Syracuse Common Council

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The city of Syracuse is delaying a vote to deploy 5G wireless technology from Verizon, a priority of Mayor Ben Walsh. One common councilor said it’s to make sure they are doing all they can to protect the workers installing the new facilities.

Sam Edelstein, chief data officer with the city of Syracuse, said 5G has the potential to allow new technologies, like autonomous systems.

“The kind of connectivity, the low latency and the high bandwidth 5G offers is what enables that," Edelstein said. "Certainly, being one of the first cities to enable 5G is exciting.”

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Syracuse homeowners will continue to get their STAR rebate checks, now that the city’s common council has approved a budget that keeps a property tax increase below the state’s tax cap. But to make up for the lost revenue, the city is going to raise the parking meter rate.

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The Syracuse Youth Advisory Council made presentations to the city’s common councilors on two issues they say are important to young people. The topics this year, focused on their education and well-being in city schools.

The first problem, the youth council said, is a lack of minority representation of teachers and other professionals in schools. Brynn Murphy-Stanley, a senior at Nottingham High School, said only seeing white people in positions of power, restricts her and others that look like her, from seeing themselves in those positions.  

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Verizon Wireless wants to deploy 5G smart cell technology in the city of Syracuse. City officials describe the potential of 5G as huge, doing things like enabling autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, and enhanced broadband. But some are questioning whether there are any potential health risks from the new technology.

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Residents in Syracuse spoke out against a 3.5% property tax and a 4% water rate increase in Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget, at a public hearing Tuesday evening. The proposed tax increase goes over New York State’s 2% tax cap, and homeowners could lose the STAR property tax credit, which some at the hearing called a lifesaver. Syracuse resident Jason Zeigler encouraged councilors to vote down the increases.

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As the Syracuse Common Council continues to go over Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget, the council rejected a proposal to waive New York State’s 2% tax cap. Those against it said it would essentially authorize the city to go over the cap. But supporters of the proposed law said it would protect the city from additional penalties.

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The Syracuse Common Council has a few issues with Mayor Ben Walsh’s proposed budget. Lawmakers are concerned about a 3.5% tax increase included in the spending plan.

Councilor Joe Carni said he’s not comfortable with taxpayers footing the bills for new programs and initiatives that are pushing up taxes. And when it comes time to vote, he said he’ll be proposing some amendments to the budget. 

"We need to make sure we are spending our tax dollars as efficiently as possible, and focusing on an austerity budget instead of pushing the bill on our taxpayers," said Carni.

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Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is proposing tax increases in the next budget to avoid cuts to staff and services, the first since 2011. But some councilors question if savings can be found to avoid raising taxes.

Walsh presented his budget to the Syracuse Common Council, saying the 3.5% property tax and 4% water rate increases were decisions not made lightly.

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The Syracuse Common Council is exploring the idea of having an independent commission redraw the city council’s district lines, following the 2020 census. The council currently draws its own lines.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, said Syracuse could be the first city east of the Mississippi River, to have an independent redistricting commission. She said the city could be a model for the rest of the state.

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As budget season nears for the city of Syracuse, councilors are asking where the police and fire departments stand with overtime and staffing. Both departments are understaffed, but are also making efforts to reduce overtime pay.

Syracuse is spending around $10 million a year in overtime for police and fire. Fire Chief Michael Monds said staffing is at the bare minimum and overtime is the lowest it’s been in recent years.

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A number of former refugees are running for office in Syracuse this year. One of them looks to challenge the city’s only Republican councilor.

Jay Subedi was born in Bhutan and became a refugee at the age of 12. Before coming to Syracuse in 2008, he spent 17 years at a refugee camp in Nepal.

“But that taught me so much,” Subedi said. “I’m here today to give back. My experience as a person who live in a refugee camp, very under poverty, where there is no better education, no good sleeping nights, no good water to drink every day.”

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The city of Syracuse could be expanding a program that provides body cameras to all uniformed police officers. The pilot program ends in July, and the city will have to pay for it going forward.

Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell for Syracuse 3rd District Councilor Facebook

The Syracuse Common Council appointed Bryn Lovejoy-Grinnell this week to replace Councilor Susan Boyle, after Boyle stepped down to work for Onondaga County. But the council’s only Republican continues to take issue with the process leading to Lovejoy-Grinnell’s appointment.

Councilor Joe Carni said it’s not a question of Lovejoy-Grinnell’s character, as to why he voted against her appointment.

