The strategic vision embedded in this policy platform focuses on uplifting poor and working-class people in Syracuse, which, by improving schools and reducing crime, will also retain and attract middle-class people and businesses, and build a sustainable prosperity for all.

This document provides background information and the reasoning for the policy proposals. A shorter list of my key policy proposals are in my Platform Summary.

Howie Hawkins
















Fiscal Justice – End the City & School Funding Crisis with Progressive Taxes & Revenue Sharing

I want to be the next mayor of Syracuse, not its last mayor. The city faces a hostile takeover. The city will be bankrupt within two years without new sources of revenue. If that happens, a state-imposed financial control board could force the city to dissolve into a countywide metropolitan government, as proposed by the Consensus Commission, only without a referendum in which city residents could object.

If that happens, the city will be reduced, as the Consensus Commission proposed, to a “Debt District” with a metropolitan “overseer” to make sure city residents pay extra taxes to pay for the pensions and health care of former city employees and for our unconsolidated, still-segregated city – or rather “Debt District” – public schools.

Progressive tax reform to create a broader, fairer, and bigger revenue stream for the city and its schools has to be the first priority of the next mayor.

City elected officials have every right and responsibility to speak up for Syracuse on state tax and budget policies because the city is dependent on state funding for a quarter of its operating budget and for three quarters of the school district budget.

Without progressive tax and revenue-sharing reform, Syracuse faces insolvency. Mayor Miner's The FY 2017-18 city budget projects an $18.5 million deficit, which will be covered by drawing down the city's reserve fund from $45 million to $27 million. Two more years like that and the city faces insolvency.

The city may become dependent on the state’s Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, effectively replacing the budgetary and policy powers of our elected city government with state-imposed managers who may cut our schools and city services, tear up city union contracts in binding arbitration by the board in order to pay off creditors, and dissolve the city into a countywide metropolitan government in a hostile takeover.

The city's fiscal crisis has been manufactured in Albany and on Wall Street. The richest 1% in New York more than tripled their share of all state income from 10% in 1980 to over 30% today. Meanwhile, Wall Street-funded politicians in Albany shifted taxes from the rich to working people: income tax rates on the richest 1% were cut in half and doubled on the lowest income tax bracket.

Wall Street-funded politicians in Albany also shifted costs from the rich – through the progressive state income tax – to working people through regressive local sales and property taxes. They increased unfunded state mandates while they decreased state revenue sharing, which shifted the tax burden from the progressive state income tax to regressive local property and sales taxes. Regressive local taxes pay for 15% of New York State mandated programs. In almost every other state, local taxes pay for less than 1% of state programs. Those tax and cost shifts are the sources of our extremely high property taxes and municipal fiscal distress.

If the rich paid the tax rates and the state shared the revenues like they did in the 1970s, Syracuse would have plenty of money to meet its needs. State revenue sharing has been frozen for eight years and budgeted to be frozen for five more. The less than 1% of state revenues now shared gives Syracuse $72 million a year. If revenue sharing were restored to the 8% of state revenues it was at the end of the 1970s, then Syracuse would receive more than $576 million a year in revenue sharing. That is almost double the $293 million city operating budget proposed by Mayor Miner for FY 2017-18.

Not enough money can be saved to avoid the Financial Restructuring Board by metropolitan consolidation. Cuts imposed by the Financial Restructuring Board to city programs and schools, and thus to public employee wages, benefits and labor rights, will only help Wall Street creditors holding city debt, not the residents of the city.

But there is enough money for a well-funded city and schools in some combination of the following progressive tax reform and revenue sharing policies. All of these policies depend on cooperation with county and/or state government for their implementation. That will take coalition-building across municipalities, parties, and interest groups. We start with city policies and proceed to county and state policies.

City Income Tax

A small progressive income tax on ourselves – including on the incomes of over 62,000 commuters to the city – would be fairer way to raise revenues locally than hiking property and sales taxes. Commuters have most of the middle and upper income jobs at big institutions that don't pay property taxes: four levels of government, several hospitals, Syracuse University, SUNY ESF, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and many for-profits with special tax breaks like Destiny USA. But they all use city services: police, fire, roads, water, sewers, trash disposal, parks, and more. It's time they pulled their own weight to help fund our city. A progressive income tax with an average rate of 1% on Syracuse's $3.7 billion annual payroll would generate $37 million a year, enough to more than cover the city's structural deficits going forward. A city income tax will require home rule enabling legislation from the state.

Land Value Taxation

Land value taxation is a more progressive property tax. Land value taxation is also know as split rate taxation: a high rate on unearned income from land value appreciation, a low or zero rate on buildings on the land. It encourages compact development and discourages sprawl, which is the kind of development the city and metropolitan Syracuse need.

It is a fairer property tax because it returns to the city treasury the windfall of unearned value added to a property by social improvements (such as nearby transportation, water, and sewage infrastructure, businesses, housing, schools, parks, community gardens, and land-use planning decisions). These improvements are paid by others – taxpayers and other private investors – not the landowner. It returns this unearned income to the community for its public use.

Land value taxation encourages landowners to build housing and productive enterprises on their land. Speculation by absentee landlords who hold empty land and unused buildings becomes unprofitable. Land value taxation protects low and moderate income from displacement due to gentrification because speculators have no incentive to buy out homeowners and landlords in anticipation of rising land values and therefore higher rents or income from home sales. Instead, land value taxation reduces the housing prices by reducing mortgage debt because the rental valuation of land will not be available as interest payments to bankers for mortgage loans.

The experience of land value taxation in more than 30 countries and two dozen Pennsylvania municipalities support these claims for its benefits. Syracuse should conduct a study to explore its implementation in the city. A city land value tax reform will require home rule enabling legislation from the state.

City-County Sales Tax Sharing

The city-county sales tax agreement negotiated by Mayor Miner and County Executive Mahoney in 2010 gives the city about 24 percent of county sales tax revenue, which came to $85 million in 2016. The agreement expires in 2020. The city should seek a continuation of the tax sharing in a renewed agreement.

City-County Property Tax Sharing

The city should pursue the Municipal Development Fund, a countywide shared property tax framework, as recommended by the Final Report of the Commission on Local Government Modernization (Consensus Options Report). Modeled after a similar program in the six-county St. Paul/Minneapolis region operating since 1971, it is designed to equalize fiscal capacity among the county's municipalities and enable all municipalities to benefit from economic growth anywhere in the county. Property tax sharing would help Syracuse meet its fiscal shortfalls in the shorter term. In the longer run, it could help Syracuse realize its potential as the economic engine of the region and turn the city from a net recipient into a net contributor to its neighboring suburban and rural communities, which is what has happened with the City of Minneapolis.

Foundation Aid Formula for Schools

The city of Syracuse is the 9th poorest school district in the state, but it ranks 84th in per-pupil spending. Syracuse students receive 38% less funding per student than Rochester and Buffalo students even though Syracuse schools are the only schools that have increased their enrollment since 2008.

The city should fight vigorously for the state to fully implement the Foundation Aid Formula established by the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007, which was enacted as a result of the decision of the New York State Court of Appeals in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that the state must provide every New York student a “sound basic education.” The Foundation Aid Formula went part way toward establishing a relationship between state aid, the needs of students, and a district’s ability to raise revenue. New York State stills owes $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid to schools statewide – and $83 million this year to Syracuse schools – on this funding promised in 2007. The state aid formula needs to be further reformed in order to reduce gross inequities in per-pupil spending that remain across the state and to provide the resources needed to improve educational outcomes in high-need school districts like Syracuse.

It is time for an Equal Education Amendment to the NYS Constitution that requires the state to provide enough funding per student to every school district to meet the state's educational standards, including additional funding to help persistently low achieving schools with services to help raise their academic outcomes.

State Revenue Sharing

Restore the 8% of state revenue shared with local governments in the 1970s in order to pay for state mandates and to compensate cities like Syracuse for hosting big governmental, educational, and medical institutions that are exempt from property taxes. The state now shares less than 0.5% of state revenues. The amount has been frozen for 8 years and is projected to remain frozen for the next 5 years. Meanwhile, the state imposes state mandates that eat up 15% of our local sales and property taxes.

A sixteen-fold increase (from Syracuse's share of 8% of state revenues, up from the current 0.5%) in the current $72 million Syracuse receives in Aid and Incentives to Municipalities would generate would $1.15 billion, increasing the city budget nearly four-fold from its current $293 million. Even partially restoring former levels of revenue sharing would immediately end Syracuse's fiscal crisis and give it the money it needs to restore our schools, fire department, and youth and senior programs and put the unemployed to work building worker cooperatives, affordable housing, clean energy, mass transit, and the other things our city needs.

With progressive tax reforms, the state can easily raise the revenues to increase the $774 million it now spends on Aid and Incentives to Municipalities out of a $163 billion state budget.

State revenue sharing was enacted in the early 1970s at the initiative of Mayor Lindsay of New York City, Mayor Alexander of Syracuse, and a bipartisan coalition of other big city mayors in the state whose property tax base had declined as factories moved to the suburbs and whose tax-exempt property base of government, university, and medical non-profits increased. Since these big cities were so important to their regions economies, the mayors convinced the state to pay for the services the cities provide for their regions with revenue sharing.

Today, almost all upstate municipalities face fiscal distress because the factories moved away and the state has increased its unfunded mandates, which now consume 100% of the county property tax levied by counties outside of New York City. That means a broader coalition than the big city mayors that got revenue sharing in the 1970s can be built today involving municipalities and counties from across the state. The next mayor of Syracuse should be at the forefront of building that coalition for increased state revenue sharing to pay for unfunded state mandates.

State Stock Transfer Tax

The city should urge the state to keep the $12 to $16 billion a year from the Stock Transfer Tax, which has been rebated 100% to stock traders since 1981. Enacted in 1905, the tax is a pennies per share.

Progressive State Income Tax

The state should restore the more progressive state income tax structure of the 1970s, which would cut income taxes for the bottom 90% and still take in $8 billion more dollars in revenue.

