As a new year begins, mayoral candidates in Syracuse are looking towards the 2017 election, since Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner cannot run for reelection because of term limits.
One of the first candidates, Syracuse’s former director of economic development, is running on his track record of making deals that create jobs.
Ben Walsh is the son of former Rep. Jim Walsh and grandson of former Syracuse Mayor William Walsh. It is a prominent Republican family, but Ben Walsh is running for mayor as an independent.
“Maintaining my independence is an important part of who I am as a person and who I believe I will be as a leader," Walsh said. "When I talk to the citizens throughout the city, what I’m hearing is people are sick of partisan politics, they’re sick of the bickering, they want people to work together and to focus on solving some of our most pervasive problems.”
Walsh said he wants to focus on stronger, safer neighborhoods and jobs to combat poverty. As the former head of the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, Walsh said building relationships with employers is a critical element to create jobs.
“I think I’ve built a very strong track record of being a consensus builder, of being a convener, someone who can bring people together,” Walsh said. "When public resources are on the line, we have a responsibility as the government to make sure that they're being invested in projects and businesses that align with our economic priorities and that are maximizing the benefit to the surrounding community."
And one project he said is a great example is the redevelopment of the former Hotel Syracuse, now the Marriott Syracuse Downtown.
“By bringing the right people around the table, understanding what the public investment was in the project, we were able to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement with the ownership to make sure they were hiring people in the city,” Walsh said.
But Walsh said every deal is different.
"Rather than create a one-size-fits-all model, it's important to bring all the parties together to understand what is important to everyone and then to work towards consensus," Walsh said. "More often than not, there is common ground to be found. You have to have the right people together and the right leadership to find where that consensus exists."
Walsh is not the only Syracuse mayoral candidate so far. Democrat Alfonso Davis is throwing his hat into the race. And a grassroots organization is pushing for Juanita Williams, Miner’s former corporation counsel, to run.