much money, we're rich. Let's spend it on all these little crazy projects,’” he said. “Really, it's not a lot of money. It's going to be gone in a year.”
Another thing he does not have plans to invest in? Affordable housing. Babilon said most housing projects that are proposed to the city don’t really need the city’s financial help, just its approval.
“The problem I have with that is those projects, every single one of those projects I've seen come in, in my opinion, would have gotten done with or without the money that the city gives them,” said Babilon.
While he recognizes there is a need for more affordable housing, his focus is more on improving the existing housing with better code enforcement. He said right now inspectors are responding to housing complaints, but he would like to see them in a more proactive role.
“I'd like to see them going out to one- or two-family homes that look like they're a dump and we don't have an open case on and knocking on the door and saying, ‘hey,’ introducing themselves, ‘Hey, you know, I'm your code. Inspector, I see that you're living here. It doesn't look so great from the outside. How's everything in there? Yeah, okay,’” he said.
He’d also like to get rid of the rental registry, which is essentially an inventory the city holds of one- and two-family rental properties and code inspectors can check on the conditions of renter-occupied housing.
“I would like to get rid of the rental registry program and put those code inspectors out doing something that's more beneficial,” said Babilon.
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS STATUE
And, lastly, no he does not want to get rid of the Christopher Columbus statue. Instead, he’d like to give Native Americans the opportunity to build their own statue nearby.
So, why does Babilon think he should have your vote next week?
“I would argue that I'm the person with the most experience for the job,” he said.
However, he doesn’t stop there. During his tenure at city hall he met some of the best and brightest in Syracuse’s government and plans to recruit his previous peers to create an all-star administration.
“I feel confident that I can reach out to those people, bring them into my administration, and make it the most efficient and most effective administration that Syracuse has seen in a long time,” said Babilon.
This is the third 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.