State Health Insurance Plan

A state health care insurance plan for all New Yorkers, paid for by a single public payer, would radically cut public employee health care costs in the city and school district budgets. Public employee health insurance will cost $107 million ($51 million city, $56 million schools) in the FY 2017-18, or 15% of the combined city and school district budgets of $700 million ($293 million city, $407 million schools).

The New York Health Act, a state single-payer Medicare for All plan, would have public employers paying an 8% payroll tax for this health care. 8% of the city’s payroll of $118 million and the school district’s payroll of $226 million is $9 million for the city and $18 million for the school district. That would amount to health care cost savings for the city of $42 million ($54 million current costs vs. $9 million under the single-payer plan) and $38 million for the school district ($56 million current costs vs. $18 million under single-payer). That amounts to a $80 million in saving a year to the combined city and school budget of $700 million, or 11% of the combined budget.

A single-payer public health insurance system would also remove the county's $98 million share of Medicaid expenses, which consumed 70% of the county's $140 million property levy in 2016. County employee medical and dental benefits cost $73 million in 2016. The county’s payroll is $240 million. An 8% payroll tax would be $19 million. The health care cost savings under single-payer for county employees would therefore be $54 million ($73 million current costs vs. $19 million under single-payer). A single-payer health insurance system in New York would save the county $152 million ($98 million in Medicaid and $54 million in employee health coverage), or 12% of the county’s budget.

A 2009 study commissioned by the state Department of Health and done by the Urban Institute found that the efficiencies of a single-payer public health plan, providing comprehensive coverage for all medically necessary services that is free at the point of delivery to all, would save New Yorkers $28 billion a year in health costs compared to an individual mandate to buy private insurance, like that adopted federally in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare”). A single public insurer would achieve these savings by reducing provider billing expenses, administrative waste in the insurance industry, monopolistic pricing of drugs and medical devices, and fraud.

The New York Health Act, a bill for a universal public insurance system for New York State, is under consideration in the state legislature. A 2015 economic analysis of the New York Health Act by economist Gerald Friedman found that the Act would save $44.7 billion in the first year alone, nearly $2200 per person. It would save over $70 billion in 2019, 25% of that year’s projected health care spending, and savings will increase over time. The largest savings would go to working households earning less than $75,000, but 98% of New York households would spend less in taxes to fund this public health insurance system than than they spend now paying for private insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles as well as taxes for public insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Child Health Plus.

The New York Health Act (A4738/S4840) has been adopted by the Assembly and is only one vote short of adoption in the state Senate. The city should urge the legislature to pass the bill.


The fastest way to get good jobs to city residents is to make sure they get their fair share of city-funded jobs.

Equal Employment Opportunity Program

Update and enforce the neglected Equal Employment Opportunity Program established by Ordinance No. 302 in 1973. EEOP should be expanded to cover direct city employees as well as city contractors, including beneficiaries of city economic development incentives. The strengthened EEOP should include numerical goals for hiring city residents and minorities for city-funded departments and contracts that reflect the demographics of the city.

The Syracuse/Onondaga Human Rights Commission should renew the EEOP reports it once issued as part of its annual reports that presented the data on contractor compliance with the city's EEOP. Tables summarizing the data from Human Rights Commission reports between 2004 and 2008 show that minorities were getting between a quarter and a half of their proportionate share of jobs with city contractors. We need annual publication of these figures to measure how well the city is doing in meetings its minority and city resident hiring goals.

Community Hiring Halls

Establish city-certified Community Hiring Halls where residents can sign up with their qualifications and get help upgrading their qualifications. Contractors and city departments would be required to go to the Community Hiring Halls as a source for qualified new hires on city-funded jobs if they fall short of their city resident and minority hiring goals.

The Community Hiring Hall would also be a reliable source of labor for private employers. As a non-profit operation, it would be a better alternative for workers who now seek work through temp agencies that typically charge employers 25% to 75% above what the worker is paid in agency fees.

Living Wage Law

Expand and Enforce the Living Wage Law to cover all workers with city departments and contractors, including beneficiaries of economic development incentives.

Ban the Box

Expand and Enforce the Ban the Box law to include all employers in the city, not only the city and its contractors, so that formerly incarcerated people have equal opportunities to secure employment.

Minority Contracting

The current city goals for Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) are 9% for MBE's and 6% for WBE's on city contracts. The city should publish annually a report on how the city is doing in meeting these goals. It should raise these goals to reflect the actual demographics of the city.

The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (SIDA) has no MWBE goals for projects it supports with tax breaks, grants, and bond financing. The city's goals for MWBE contracting should be extended to SIDA's activities, including contracts for maintenance and repair of properties it owns.

SIDA does have a local hiring policy for construction projects it supports, but local refers to a nine-county area surrounding the city. SIDA should add a requirement for city residents and minorities on these projects.

The next mayor, who appoints the members of the SIDA board, can make these reforms happen.

Community Full Employment Program

Create a Community Full Employment Program with the goal of providing a useful, living wage job to every working age person willing and able to work who cannot find private employment. Pending state or federal public jobs programs, the city should enact a demonstration program, using what funding is available, to use revenue producing public enterprise, as well as public service jobs, to employ unused resources (labor, physical plant) to satisfy unmet needs (infrastructure modernization, child care, youth recreation, sidewalk maintenance and snow removal, smaller school class sizes, replacement of imported consumer goods that can be made locally, recycling and reprocessing waste into raw materials, housing rehabilitation, energy conservation, city parks restoration, and so on).

Like the city-based and state-based "work relief" projects of the early Great Depression years that demonstrated the need and feasibility of what became the state Temporary Emergency Relief Agency and the federal Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Works Progress Administration, where cities and counties designed public works and public service projects that were 90 percent funded by the federal government, the city should plan such projects now, begin to employ the unemployed to the extent local resources permit, and seek state and federal funding for them.


"What a city requires is slow, patient work by excellent government and many small investors."

Andres Duany, New Urbanist city planner

Community-Owned Enterprises

The best longer term strategy to create living-wage jobs, community-owned enterprises, and expand the property tax base is to build community wealth.

It is time to stop giving tax breaks exclusively to private developers and start investing in community-owned enterprises where we own our own jobs and the wealth created is anchored to our community by democratic ownership structures.

By community-owned enterprises we include:

  • Owner-Operated small businesses

  • Worker Cooperatives

  • Consumer Cooperatives, including credit unions.

  • Public Enterprises, like a city-owned power company or the trash collection operation of DPW.

  • Community Corporations, where voting shares restricted to residents (e.g., the Green Bay Packers).

  • A city-owned Community Investment Trust where economic assistance such as tax breaks are converted to voting shares in a conventional corporation.

Municipal Development Bank

The city should establish a Municipal Development Bank with a primary mission of planning, financing, and provide technical assistance to community-owned enterprises with a focus on worker cooperatives. Like the Bank of North Dakota, a state-owned public bank, the Municipal Development Bank would also be the repository for city funds and participate in mortgage, consumer, and business lending.

Streamline the Permitting Process

Syracuse city government is notorious for slow permitting. Delays in getting permits makes it difficult for developers, commercial businesses, and homeowners to complete projects, which have their own deadlines to meet financing and other contractual obligations. Unnecessary permitting delays make it difficult to do business and home improvements in the city.

The next mayoral administration should have the departments concerned with permitting (including Engineering, Fire, Neighborhood & Business Development, Planning & Sustainability, Police, Public Works, Water, and Zoning) meet frequently to monitor progress on permitting, communicate with the parties seeking permits, and break logjams in the process from pre-development to completion for all proposed projects in the city.

Syracuse Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO)

SEDCO provides low cost, fixed asset financing for commercial businesses operating in the City of Syracuse. Its board is appointed by the mayor.

SEDCO has focused in recent years on upscale development in downtown Syracuse. SEDCO should now prioritize support for owner-operated businesses in the city's struggling neighborhood business districts.

Prioritize Cooperatives

City economic development incentives should prioritize the development of worker and consumer cooperatives. Worker cooperatives enable members receive the full fruits of their labor and to own their own jobs. Absentee owners of conventional businesses take net income away as profit, and they can move the jobs away as well.

A model here is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain, which since its founding in 1956 had built up by 2008 a network of cooperatives, employing over 90,000 worker-owners, in manufacturing, finance, retail, and education for cooperative members, with revenues of over $19 billion a year. At the center of Mondragon is a planning, technical assistance, and financing institution, which would be the role for the Municipal Development Bank. This intensive planning and assistance is a major reason why, by 2010, going back to the 1956, only two of Mondragon’s 264 businesses had failed. 90% of U.S. conventional start-ups fail within the first five years.

Another cooperative model to draw upon is the cooperative network in Emilia Romagna, Italy, a region with nearly 4.5 million people whose capital is the medieval university city of Bologna. Two-thirds of the regions inhabitants are members of worker or consumer co-ops, which together produce one-third of the region’s GDP. In contrast to Mondragon's centralized network, the Emilia Romagna cooperatives are decentralized networks where, particularly in the building and manufacturing sectors, small co-ops join shifting consortia that bid for contracts from government and large corporations. This model is well-adapted to the high tech, caregiving service, and the temp job/gig economy sectors. These Italian co-ops have received political support in the regional government from parties of both the socialist left and the Catholic right for policies that provide technical assistance, financing, and favorable tax treatment for co-ops.

New York City, Rochester NY, Cleveland OH, Cincinnati OH, Richmond CA, Jackson, Mississippi, and other cities have municipal- and/or union-supported worker cooperative projects. Some of these cities have working relationships with Mondragon as well the United Steelworkers or United Electrical workers, which support the development of union co-ops. New Era Windows is a UE-organized worker cooperative that now operates a formerly absentee-owned factory (Republic Windows) that was planning to close in Chicago.

The Cleveland Model of Partnership with “Eds and Meds” Anchor Institutions

A particularly relevant model of cooperative development for Syracuse is the Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland. They include an industrial laundry, a solar panel manufacturing and installation co-op, and a greenhouse urban farm. They are supported by the city, foundations, and the “anchor institutions” of the city's “Eds and Meds,” which provide markets, financing, and technical assistance. The anchor institutions are located in University Circle, which is surrounded by a low-income, predominantly African American neighborhood.



