© 2022 WRVO Public Media
bg.jpg
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Politics and Government

Meet the candidates running for Syracuse mayor: Ben Walsh

Walsh_Campbell.jpg
WRVO News (file photo)

This week WRVO’s Madison Ruffo met all four Syracuse mayoral candidates who will appear on the June 22 primary ballot. While current mayor Ben Walsh may not be on June’s ballot, Ruffo sat down with him to talk about why he thinks he should be reelected. 

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said he’s accomplished quite a lot in his nearly four years in office. While the pandemic nearly halted most of the plans he had for the city, he said even he’s impressed with the progress his administration made during their first two years.

“By all metrics, we were headed in the right direction–private sector, job creation was up, median household income up, graduation rates up, crime down, vacant properties down,” he said. “So all of the signs were pointing in the right direction.”

Walsh is especially proud of the progress he’s made on the financial front. 

“There were discussions about city bankruptcy, insolvency when I took office–you don't hear those conversations anymore because we have stabilized city finances,” said Walsh.

However, the four candidates vying for his position are not as impressed by Walsh’s administration. Many of them have criticized him for not doing very much at all, but Walsh said he’s already hard enough on himself.

“I'm my own biggest critic,” he said. “So I don't need to go beyond myself for constructive criticism.” 

Most recently, under his leadership, the city has passed a municipal sidewalk program to put the onus on the city to repair and maintain city sidewalks and the Police Athletic League, which aims to build relationships between local law enforcement and children through four day-long camps. 

So what would Walsh do with another four years?

 

 

AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN

Last week he outlined his proposal on how to spend the $123 million of American Rescue Plan funds that Syracuse is receiving. He said, of the forty points in his plan, his top priority is setting up a summer employment and jobs skills program for youth in the city. 

“To be able to give young people opportunities like that is very meaningful to me and that's something that we are going to be bringing to the Common Council immediately for approval,” he said. 

 

A notable point in his proposal was investment into a public arts fund which came after he vetoed a $75,000 basketball mural amid public backlash about city spending. 

“The federal guidance that was provided was not clear that a project like that would be an eligible use of funding,” said Walsh. “Part of that was related to the fact that the artist who was going to do the work was not from this community.”

 

 

HOUSING

Improving the housing stock is another big ticket item for Walsh.

“Making such a significant investment in housing from constructing new housing, to rehabilitating existing housing, to providing resources to homeowners to make investments in their homes–that I think is going to have a transformational impact on our neighborhoods in the city,” said Walsh.

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

As Syracuse sees an uptick in violent crime, especially among adolescents, public safety is at the forefront of many community and government conversations. Walsh said more youth programming and reinforcing the existing practices are key to curbing that violence.

“We need to continue to invest in special details like the gun violence suppression detail that is going out proactively and taking guns off the streets,” he said.

Walsh also included police reform in his three-year-long American Rescue Plan proposal.

“We know that the issues that result in crimes being committed in our city are the result of long stemming, systemic issues around poverty and inequality,” he said. “And so we need to be addressing those as well.”

 

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS STATUE

Many, including both Republican candidates, have criticized Walsh for his decision to take down the Christopher Columbus statue amid nationwide and local controversy. 

However, Walsh said he stands by his decision and adds that while he respects local Italian-Americans wanting to celebrate their heritage, there’s a way to do it while respecting all individuals. 

“We want the focus of that monument to be on what was happening in 1934, when those local Italian American citizens erected that statue, not in 1492, when Christopher Columbus committed many atrocities against native peoples here in America,” Walsh said.

Since Walsh is an independent, he’ll only be on the ballot in November’s general election. So why does he think he should have your vote in the fall? He said he still has unfinished business as mayor. 

“I'm asking the people of the city of Syracuse for four more years to finish what we started and to serve them as their mayor,” Walsh said. “It’s been an honor of a lifetime to do the job. There's nothing else that I'd rather do and I'm very excited to continue that job for the next four years with the support of the people of the city of Syracuse.”