“I did not agree with the process,” Carni said. “I think it became overly political and did not allow for members of other parties to participate in the process.”

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Syracuse Common Councilor Susan Boyle is stepping down to take a job working for Onondaga County, and the process of replacing her is getting some blowback. A majority on the Democratic-controlled council said they will vote to replace Boyle with the district candidate chosen by the Democratic committee.

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Updated at 10:30 a.m. Friday

Syracuse Common Councilors passed a Walsh Administration proposal today to clear snow from sidewalks in targeted high trafficked areas in Syracuse. The vote was 6-1. Councilor Joe Carni voted against it, saying while he is in support of the idea of the city removing snow from sidewalks, he said the lack of a general liability policy could leave the city vulnerable. 

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As central New York starts to see some significant snowfall, the city of Syracuse is no longer moving forward with the private contractor it selected for its sidewalk snow removal program. Negotiations ended with the contractor last month over too many unanswered questions over how the pilot project would work.   

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The Nottingham High School Junior Varsity Football team in Syracuse was honored by the city council for fully embracing one of their teammates who has Down syndrome. Brandon Pearson, 16, was recognized for his hard work and dedication to the team.

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Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse have avoided the acrimony that’s happened in the past, when it comes to deciding how to split the sales tax revenue that is generated in the county. Leaders have agreed to extend the current agreement another ten years.

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The city of Syracuse has once again changed its snow plow license law, after updating it in October. The city’s common council was divided among themselves and Mayor Ben Walsh’s administration over how to deter illegal snow dumping, while also not overburdening businesses.

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One race that may have flown under the radar this past election, was a councilor-at-large seat on the Syracuse Common Council. Michael Greene, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year, won the election overwhelmingly, after losing a Democratic primary council race last year.

Greene won with 70 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Norm Snyder and Green Party candidate Frank Cetera.

Greene said the first time he ran for office, last year, was a challenging experience.

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The Syracuse Common Council is expected to vote Monday on getting rid of a required city license for snow plow drivers. Last winter, Mayor Ben Walsh's administration began actively enforcing the license law, which has been on the books since the 1970s.

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Syracuse may get rid of requiring snow plow contractors to have a license to operate in the city. This comes just a month after the common council voted on updating some antiquated aspects of the law.

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The latest results of races in New York state for state Assembly and Senate, as well as results in the races for Onondaga County sheriff and Syracuse Common Council at-large seat. Check back as updates are available.

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The city of Syracuse is trying to make it easier for food trucks to do business. But at least one food truck owner has questions over the new laws governing their operation.

Syracuse Common Councilor Michael Greene said other cities have a vibrant food truck culture that Syracuse is lacking. So, the council approved lowering the license fee from $1500 to $500 and expanding the locations where food trucks can set up shop.

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The Syracuse City School District is entering into a three-year agreement with the city of Syracuse, in which the district will pay for any additional school resource officers. But having police officers in the schools is still a contentious issue among some of the stakeholders.

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Syracuse Common Councilors Monday approved the latest contract between the city and police department, but it was not without some concerns.

Lawmakers voted 7-2 to approve a contract for 2016 and 2017 that include two-percent raises each year. But while they agreed on this pact, many lawmakers have eyes on the next contract, which is being negotiated now. 

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A Syracuse common councilor, who has been absent for four months, returned to the council Wednesday. Councilor Chad Ryan said he was at a treatment center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a severe substance abuse issue.

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Syracuse Common Councilor Chad Ryan has been absent from the council for four months because of what's described as a medical issue. Ryan was recently removed as the chair of the council’s public works committee.

On Monday, the council approved the purchase of 17,000 street lights from National Grid for $38 million. The agenda item was on behalf of the Department of Public Works. Council President Helen Hudson said she needed council oversight of it and with Ryan gone she asked Councilor-at-Large Michael Greene to handle it.

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The city of Syracuse is entering into a three-year agreement with a dog licensing system. The goal is to raise the city’s participation rate in the state mandated dog license program.

Syracuse has only a seven percent participation rate, slightly lower than the national average. DocuPet, a Canadian corporation based in Kingston, Ontario, helps municipalities improve the experience and participation in the dog licensing program. CEO Grant Goodwin said it is important to license pets so they can be identified.

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The city of Syracuse could spend $38 million to buy 17,000 street lights from National Grid and convert them to LED lighting with smart city technology. The project is expected to save the city money, operate more efficiently and improve its digital connections.

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