The Cleveland situation is very similar to the demographics and needs of the South Side and Near Eastside neighborhoods adjacent to University Hill and its medical and educational institutions. The recently closed former Coyne Laundry on the South Side could be re-opened as a worker cooperative serving the industrial laundry market of the medical and educational institutions on University Hill. Those institutions could use food from a nearby urban greenhouse farm food. The whole city and region could use solar panels. The city should seek a partnership with these medical and educational institutions for developing cooperatives in the adjacent low-income neighborhoods on the model of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland.

Rochester is using this model for developing worker co-ops with the support of its Eds and Meds anchor institutions. A feasibility study has been completed and the first co-op opened in April 2017.


Public utilities and infrastructure are the public avenues for private commerce.

Our privatized utilities and deteriorating public infrastructure are a major obstacle to improving the Syracuse economy.

Infrastructure should be considered a fourth factor of production, along with land, labor, and capital. It should be provided at cost by public institutions – and not by private businesses extracting unearned income from their monopolistic position – in order to lower the private economy's costs of living and doing business.

The city should lower the cost of living for residents and lower the costs of production for businesses by creating city-owned utilities for energy, public access media, and broadband, adding sidewalk maintenance and snow removal to the Department of Public Works responsibilities, and aggressively seeking state and federal funding for water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure modernization.

Public Power

Establish a public power utility to cut energy costs, improve customer service, and build clean, renewable energy sources. Publicly-owned utilities (POUs) consistently outperform private investor-owned utilities (IOUs) energy costs, reliability, customer service, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, local accountability, and revenues contributed to local government. POUs answer to their customer-owners, not absentee shareholders. POUs are exempt from specific taxes, pay lower salaries to executives, supply cheaper energy, can supply more environmentally-friendly energy, have the ability to use more of their funds to upgrade their infrastructure, and provide more reliable, consistent service, particularly after storms and equipment failures.

The electric rates under public power systems in Onondaga County in the Villages of Solvay and Skaneatales are one-quarter to one-third of what we pay in Syracuse to National Grid. In Syracuse, the typical residential customer pays about 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh) for electric service and delivery charges, with the service charge usually tripling the charge of actually delivering the supply of electricity. In Solvay, residential customers pay monthly service charge of $1.75 plus 5.1 cents per kwh. In Skanateles, customers pay a monthly service charge of $3.25 plus 3.4 cents per kwh. These prices are from April 2017.

Commercial and industrial rates are also substantially lower in public power systems. It's why Solvay is still full of manufacturing plants, unlike the rest of the county.

Unlike the deregulated energy market in New York State for IOUs like National Grid, which require the utilities to delivery energy by buying it from other suppliers, POUs can both produce and deliver energy. A public power system in Syracuse would thus enable the city to build its own clean, renewable energy sources for electricity, heating, and cooling and the smart grid infrastructure needed to accommodate distributed nature of renewable energy sources.

Ratepayers in the city call National Grid “National Greed” for good reason. For example, Solvay, Yonkers, Los Angeles and other cities, which own their own street lights, are replacing their street light fixtures with energy-efficient LED technology. The change saves Yonkers $1 million a year. Syracuse’s annual electric bill for its street lights is $4.5 million. But National Grid, which owns most of Syracuse’s 19,000 streetlights, has told the city officials it won’t install LED fixtures and won’t sell its lights to the city. Of course National Greed won’t do those things to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. As an IOU, it has every incentive to minimize efficiency and maximize electricity in order to maximize its profits.

With publicly-owned streetlights, Syracuse could also retrofit street lampposts with electric car chargers, as London and other municipalities in England are doing.

The public power system could finance the construction of many forms of community energy projects. Rooftop solar and/or small-scale wind shared by a group of households with different solar and wind exposures could be built with the public power system financing the upfront costs and the households paying them off over time out of savings from lower cost renewables. Community solar groups would also share in any net metering income from electric production in excess of their usage. The public power system would also encompass community-owned solar and wind farms as well as purchasing renewable energy from third party-owned sources on the grid.

For heating and cooling food, water, and space, moving to renewable energy means moving to efficient electric heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) and water heating systems. Renewable electricity can do this by powering the heating and cooling food, water, and building spaces by geothermal and cold climate (air-to-air) heat pumps. Again, the upfront costs for a household or business can be financed by the public power system and be paid for by the consumers over time, a good portion of it out of the savings from gas and electricity costs these renewable systems will provide.

The public power system can also finance energy audits and weatherization of buildings so that customers make more efficient use of the energy they purchase.

Finally, by maintaining a locally-based and permanent workforce for operation, maintenance, and repairs to the energy system, public power systems have a for better record than IOUs in returning to power after outages due to storms and equipment failures.

It's time to cut our local energy costs by replacing National Grid with a municipally-owned public power system that can rapidly bring 100% clean, renewable energy sources to the City of Syracuse.

Community Media Organization

Use Time Warner franchise fees to fund a community-controlled nonprofit organization that provides programming, staffing, and training in all forms of community media, including cable channels devoted to Public Access, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) programming, community radio, community newspapers, and web-based media.

The city spent over $100,000 for a needs assessment in 2009-2010, which recommended the creation of a community-controlled nonprofit organization, similar to ones that function well in Ithaca and Baldwinsville, to be funded by franchise agreements, a renewed one with Time Warner and a new one with Verizon. It is time to push aggressively for franchise agreements with Spectrum and Verizon that include funding for a Community Media Organization.

Community Broadband Utility

Create a first-rate community-owned broadband system (internet, cable TV, phone) to provide faster, lower cost service than the corporate telecoms do.

The city needs its own municipal broadband system because it has been badly misused by the monopolistic private broadband utilities, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) and Verizon. The Time Warner franchise agreement with the city expired ten years ago in 2007. Time Warner (now Spectrum) failed to live up to its obligations to provide PEG channels and community media production facilities. Time Warner has not negotiated in good faith with the city because the state Public Service Commission routinely renews the old agreement every three months. In February 2017, New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit against Charter Communications, parent company of Spectrum, alleging that the cable and internet provider failed to deliver on promised internet speeds and reliability.

Meanwhile, Verizon was given permission in 2005 to build FIOS lines throughout the city without securing a franchise agreement. In 2010, after extending the FIOS triple play – phone, internet, TV – to the more affluent east side neighborhoods, Verizon stopped. The city should insist on a franchise agreement from Verizon, or take its FIOS lines in the city by eminent domain for use by a Community Broadband Utility.

Municipalize Sidewalks

It is time for the Department of Public Works to be given responsibility for maintenance and snow removal on city sidewalks as it is for city streets.

It is inexcusable that people have to walk in the streets when it snows – children walking to school, parents with strollers, seniors, mail carriers, and disabled people with wheelchairs. On many blocks, the sidewalks are impassible even without snow for many of these people because they are in such disrepair.

The old way of fining property owners for failure to maintain and remove snow form sidewalks has been a failure for decades. The city doesn't even do a good job of clearing sidewalks in front of its own properties. City responsibility for sidewalk snow removal is assumed in Rochester NY, Burlington VT, Fairbanks AK, and many other cities and towns. One estimate for sidewalk snow removal puts the cost at $7 to $10 per premise per year

Infrastructure Modernization

The city should be speaking up for much-increased state and federal public investment in infrastructure.

However, it should reject so-called public-private partnerships that increase costs with interest to private lenders and fees for monopolistic rent extraction by private owners of infrastructure.

The city should also be positioned with projects on the shelf, ready to go, as state and federal funding becomes available.

America's declining infrastructure is receiving about half the investment it should just to maintain it, let alone modernize it so it is fit for the future. The city of Syracuse is no exception. The City of Syracuse estimates that it needs $2.6 billion to replace its crumbling water and sewer systems. It could use major improvements to transportation infrastructure, especially mass transit and safer bike and pedestrian pathways. The American Society of Civil Engineers concludes that the United States needs to invest over $2 trillion over the next 10 years to repair and modernize America's crumbling infrastructure. The New York State Comptroller reports that New York State needs to invest in water systems alone $40 billion over the next 20 years to repair, maintain, and bring up to standards.

Syracuse has benefitted greatly from New Deal era programs that restored or built new infrastructure that our community still enjoys today. The projects funded during the Great Depression by the state (Temporary Emergency Relief Administration) and federal governments (Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Works Progress Administration) made more improvements to Syracuse infrastructure and parks than any other era. These improvements include the Thornden Park Amphitheater and other city park improvements (TERA), Green Lakes State Park (CCC), the Ley Creek sewer system (WPA), a new Midland Avenue sewer line (WPA), renovation of the gazebo bandstand and pool in Upper Onondaga Park (PWA), building Syracuse University's College of Medicine – since 1949 SUNY Upstate Medical University (PWA), Columbus Circle in downtown Syracuse (WPA), the Regional Market (PWA), the New York State Fairgrounds (PWA), and Syracuse Municipal Airport improvements (WPA).


Neighborhood Assemblies

Create direct democracy in neighborhood governments that function like New England Town Meetings, where all residents meet to formulate policies and programs for their community and elect officers to implement them. The Neighborhood Assemblies would replace the current TNT Area Planning Councils and reflect the smaller natural neighborhoods of the city.

Participatory Budgeting

Neighborhood Assemblies would have the power to allocate resources provided through city revenue sharing for neighborhood programs and projects.

Council of Neighborhood Assemblies

A council of representatives elected by each Neighborhood Assembly would coordinate inter-neighborhood projects and advise the Mayor, Common Council, Board of Education, and representatives to county, state and federal governments.

Proportional Representation on Common Council

Replace winner-take-all elections with proportional representation on Common Council and the Board of Education. Winner-take-all elections over-represent majorities and exclude minorities. Proportional representation gives each party its fair share of representation in proportion to the vote it receives.

Instant Runoff Voting for Executive Offices

Replace plurality elections with ranked-choice instant runoff voting for single seat elections like Mayor, Auditor, and Council President. Instant runoff voting elects the most preferred candidate. It requires a majority of votes to be elected. Voters rank their choices in order of preference: 1, 2, 3, and so on. If no candidate wins over 50% in the first round, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choice votes of the last place candidate are distributed and counted. This runoff voting process continues until the first candidate to receive over 50% of the vote wins.

