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Walsh, McMahon to work on more shared services between Syracuse and Onondaga County

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News (file photo)
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. left, and Onondag County Executive Ryan McMahon

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh want some areas of city and county government to join forces in 2020. Both leaders think the time is now to successfully launch shared services plans that haven’t worked in the past.

The city and county already share some services, like purchasing, and they’ve joined forces on Medicare prescription plans for retirees. But there have been failures in larger attempts to commingle the two governments. An office sharing agreement for economic development departments failed after five years. At the same time, relations between county and city leadership chilled. And each government’s industrial development agency has been at odds during some projects to the point that, according to Walsh, developers were able to play officials of IDA's against each other.

Walsh and McMahon have had a successful working relationship so far. So, Walsh thinks it’s a good time to try again.

"We see an opportunity to do it again, in a broader way. In a way that hopefully will stick," he said.

With Walsh’s support, McMahon proposed three shared services goals in his State of the County address.

"One, a shared services agreement between county and city information and technology departments.  Two, move forward with putting the city and county planning, economic development, community development, and neighborhood development offices in the Carnegie Library. And three, create a shared services working group for the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County IDA’s," McMahon said.

Both leaders say there could be cost savings, but that’s not at the heart of these proposals. Instead, it’s about creating a government that can work more effectively and efficiently. And they can’t do this on their own. Both must get their respective legislatures on board. And IDA’s are creatures of state government. 

Walsh says if they can codify these ideas into law, then in the future politics won’t be able to get in the way of good government.

"We really want to formalize these things," Walsh said. "So regardless of who’s sitting in the mayor’s office or the county executive’s office, or on either legislative body, that these are things that can happen for years to come because they’re the right things for those that we serve.”

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.