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Walsh: Syracuse will tackle a 'next level growth' agenda in 2023

Ellen Abbott

Mayor Ben Walsh said the city of Syracuse will tackle a "next-level growth" agenda in 2023. The mayor’s yearly State of the City speech Thursday unveiled several new initiatives that focus on youth, neighborhoods, public safety and infrastructure among other things.

The city is stillreeling from the shooting death of 11-year-old Brexialee Torres-Ortiz — victim of a drive-by shooting in her Syracuse neighborhood. To that end, Walsh said the city’s new Office to Reduce Gun Violence will begin implementing plans to reduce violence, with the Torres-Ortiz family as inspiration.

"It’s motivation to continue the fight this fight against violence that is tearing lives apart in this community."

The plans will be based on addressing root causes of violence. That includes counseling, conflict management, mentoring and job programs. Councilor Rasheada Caldwell said it will take time.

"I believe in my heart, as well as council and the mayor, that we’re going to come together for more opportunities for youth," Caldwell said. "Nothing’s concrete, but we’re working on it."

One topic that got Walsh a standing ovation centered on Interstate 81. The project is being dragged out in court by a group called Renew 81, challenging the state’s environmental review process that supports the decision to tear down the highway. Walsh said it’s time to move ahead.

"The message to those people who are not willing or not able to go along with the changes is it’s time to move forward," Walsh said. "It’s time to unleash the true potential of this $2.25 billion project and the thousands of jobs it creates. We are ready to move forward."

Traffic safety is another issue Walsh is targeting for 2023. It includes making Syracuse a “Vision Zero” city to eliminate the increasing numbers of traffic fatalities and accidents in recent years.

"Vision Zero is a network of cities across the nation that are making a formal commitment to safer streets, to more accessible streets," Walsh said.

Common Councilor Jennifer Schultz, chair of the Transportation Committee, said it’s a good idea, with speeding through the roof and the police department facing staffing shortages.

"We need some artificial intelligence," Schultz said. "We need speed cameras. We need cameras on the arms of buses. We need to lower speed limits. We need to get neighborhood speed limits from 30 down to 25."

Other initiatives include a housing trust fund aimed at helping residents renovate their homes, a new city park in the Inner Harbor and legislation to limit the number of smoke shops in the city.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.