Public Campaign Finance

Our public elections have been privatized. We have the best politicians that money can buy. The developers and other special interests seeking government favors are financing our public elections in the city. This private campaign financing is legalized bribery.

City elections should not be for sale. Elections are public functions. The campaigns should be funded by the public, not private special interests, so the voters, not the moneyed interests, own and control the process.

Establish a system of public funding of city election campaigns that provides sufficient resources to a candidate to reach their district’s voters. All ballot-qualified candidates who refuse to accept private money would qualify for public funding.

Under a Clean Money system of full public campaign financing in Syracuse, candidates would qualify for equal public campaign grants by raising a reasonable number of $5 contributions from voters in their district to demonstrate support. The grant would be sufficient to get the candidate's message to all voters. Candidates who opt for public money could not raise and spend private money. They could only use clean public money.

Public campaign financing in which all candidates opt in would cost taxpayers in the range of $10 to $20 per year per voter for general elections. Syracuse had 67,550 registered voters as of April 3, 2017. The $10 assumes two-party races with full slates and budgets of $10,000 each for 5 district council races, $25,000 each for 4 school board members and 2 at-large councilors, and $250,000 for mayoral candidates, for a total budget of $650,000. Four-party races with full slates would cost about $1.4 million, or about $20 per year per voter. Those are small prices to pay for real democracy.

For this campaign in 2017, I will not accept contributions from for-profit corporations and calls upon the other mayoral candidates to do the same. The mayor should represents the citizens' public interests, not corporate special interests.

I am also limiting contributions I will accept from any individual, family, or organization to $1,000, even though the legal maximum is $3,436.50. I want to represent and be accountable to the people of the city, not wealthy special interests.

Metropolitan Government: Proportional Representation in a Federated Structure

The city should pursue a democratically structured metropolitan government based on the principles of federalism and proportional representation.

We should reject the Consensus Commission's proposed governing structure because it excludes our segregated schools and entrenches the existing power structure through winner-take-all elections that effectively exclude political and ethnic minorities from their fair share of representation and power.

We should pursue metropolitan government because it is the only way we can end school and housing segregation, end the connected problems of suburban sprawl and urban decay, and create a more democratic and inclusive government.

The Consensus Commission's governing structure takes away powers and access to services that ought to remain with local town, village, and city neighborhood jurisdictions. The city itself needs to set up Neighborhood Assembly local governing jurisdictions in order to better engage its residents in neighborhood improvement. The Consensus Commission's proposal centralizes these powers and services at the county level in an obviously biased and inequitable proposal that makes dissolution of the city mandatory while the dissolution of all other municipal governments in the county is voluntary.

None of these governments is going to voluntarily dissolve. Their residents don't want that. They want to retain town, village, and city neighborhood control over local planning and zoning decisions. They want a local government office to go to for services and local problem solving.

That is why a federation of existing town, village, and city jurisdictions is a more acceptable model for metropolitan government. It keeps the advantages local government and takes advantage of the more efficient and effective infrastructure and services a metropolitan government could provide.

A federal model for metropolitan government requires a constitutional structure that defines the powers and responsibilities of both local and metropolitan governments. For example, only a metropolitan government can create regional land use plan that is enforceable because land use planning in New York resides with municipal governments. A metropolitan land use plan would end sprawl, direct development back into developed areas suffering from disinvestment, and protect our region's farms and natural habitat. At the same time, final local planning decisions, within the framework of a countywide land use plan, would be made by local jurisdictions.

Pending a proposal for a metropolitan government based on federalism and proportional representation, the city should pursue the Consensus Commission's recommendations for shared services and infrastructure with an experimental, case-by-case, approach. If an experiment for a shared service or infrastructure system turns out to provide a better service or infrastructure system with savings, then it should be kept. If the experiment doesn't provide the projected positive outcomes, it should be ended.

Restore Municipal Separation of Powers

Restore the privacy of usage of the city's computer systems by members of the Common Council, the city Auditor, and the City Clerk, who are independently elected public officials, not employees of the Mayor. The city Clerk is elected by Common Council, not appointed by the Mayor.

Common Councilors and City Clerk sued the Mayor in 2015 for blocking their access to city computers because they would not sign a computer use policy that allowed the Mayor's administration to monitor their keystrokes, emails, and website visits. Their lawsuit argued that the Mayor's computer usage policy violated the separation of powers in municipal government. Supreme Court Justice Hugh Gilbert ruled that "The doctrine of separation of powers does not exist within municipal government." The precedents in New York's courts may favor Judge Gilbert's ruling, but many other decisions around the country affirm municipal separation of powers.

It will be the policy of a Hawkins administration to respect the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of city government.

With respect to the computer usage policy, a Hawkins administration will negotiate a modification of the computer usage policy that respects the privacy of independently elected public officials in city government while maintaining cyber security for the city's computer systems.

Abolish Syracuse Urban Renewal Agency

The Syracuse Urban Renewal Agency (SURA) doesn't do urban renewal. It has served for decades as a mayoral slush fund for political hires.

Mayors have used and abused SURA for nepotism and cronyism, going around civil service rules and union contracts to put their family, friends, and political hacks, like the mayor's press secretary, on the city's payroll. Last year, an Albany-based public relations consultant to the mayor was paid $84,000 a year through SURA to work part time, 10 hours a week.

Using an urban renewal agency to hire city workers was declared illegal decades ago by the state comptroller. The state Authorities Budget Office notified Syracuse in 2009 and again it 2012 it was still in violation of the law.

As owners of Perseverance Park, site of the 2011-12 Occupy Syracuse encampment, SURA passed a curfew in January 2012 to be enforced by city police that barred people from staying in the park after dark. The curfew was adopted just days after Occupy Syracuse had staged Money Out of Politics demonstrations outside the Mayor's State of the City address and then outside her winter fundraising ball.

As a public benefit corporation legally distinct from the city, SURA is able to hire employees without going through the civil service system, which is designed to curb favoritism in hiring and to protect experienced professionals from changes of administration. The mayor chairs and controls the agency with the other three board members consisting of the council president and two members appointed to their posts by the mayor: the commissioners of finance and of neighborhood and business development.

The state Legislature created the Syracuse Urban Renewal Agency in 1964, along with similar agencies in other cities, so the cities could accept urban renewal grants from the federal and state governments. Since 1974, federal urban renewal grants have gone through the Community Development Block Grant program administered by the city itself. SURA has helped the city sell or redevelop some underused or tax delinquent properties over the years. But those property acquisition and development functions have been taken over by the Greater Syracuse Land Bank since 2012.

SURA now serves no distinct function other as a political patronage fund for the mayor. It is time to abolish it and move any qualified city workers on the current SURA payroll to the regular city jobs subject to civil services rules and union contracts.

Occupy Syracuse

As citizens of Syracuse, we should Occupy Syracuse by organizing Neighborhood Assemblies even before city charter changes can make them part of the formal structure of city government. Occupy Syracuse in 2011-12 was a popular assembly open to all, practicing direct democracy to formulate responses to the problems ordinary people faced in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. Its First Amendment rights of peaceable assembly, free speech, and to petition government for a redress of grievances should have been protected and encouraged, not suppressed. Instead, the city forcibly removed the Occupy encampment in Perseverance Park in concert with a nationwide suppression of the Occupy movement that was coordinated by the Obama White House with the too-big-to-fail banks, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and local mayors and police. The excuse for the removal was a propane heater and tanks that were removed after the Fire Department said they were a hazard. The Mayor’s order for removal was an act of collective punishment against the whole movement for the transgression of a few. It is a shameful blot on Syracuse's proud history of being a center for pro-democracy movements, including indigenous, abolitionist, women's, labor, environmental, and peace movements.

An Average Worker's Wage for the Mayor

I believe that elected officials should receive an average worker's wage. They should experience economically what the people they represent experience. The salary of Mayor Hawkins will be tied to the fortunes of the people he represents.

As mayor, I will reduce my take home pay to the median household income in the city and donate the remainder, after taxes, to a Solidarity Fund to support movements for social justice, civil rights, workers rights, civil liberties, peace, and the environment.

Like the Solidarity Fund set up by Seattle city councilor Kshama Sawant. I will make regular reports on my take home pay and how the Solidarity Fund is being used.

The mayor's current salary is $115,000 and the median household income in Syracuse was $36,547 in 2015. The average (mean) annual wage or salary for a city worker in 2015 was $55,067, 50% higher than the median household income for city residents and close to the county median household income of $56,371.

I believe that the city should pay above-average wages and salaries for good workers and skilled professionals. But I also believe that elected policy makers should live with incomes like the people they represent.

Vote Yes on State Constitutional Convention Referendum

We should vote Yes on the state referendum for a state constitutional convention in the general election on Tuesday, November 7.

If the referendum passes, the elections of delegates to the convention will be held in the general election in 2018. The convention of delegates will be held in 2019, with any proposed constitutional amendments going back to the voters for final approval or rejection.

It is time to recognize that the elected state government cannot enact needed reforms because of its widespread corruption and protection of the status quo that entrenches the politicians now in office.

Since 2000, some 44 state elected officials have been forced out of office for criminal convictions or other ethical violations. 29 were convicted of crimes and 21 were sentenced to prison or house arrest. More officials charged with crimes are currently headed for trial.

It is therefore no surprise that the state government cannot enact reforms that the vast majority of New Yorkers support, including:

  • The right to health care through a public health insurance program.

  • The right to affordable higher education.

  • Equitable and adequate public school funding.

  • An Environmental Bill of Rights to guarantee clean air and water.

  • A Workers Bill of Rights

  • An Equal Rights Amendment to guarantee equality for women.

  • Protection from discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation (the state’s equal protection clause only covers for race, color, creed, and religion)

  • The right to substance abuse treatment instead of prison for addicts.

  • Ethics Reform

  • Public Campaign Finance

  • Electoral reforms like same-day registration, Election Day holiday, independent redistricting, and proportional representation.

  • Municipal home rule on income taxes, rent control, school governance, and minimum wages

  • State financial responsibility for its mandates on local governments

In order to bypass the corruption and ineptitude in Albany and make the reforms the majority wants, we need a convention of people's delegates to propose constitutional amendments that the people themselves can directly approve or reject referendum votes. Unlike laws adopted by the corrupt pay-to-play legislature, the people will have the last say on any constitutional amendments in a referendum.

I am confident that a people's convention will not propose to remove any of the civil liberties, civil rights, and labor rights in the current state constitution. The people are way ahead of the politicians on expanding our social, political, and economic rights and protecting the environment. It is the politicians entrenched in office who are holding us back. The best defense against these politicians is an offense, not holding on to the status quo in fear. We need a people's convention in order to bypass the entrenched politicians who are holding us back.


The mayor does not – and should not – control the city's public schools. But he or she should be an advocate for the schools and participate in the policy debates that affect schooling directly and indirectly.


The next Mayor of Syracuse should insist – as the Greater Syracuse community focuses on the questions of shared services and metropolitan government – that desegregation of our public schools be at the center of those discussions and follow-up actions.

Desegregation of schools by race and class has proven to be by far the strongest way to close the race and class achievement gaps as measured by standardized tests. Integration by race and class substantially improves the academic achievement of lower income students and improves the achievement levels of middle class students to a lesser degree.

Desegregation also improves other important educational outcomes for all students -- poor, working class, and middle class alike. Students in integrated schools have better outcomes for

  • intellectual self-confidence
  • leadership skills
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • problem solving
  • team work and collaboration
  • empathy and tolerance across racial and class divisions

In other words, integrated schools are better for middle class as well as poor and working class students. The next mayor and city school officials should emphasize these facts in proposing desegregation with school districts adjacent to the city.

Adequate and equitable school funding, the quality of facilities and equipment, teacher expectations, and class size all help. But nothing comes close to improving educational outcomes for all students than desgegregation.

Segregation by class, or socioeconomic status, has increased and become an increasingly important factor in predicting educational outcomes in recent decades as income inequality has grown and social mobility has declined. Sean Reardon of Stanford University, whose research has found a widening achievement gap between rich and poor, notes:

Income has become a much stronger predictor of how well kids do in school. Race is about as good a predictor as it was 30 years ago. It's more that income has gotten more important, not that race has gotten less important.

We have known since the 1966 Coleman Report, the “Equality of Educational Opportunity Report” commissioned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that the strongest predictors of student achievement are parental socio-economic status and segregation by race and especially class. This research conclusion has been confirmed repeatedly for over 50 years. As educational scholar Richard Rothstein has noted about this research:

What did make a difference was integration, but only where black children were integrated into majority middle-class schools. In other words, priorities of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had been correct: To improve black student achievement, the nation must improve socioeconomic conditions for black families, as well as implement integration not only by race but by social class.

While the city alone cannot overcome national policies that promote economic disparities, poverty, and segregation, there is much we can do to desegregate our community and uplift poor and working class people.

Desegregation is the most powerful improvement we can make given the high degree of segregation and concentrated poverty in our metropolitan region.

Syracuse area schools are among nation’s most segregated by class. The poverty gap between children attending school in the adjacent Syracuse and Westhill school districts is the widest in New York and the 15th widest in the United States. The 46% poverty rate for Syracuse students is far higher than the student poverty rates in the adjacent school districts: 8% in Westhill, 10% in Jamesville Dewitt, 13% in Liverpool, 13% in North Syracuse, 22% in Solvay, and 24% in Lyncourt.

Syracuse area schools are also highly segregated by race, which correlates closely with class. The percentage of public schools in the Syracuse area where minorities are concentrated in minority-majority schools tripled between 1990 and 2010.

Inter-district school segregation flows from housing segregation. Any serious approach of school desegregation must also address housing desegregation.

Greater Syracuse has seen the concentration of poverty into segregated high-poverty neighborhoods grow radically since 2000. It has the most concentrated poverty among Blacks and Latinos among all of the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. It also has the 5th most concentrated White poverty, which means class-based institutionalized processes are sorting our community into neighborhoods that are segregated by class and race, which correlates closely with class.

A 2010 Brooking Institution analysis of 2005-2009 U.S. Census data found that Greater Syracuse has the ninth highest Black-White housing segregation among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. In 2010, the U.S. Census found Greater Syracuse had the highest Black-White segregation among “small cities” of less than 1 million in population among the nation's 100 largest metro areas. A 2014 study by the CNY Fair Housing Council found that the “hypersegregation” of Greater Syracuse has been growing.

In order to more credibly call for school desegregation countywide, the city must first address segregation within the city.

Detrack City Schools

Like desegregation, detracking – integrating ability groups into the same classrooms where the curriculum for the best students became the curriculum for all students – has led to the improvement in the achievement of all students, across division of class and race, and a near elimination of the achievement gap.

Students of lower socio-economic backgrounds tend enter school already behind students from middle-class backgrounds. Based on their academic performance at this early age, students are sorted into separate ability group tracks, which reproduce segregation within schools and between schools in the same district. Moreover, research has found that race and class status trump academic ability indicated by standardized testing in decisions that sort students into tracks.

We can see tracking in the Syracuse City School District.

At Corcoron High School, the high ability, college prep International Baccalaureate program is in one wing of the school with a disproportionately high number of middle-class and white students, while the other wing of the school is disproportionately working-class and students of color.

The Syracuse Latin School is an elementary schools for students identified “gifted and talented” as they enter kindergarten.

Fowler High School, the city high school with the highest concentration of students in poverty, has been converted into the Public Service Leadership Academy focused on vocational training for emergency response, homeland security, the military, cosmetology, barbering, and electrical trades. It remains the only city high school without an athletic field for football and soccer.

The city school district should pursue detracking within and between schools in order to improve outcomes for all students.

Desegregate City Attendance Zones

The city school board should review and, if warranted, redraw attendance zones to promote integration across lines of class and race within the city.

Metropolitan School Desegregation

School desegregation across city boundaries with adjacent school districts would not require long bus trips. The bigger difficulty is convincing those adjacent school districts to participate in a desegregation process.

Pending a metropolitan agreement for school district consolidation, the city school district should pursue smaller scale experiments with adjacent school districts, such as pairing elementary schools that are relatively close to each other across the school district lines and integrating them, with one building taking all the students for grades 1-3 and the other for grades 4-6.

Advocates desegregation must reassure parents in the suburban school districts that it will improve the education of their children. We can point to the example of Raleigh and surrounding Wake County, North Carolina. Gerald Grant of Syracuse University wrote a book comparing Raleigh and Syracuse schools entitled Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh. Raleigh and the surrounding Wake County suburbs merged their school districts into one countywide school district in 1976. The district integrated by class, with a standard of no school having more than 40% low-income students in any schools, which also had the effect of integrating by race. The book compares how Raleigh's integrated schools greatly reduced the achievement gap and improved outcomes for students of all backgrounds, while Syracuse schools declined alongside growing class and racial segregation of its metropolitan schools. Wake County (857 square miles) is about the size of Onondaga County (806 square miles).

Another positive example of countywide school desegregation that advocates can point to is Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County, Kentucky. With one metropolitan city-county government with one school district, Louisville is often cited as a model of metropolitan government that Syracuse/Onondaga County should follow. Louisville schools were desegregated by court orders in the 1970s providing for extensive long distance bussing over the vehement protests in the suburbs and from the teachers union. But after about five years, the desegregated schools had broad popular support. They were seen as better schools by both parents and teachers. In the 1970s, 98% of suburban voters had opposed integration. In 2011, 89% of the county's parents supported integration. In 2006, the bussing plan was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court as too burdensome for students. The community responded by continuing integration within sub-regional “clusters” of schools that were just as integrated as the schools were when there was countywide bussing. This idea of integration within sub-regional districts to avoid the burdens of long-distance bussing would be especially applicable in Onondaga County, which is about double the size of Jefferson County (398 square miles).

Desegregation is not just an issue between the city and surrounding towns. It is an issue within the towns as well. Pompey provides a clear example. The northern part of the town consists of upscale neighborhoods with average incomes of over $100,000. These neighborhoods fall within the Jamesville-Dewitt or Fayetteville-Manlius school districts, which are among the highest performing school districts in the state. The southern part of the town consists of neighborhoods with average incomes of about $52,000. These neighborhoods fall within the much lower performing Fabius-Pompey School District.

Resist Public School Receivership and the Test-Punish-and-Privatize Agenda

Instead of pursuing desegregation, in a sad reincarnation of the discredited Jim Crow policy of “separate but equal” state education policy currently purports to improve education in what will remain segregated schools.

The state's test-punish-and-privatize school reform agenda, however, does not improve education for children in disadvantaged communities, but only punishes them simply for being segregated and poor.

It destabilizes school districts with constantly changing state mandates. The policy leads to the conversion of public schools to private charter schools in disadvantaged communities, further draining the resources of the remaining public schools. It hands the powers of the democratically-elected school board to a “receiver” who has the power to replace teachers, lengthen the school day or year, change the curriculum, override union agreements, or order their conversion to charter schools. As a result, many teachers flee from teaching in disadvantaged communities in order to find job security in more advantaged communities. Students who get defined by high-stakes testing as failures get pushed out of the schools and into streets in a school-to-streets-to-prison pipeline that has already given Syracuse one of the highest black incarceration rates in the nation, in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The standard under the state's receivership law for defining schools as “struggling” is based largely on student scores on high-stakes standardized tests, which unsurprisingly define the students, teachers, and schools in disadvantaged communities as “struggling.” The lowest testing 5% of schools in the state are defined as “struggling.”

“Struggling” schools are placed under the receivership of the district superintendent, who usurps the powers of the democratically-elected school board that hired him or her. If the superintendent cannot show improvements on test scores, attendance, graduation rates, and other measures over consecutive two years, the state will step in and appoint an external “independent receiver” for three years, which is likely to be a charter school, the industry that lobbied hard for the receivership law.

9 of the city's 34 schools are currently defined as “struggling” and under the control of the superintendent as “receiver.” All of the schools targeted for receivership in Syracuse and around New York State have high percentages of students living in poverty and are in the state's most chronically underfunded school districts. In 2015, when the receivership program began, more than half of Syracuse's schools – 18 of 34 – were defined as “struggling.” In 2016, this number was reduced to nine. But even if nine schools are privatized into charter schools, the loss of public school funding to these charter schools will put the public school district into extreme financial distress and possible insolvency, which could lead to complete privatization of the city's schools.

Syracuse must demand that the state fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide adequate and equitable funding for a “sound, basic education” and support desegregation instead of reinforcing it with its test-punish-and-privatize agenda.

Full Funding – Adequate and Equitable

The city of Syracuse is the 9th poorest school district in the state, but it ranks 84th in per-pupil spending. Syracuse students receive 38% less funding per student than Rochester and Buffalo students even though Syracuse schools are the only schools that have increased their enrollment since 2008.

The New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled in June 2017 that Syracuse public school students do not have access to a “sound basic education” mandated by the state constitution. The court cited the following conditions as evidence:

  • Lack of qualified teachers and principals

  • Low levels of support staff

  • Outdated curricula

  • Unsuccessful English as a second language programs

  • Overly large class sizes

  • Lack of basic materials such as textbooks and chalk

  • Reduction in after-school and summer programs

  • Inadequate and unclean buildings and facilities

  • Poor standardized test proficiency

  • High failure and drop-out rates

  • Poor English proficiency

  • Inability to meet basic requirements to gain admission to colleges

The ruling came as part proceedings in the lawsuit to force the state to equitably and adequately fund New York’s public schools that was brought by New Yorkers for Students' Educational Rights, a coalition of public school parents from across the state including Syracuse.

The city should demand that the state to fully implement the Foundation Aid Formula established by the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007, which was enacted as a result of the decision of the New York State Court of Appeals in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that the state must fulfuill its state constitutional mandate to provide every New York student a “sound basic education.” The Foundation Aid Formula went part way toward establishing a relationship between state aid, the needs of students, and a district’s ability to raise revenue. New York State stills owes $4.3 billion in Foundation Aid to schools statewide – and $83 million this year to Syracuse schools – on this funding promised in 2007. The state aid formula needs to be further reformed in order to reduce gross inequities in per-pupil spending that remain across the state and to provide the resources needed to improve educational outcomes in high-need school districts like Syracuse.

Given the resistance of state government to fulfill its constitutional mandate to provide a “sound basic education” to all children, it is time to make that mandate more explicit and unavoidable with an Equal Education Amendment to the state constitution that requires the state to provide enough funding per student to every school district to meet the state's educational standards, including additional funding to help persistently low-achieving schools with services to help raise their academic outcomes.

Universal Pre-K

Voluntary enrollment of 3- and 4-year olds in high quality Pre-K should be available to all city children and integrated into the K-12 system. Quality Pre-K has proven to especially help low-income children prepare academically and all children prepare socially and emotionally for school and life. Studies show that children with a preschool education are more likely to be healthy, finish high school, avoid incarceration, repeat grades, require special education, and earn more income. The return on investment in public savings in the school, health care, and criminal justice systems ranges from $4 to $12 for every $1 spent on preschool.

The city school district currently provides pre-K for all 4-year olds and low-income 3-year olds on a first-come, first-serve basis for limited seats. The goal should be to secure the funding to make quality pre-K through the city school district available to every child whose parent and guardian wants it for them.

Community Schools

Community Schools serve as both an educational institution and a center of community, where students receive high-quality academic instruction, families can access social services, and communities congregate to share resources and address their common challenges. They are aimed at meeting the needs of students and families in disadvantaged communities.

Several of the Syracuse schools on the state’s struggling schools list and under receivership of the superintendent are receiving state funding to be community schools. This program should be extended to the schools that got off the list but still face the same challenges as schools with mostly poor children. We must stop the pattern of extra funding for school improvements that is cut off when the school improves and then it drops back down again in performance.

School Discipline

The restorative justice principles in the current school district Code of Conduct must be followed through on. The Code of Conduct remedies the procedural injustices and discrimination that contributed to the disproportionately high disciplinary and suspension rates for black, brown, and disabled students, especially for insubordination and nonviolent conduct.

The school district suspended 30% of its students in the 2012-13 school year, one of the highest rates in the nation. It led to intervention by the state Attorney General to remedy these violations on federal civil rights laws and an agreement with the school district to revise its Code of Conduct and use restorative justice principles to increase safety, respect, and fair treatment for teachers and students alike.

Suspensions increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of school and enter the school-to-prison pipeline. Studies show that removing a student from a classroom for disruptive conduct does not improve the performance of the remaining students. In-school disciplinary alternatives better address student misconduct without the negative effects of out-of-school suspensions.

Safety and order in the classroom remain a problem in the schools. Solving that problem means addressing the conditions of poverty and discrimination in the surrounding community as well as in the schools.

Fiscal Independence

In most school districts, school boards submit their budgets to voters for approval. While each of the Big 5 school districts (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) have varying degrees of programmatic control, they are all fiscally dependent on their cities and cannot levy taxes or determine independently how much they will spend. Fiscal independence would require a state constitutional change.

Fiscal dependence means that education competes with other city services. Education in the Big Five is funded within constitutional tax limits and municipal debt limits. Limits on the fiscally independent districts are not as stringent, although they are subject to public budget votes.

Syracuse should seek enabling legislation from the state to become fiscally independent in order to end the funding competition between school and other city needs and give its citizens a direct say on approving school budgets. If Syracuse schools are to consolidate and desegregate schools with adjacent more affluent school districts, they will have to become fiscally independent.

No to Mayoral Control – Keep the Elected School Board

Mayoral control of the schools is a bad idea. Historically, mayoral control has sacrificed school quality to the corruption of political machines that hand out school jobs and contracts on the basis of patronage for political loyalty instead of qualifications. Elected school boards were introduced to remedy this corruption.

In bigger cities like Syracuse, school board elections minimize undue political influence, patronage, and the pitting of schools against other municipal fiscal needs.

Elected school boards have much more focus than a mayor with many competing concerns in working with a superintendent to form a cohesive plan for the schools.

School board elections encourage individuals from throughout the community with diverse backgrounds and experiences to seek office. Opposing candidates can base their campaigns upon particular positions that promote extensive public discussion and give the voters a clear choice.

We should reform the election the school board to a system of proportional representation that gives every viewpoint on school policy its fair and proportional share of power and representation.

School Reform Requires Broader Social Reform

Poverty concentrated by race and class segregation and reinforced by the underfunding of schools in disadvantaged communities are the root sources of the achievement gap.

In addition to improving and equitably resourcing all schools, we must reduce race and class disparities in order to close the achievement gap.

A successful education reform program to close the achievement gap must be a broader social reform program including:

  • Desegregation by class and race.

  • Guaranteeing economic security: a guaranteed income above poverty, a living-wage job for every adult willing and able to work, affordable housing, and comprehensive health care, as well as quality education.

  • Breaking down the division of labor in the private, public, and non-profit sectors alike between middle-class jobs requiring initiative, creativity, and collaborative problem-solving and working-class jobs requiring unquestioning obedience to work as directed. These differences in work experience and status are reproduced in differences in how middle-class and working-class children tend to be reared and prepared for learning in school.

Martin Luther King, Jr. connected education reform to broader social reform for the Syracuse community in a speech at Syracuse University on July 15, 1965. He warned that school segregation was increasing in the northern cities like Syracuse and that it would further entrench inferior schools, discrimination, and poverty unless education reform was tied to broader social reform.

You have asked me to speak on education, which is of primary concern to the civil rights movement....I must warn at the outset that the evils which flourish in our public schools in every section of the nation...have deep common roots. I do believe that the expiration of these roots cannot be finally accomplished without overcoming the intertwined degenerative evils of discriminatory housing and employment which afflict not only the Negro but an even larger number of whites. Indeed, the time is at hand to formulate the basic strategy which boldly and once and for all seeps away all discrimination and brings an end to the multi-faceted scourge of poverty....

Allow me to dwell for a few moments on certain aspects of de facto segregation in our leading northern cities. In the South, however small and slow the change, the general direction is toward reducing the number of Negro children attending segregated schools. But in the North, the trend toward school segregation is accelerating. Urban segregated housing patterns, plus increasing Negro population, plus lack of job opportunities, plus outward movement of white students to suburbs and private schools, have combined to sharply increase the rate of effective segregation of ghetto schools.

King went on to outline an anti-poverty program that he had said was needed to address the “deep common roots” of problems in the public schools. He called for an economic Bill of Rights, including a minimum income above poverty, a job guarantee, desegregated affordable housing, desegregated quality education, and free public health care.

He concluded that arguing that economic security for all Americans would uproot the economic anxieties that buttress discrimination against minorities and the poor.

While Negroes form a large percentage of America's disadvantaged, there are many more millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill. It is a simple matter of justice that America in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor. A Bill of Rights for the disadvantaged, applicable to white and Negro families alike...could mark the rise of a new era....where the brotherhood of man will be undergirded by a secure and expanding prosperity for all.

The next Mayor of Syracuse should take heed of King's call for broad social reform as the foundation for effective education form.


The hiring of the next city police chief is one of the most important decisions the next mayor must make. The culture of policing must change with respect to hiring and promotion in the department and with respect to interacting with the community.

The 1980 federal consent decree to remedy past discrimination against Blacks by the Syracuse Police Department set a goal of 10% Black officers in all ranks. The goal was 10% because that was the percentage of Blacks in the city at that time. Today Blacks are 28% and all people of color 49% of the city. Yet today, only 7% of the police officers in any rank are Black, Latino, Asian, or Native American. Moreover, 92% of police officers live outside the city. 37 years after the federal consent decree, this lack of progress is unacceptable.

"Equal Justice Under Law" is engraved on the U.S. Supreme Court building. But Onondaga County persistently has among the highest racial disparities in drug sentencing of all counties in the U.S., which has the most prisoners and highest incarceration rates in the world by far. In 2007, a study found that blacks in Onondaga County went to prison on drug offenses at 99 times the rate of whites, which was the second highest racial disparity in sentencing in the nation.

We need radical reform of policing, criminal justice administration, and crime reduction policies.

The Richmond Model of Community Policing and Neighborhood Safety

I will hire a police chief committed to diversifying the police force and to real community policing. I will use the reforms and positive results over the last decade in Richmond, California as a model for police reform. Richmond is a working-class city with 80% people of color, which had earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in America for its high murder and crime rates. Under a Green mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, who began the first of her two four-year terms in 2006, Richmond hired a police chief committed to diversifying the police force, to community policing, and to providing help to at-risk youth as central components of a crime reduction policy.

The new police chief, Chris Magnus, replaced aggressive paramilitary “street teams” with real community policing – not a small group within the department for public relations, but every officer assigned to specific neighborhoods to patrol defined beats, often on foot or bike, and build relationships with the residents and businesses.

To address gang-related crime and shootings, an Office of Neighborhood Safety was established with a $1.2 million budget and 12 staff to work in concert with police and community and church groups in reaching out to active shooters in gangs and give them a choice: accept help (with a modest stipend and access to education, employment opportunities, counseling, and drug treatment) or expect close scrutiny and consequences for any criminal activity.

Promotion in the department was tied to successfully building positive relationships with the neighborhood, not on volume of arrests. To integrate officers into city neighborhoods, police officers were offered free apartments in public housing projects paid for by the city budget. The current president of the police officers' union is one who chose to live in public housing.

Many officers who didn't like the community policing approach left. Over Magnus' tenure, he was able to personally select 90 of the department's 140 officers and 42 of 46 supervisors.

Internal affairs investigations were removed from department headquarters to an independent Office of Professional Accountability in city hall. Richmond's Citizens' Police Review Commission employs a professional investigator who has the power to subpoena officers and question them under oath.

The change in the culture of the Richmond Police Department was exemplified when Chief Magnus held up a “Black Lives Matter” sign at a December 2014 vigil for Michael Brown, who was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the previous August.

The reforms in Richmond corresponded with major reductions in violence and crime. After decades with homicides routinely exceeding 40 per year dropped from 42 in 2006 to 11 in 2014, the lowest on record. Homicides rebound to the low 20s in 2015 and 2016 as budget constraints cut both police officers and the Office of Neighborhood Safety. Violent crimes dropped by 23% and property crimes by 40% between 2006 and 2014 and the downward trends continued in 2015 and 2016.

The police force grew from 20% to 60% people of color over the same period. 20% of the officers were women by 2014. There were less than one officer-involved shooting per year over the same period. No residents were killed by a police officer in Richmond between 2008 and 2014. In nearby Vallejo, with similar demographics and crime rates, 6 residents were killed in police encounters over the same period.

Reduce the Size of the Police Force

We do not need more police. We need more investment in disadvantaged neighborhoods to address the roots of street crime in poverty and hopelessness. We also need to treat drug abuse as health problem instead of a criminal problem treated with mass incarceration.

The city cannot afford more police at this time of fiscal distress. Police are the best-paid city employees. 260 police officers and fire fighters made over $100,000 in 2016. By state law, police may retire with good pension and health benefits after just 20 years of service, which means officers retiring in their forties will be drawing on the city budget for many decades.

More than 100 police officers are eligible for retirement now. We should use their attrition to both reduce the size of the force and increase the racial diversity of the force with new hires.

Syracuse currently has nearly twice as many police per capita as the average for cities between 100,000 and 200,000. The average is 16.1 officers per 10,000 residents. In Syracuse, it is 28.7 police per 10,000 residents. According to state Division of Criminal Justice Services data going back to 1978, the relative size of the Syracuse police force has ranged from a high of 36.4 officers per 10,000 residents (505 officers) in 2009 to a low of 23.4 officers per 10,000 residents (398 officers in 1984). The most officers on the force was 526 in 1997. The current city budget provides for 465 officers, up 31 officers over the previous year. An additional 79 officers with the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety who do joint patrols with Syracuse police in the university neighborhoods. 

We need enough police to catch criminals who committee violent and property crimes, for reasons of justice and deterrence. But we cannot saturate the streets with enough police to deter all crime before it is committed without creating a police state that takes away our civil rights and liberties.

Crime of all kinds in the city has been trending down for two decades except for shootings and homicides by young people. Syracuse ranked 6th in the nation among all cities of 50,000 or more in teenagers killed or injured by gun violence from 2014 through June 2017. The motives for the shootings tend to be about respect, status, and revenge, not money. More police cannot prevent these shooting. Police are needed to catch the shooters after the fact. To reduce and prevent the shootings, help for these youth, from outreach workers and real community policing, will be more effective that simply hiring more police.

It is asking too much of the police to deter all crime. It is no secret that street crime, particularly poor-on-poor crime, increases with the geographic concentration of poverty. Aristotle observed over 2,300 years ago that “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” The best anti-crime program is an effective anti-poverty program.

If we do more to reduce crime by investing in poor neighborhoods, we will need fewer police. A conservative estimate of the average Syracuse police officers’ salary and benefits per year is $100,000. $100,000 could provide three living-wage jobs for currently poor people who could work in jobs that meet other public needs in the city. $100,000 could provide for three outreach workers to help at-risk youth. These jobs would do more to reduce poverty and crime in the city than more police officers.

It is also true that white-collar corporate crime inflicts many, many times more deaths, injuries, and money and property stolen from the public than all street crime combined. Corporate crime is an issue that public prosectors and elected officials must address for a crime reduction program with the biggest public benefit.

Reduce Police Overtime

I will hire a police chief who can manage staffing with minimal resort to overtime. Overtime costs are out of control. Between 2012 and 2015, police overtime doubled to $13 million in fiscal 2015.

Police have abused overtime. For instance, they conducted over 1000 background checks of Pop Warner volunteers on overtime, against stated department policy. Or to take another case, former Sgt. Thomas Connellan, for 14 years the public face of the police department as its the media spokesperson before become an aide to Representative Katko, plead guilty to grand larceny for collecting police overtime pay while he was actually working another job, among other misdeeds including perjury and falsifying reports. Connellan got a plea deal where he only had to pay the money back with three years conditional discharge for something that an ordinary civilian would be sent to years in prison for. These kinds of abuses of Syracuse taxpayers undermine trust in the police.

The state’s Police and Fire Retirement System bases pension on the three highest years of compensation instead of cumulative service over one’s career. This creates an incentive for officers to get as much overtime as possible in their last three years before retirement when their base pay is the highest. Such excessive and chronic overtime in the uniformed public services like police and fire results in more on-the-job mistakes, productivity-reducing fatigue, impairment akin to drinking on the job, serious health problems and injuries, and stress on officers’ families. We have to control overtime for the fiscal sustainability of the city, the health of police officers, and public safety. 

Residency Requirement

I will negotiate for a residency requirement in the next police contract. 92% of Syracuse police live outside the city.

I would seek a permanent residency requirement. That is only fair because police are the best-paid city employees and, by state law, may retire with good pension and health benefits after just 20 years of service.

As residents, police will contribute taxes, spending, and their direct stake in the city’s schools, services, and all-around quality of life.

Diversify the Police Force

More than residency is needed for racial diversity.

I will hire a police chief committed to minority recruiting and community policing linked to complementary city programs that provide opportunities, services, and mentoring for at-risk youth who are neither in school nor working and for people who are reintegrating after incarceration.

Like Richmond, California, I would tie promotion building positive relationships with the neighborhood policed, not volume of arrests, and police would be offered rent-free public housing.

Demilitarize the Police

Militarized policing is in direct conflict with the community policing that should be the approach we take to public safety in Syracuse.

Police are peace officers. They should be a peace force, not a military force.

Police serve and protect the public by working to prevent crime and violence, de-escalate conflicts, help residents in myriad ways, and arrest those who violate laws.

Militaries kill and destroy enemy combatants and assets. City residents are not the enemy of the police. Military equipment and tactics should have little place in a police force.

Unfortunately, the city police have accepted surplus military equipment that the Pentagon is offering police departments. That equipment may be given to the police department, but there are significant costs to training for their use and to maintaining them in good condition. Its use in all but extraordinary circumstances alienates the community from the police. A study out this year found that police forces with military equipment have had more violent encounters with the public with no correlation to local crime rates.

The Syracuse police have also adopted some military tactics, from the SWAT teams to the stop-and-frisk stops without probable cause in poor neighborhoods, which resemble military house-to-house searches in the Iraq War. SWAT teams, military-style uniforms for patrol officers, and “stress training patterned after military boot camps may have a negative impact on the very relationships between police and community members that are critical to the operationalization of community policing,” according to Karl Bickel, Senior Policy Analyst at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

One aspect of the military that community policing in Syracuse should adopt is the military’s close attention to training and professionalism. In the military, advancement to every major rank is associated with a professional development school. Syracuse officers should have access to professional training as they advance through their careers.


Stop the "War on Drugs" and Mass Incarceration

Reprioritize city drug policies from enforcing drug laws to harm reduction, prevention, and treatment. Treat drug abuse as a health problem, not a criminal problem. We cannot solve the drug abuse problem with mass incarceration. The War on Drugs was tried and it failed miserably.

To reduce the harms from our drug problems the city should:

  • Decriminalize marijuana possession.

  • Decriminalize opioid possession and provide safe injection sites and medical treatment for addicts.

  • Issue violation tickets and summons to city Drug Court for possession of illegal drugs for personal use instead of misdemeanor or felony drug charges.

America imprisons more people than any society on earth: almost 25% percent of the world’s prisoners with less than 5% of the world’s population. Since 1971 when President Nixon declared the War on Drugs, the state and federal prison population has grown nearly 600 percent, from 218,466 in 1974 to 1,508,636 in 2014. Over half of them are in for drug offenses. But drug abuse keeps growing.

By 2008 Americans consumed 80% of the world’s opioids and two-thirds of all of the world’s illegal drugs. Since then, the opioid addiction crisis in America has exploded, with deaths from overdoses growing exponentially. They have doubled since 2010 and grown ten-fold since 1980.

This trend has not bypassed Syracuse. In Onondaga County, opioid overdose deaths reached 142 in 2016, more more tripling the 46 opioid overdose deaths in 2012. Onondaga County has accounted for more than half of all calls in recent years to the Upstate New York Poison Center for adverse reactions to dangerous synthetic marijuana – commonly know as spike or spice. Calls have surged more than five-fold since 2011.

Drug use and abuse harms the community. It disables and financial drains the addicts. It creates demand for the underground and often violent drug distribution business. Mass incarceration of drug users rips families and communities apart, while siphoning away tax revenues that are needed for other public purposes. Mass incarceration has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities, which have had more intensive policing for drug offenses and, as noted above, in 2007 saw blacks in Onondaga County going to prison on drug offenses at 99 times the rate of whites.

Because mass incarceration has failed to reduce drug use and abuse, we need to treat drug abuse as a medical problem in order to reduce the harm to individuals, families, communities, and the public treasury. Drugs must be decriminalized so that drug users can seek medical treatment without fear of arrest.

Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. Possession of less than a 10-day supply of any drug was reduced from a criminal offense to a violation and summons to a local Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, composed of one lawyer and two social and health care workers, to determine whether and to what extent the person is addicted to drugs. The commission can refer that person to a voluntary treatment program or impose a fine or other sanctions on those who refuse treatment. The results have been a radical reduction of overdose deaths and drug-related medical problems like HIV and AIDS, a modest reduction in drug use by existing addicts, and a substantial reduction in drug use by younger people aged 15-24.

 The city of Syracuse cannot stop state and federal authorities from enforcing state and federal drug laws. But it can adopt a policy of municipal decriminalization that has the police issue a violation ticket and summons, like a traffic ticket, to a person possessing drugs for personal use to the Syracuse Community Treatment Court, commonly know as the Drug Court. This policy would be expand access to the Drug Court, which now restricts participants to people charged with a non-violent felony or misdemeanor, in need of treatment for a substance abuse, and having no prior convictions for violent felonies. Anyone with a drug problem should have access and it should not require a misdemeanor or felony charge. A violation summons should suffice.

Syracuse Drug Court supervises participants’ addiction treatment, as well as their receipt of support services. Services include treatment and assistance with education, job training, housing, employment, and counseling. If a participant is successful, misdemeanor charges are dismissed and felony charges are reduced to the underlying misdemeanor and a 1-year conditional discharge. The goal is to reduce drug dependency in nonviolent offenders and return them to their communities as productive members.

Municipal decriminalization of marijuana will undermine demand for “legal” but often more dangerous synthetic marijuana and other “designer” drugs.

In order to address the emergency of opioid overdose deaths, the city should open a safe injection site for heroin users, which will bring users into contact with medical and social services for overcoming addition without fearing arrest. A safe injection site would test drugs brought by users for potentially lethal impurities or drug combinations and ensure that needles are sanitary. They would offer other health services to users, including various forms of addiction treatment.

The experience in Switzerland and the United Kingdom with safe injection sites is a radical reduction in drug overdose deaths, substantial reductions in crimes committed by addicts, and a modest reduction in drug use. In the Switzerland sites created in the 1990s, the average period using the safe injection sites has been three years. Once addicts have their daily fix secured, they begin think about what they want to do with their lives now that it doesn’t revolve around getting money to pay for habit. Only 15% who got clean through the safe injection sites went back to using.

Seattle and Washington State are opening the first such sites in the United States. Ithaca is considering doing so. Syracuse should do so to reduce the immediate harms from opioid addiction in deaths, needle-transmitted diseases, and street crime.

Community Policing

Put a high priority on intensive community policing where officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods to patrol defined beats, often on foot or bike, and build relationships with the residents and businesses. Community policing would focus on crime prevention and cultivating community cooperation in solving crimes and quality of life issues in the neighborhood.

Office of Neighborhood Safety

Establish anOffice of Neighborhood Safety with staff to work in concert with police and community groups in reaching out to youth who are neither in school nor working and may be gang members as well as to people reintegrating into neighborhoods after incarceration. The program would give them a choice: accept help (access to education, employment opportunities, counseling, and drug treatment) or expect close scrutiny and consequences for any criminal activity.

This program would expand and build upon the Syracuse Truce program, funded by the federal Justice Department through 2019, with an expansion of the help that the program can provide to gang members who want to go straight.

Youth Jobs and Recreation Programs

Increase the hours and scope of youth programs in city parks and community centers.

Re-establish a Police Activities League for youth educational, cultural, leadership development, athletic, and sports activities.


Full State Funding for Public Defenders

Demand that the state adopt legislation to fully fund a public defender system headed by an independent public defense commission to guarantee the right to counsel.

Jury of Peers in City Courts

Change state law so defendants in Syracuse have the same right as defendants in towns to a jury of their peers from the same municipal jurisdiction.

Office of Professional Accountability

Establish an Office of Professional Accountability to conduct internal affairs probes in city hall rather than in police headquarters. The office will be led by a civilian manager to provide independent and trusted findings to the Chief of Police as a result of internal investigations completed by police Sergeants. The Chief of Police will retain sole authority to make a final determination as to the findings or discipline. The citizen is then informed of the results of the investigation.

Citizens Review Board

I will appoint a police chief who sees the Citizen Review Board as an ally not an adversary in good policing. Police work for the public. The CRB is the public's watchdog against police misconduct.

I will negotiate a contract with the Police Benevolent Association that includes cooperation with the CRB and its subpoenas of officers.

Funding for part-time consultants to help the CRB resolve complicated cases in timely fashion should continue.

The city should be transparent about releasing to the public and media citizen complaints, CRB recommendations, and police chief disciplinary actions.

The CRB's right to sue and issue subpoenas should be maintained.

Expand and Enforce the “Ban the Box” Law

Include all employers in the city, not only the city and its contractors, so that ex-offenders have equal opportunities to secure employment. The “Ban the Box” law prohibits employers from asking a potential hire to check a box on the initial job application indicating if he or she has a criminal history. Employers would have the right to know an applicant’s criminal history, but the inquiry would be deferred until a conditional offer of employment. A Ban the Box law will stop the practice of automatically disqualifying applicants who are fully qualified. With over one-fourth of American adults having an arrest or conviction and with an even higher proportion of ex-offenders in Syracuse, a full Ban the Box law will open up job opportunities to many in our community who are now excluded.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government, which is the case in 80% of civil asset forfeitures. Many police departments use forfeiture to pad their budgets. Seizures become motivated by the money rather than criminal justice objectives. Legally regaining such property is difficult and expensive for victims of asset forfeiture.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued this year a directive to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture. The federal government seized more than $4.7 billion in assets in 2012, more than six times the amount seized in 2001. New York State seized more assets per capita under the civil asset forfeiture law than all but one other state in 2014. The current Syracuse police chief has refused to disclose to Common Council what cash, cars, and other assets the department has obtained through asset forfeiture programs, which typically comes to about $400,000 per year. These assets are used off budget by the police department.

Civil asset forfeiture should be abolished entirely in state and federal law. In the meantime, the Syracuse Police Department should put the assets it receives from state and federal programs into the city’s general fund and on the city budget and balance sheet.

Sanctuary City

Syracuse should continue its policy of being a Sanctuary City, which means protecting all residents' constitutional rights under the 4th and 10th amendments to the U.S Constitution.

The 4th Amendment protects us from arbitrary police searches and seizures without a court-ordered warrant. The 10th Amendment prohibits the federal government from commandeering state and local officials to carry out federal policy.

The freedoms that all of us, citizens and non-citizens alike, should enjoy would be diminished if local law enforcement starts stopping and asking people to document their legal residence, or if local law enforcement reports the immigration or citizenship status of people arrested to federal immigration authorities.

The Sanctuary City policy promote public safety and crime reduction. They encourage members of immigrant communities to report crimes or serve as cooperating witnesses in legal proceedings, without fear that it could lead to the deportation of themselves, family members, or friends.

Requests for detention by federal immigration authorities are just that: requests – not legally binding obligations unless they are accompanied by a warrant signed by a judge. The courts have ruled that holding suspected undocumented immigrants past their scheduled jail release dates without warrants illegally violates detainees' Fourth Amendment rights. The Sanctuary City policy thus complies with the law – it does not defy the law.

The city should continue to work under state Attorney General Eric Schneidermann's guidelines for sanctuary policies:

The model provisions offered by the A.G.’s Civil Rights Bureau clarify that local New York law enforcement agencies can limit their participation in federal immigration enforcement activities in several ways, including by: (1) refusing to enforce non-judicial civil immigration warrants issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) or Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), (2) protecting New Yorkers’ Fourth Amendment rights by denying federal requests to hold uncharged individuals in custody more than 48 hours, (3) limiting access of ICE and CBP agents to individuals currently in custody, and (4) limiting information gathering and reporting that will be used exclusively for federal immigration enforcement.

The city should urge the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department, which takes custody of suspects arrested by city police, to follow this Sanctuary City policy. County Sheriff Gene Conway has said his deputies will not question people about their immigration or citizenship status or search for illegal immigrants, which is consistent with a Sanctuary City policy. But Conway has also said

he would comply with a request by ICE to detain an undocumented immigrant, which is not consistent with a Sanctuary City policy or the state Attorney General's guidelines. Conway's policy is a violation of 4th Amendment rights to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures without a court order. It discourages members of immigrant communities from reporting crimes and serving as cooperating witnesses with both the Sheriff's Department and the Syracuse Police Department because people taken into custody by the SPD are turned over the county jail administered by the Sheriff's Department.

The Sanctuary City policy should not jeopardize federal grants. The vast majority of federal grants are unrelated to immigration enforcement. The Trump administration's threats to cut off grants are unconstitutionally coercive under the 10th Amendment.

We should understand the so-called “illegal” status of undocumented residents. Being undocumented is not a crime. It is simply a violation of federal immigration law, punishable by civil penalties, not criminal penalties. Very few among us have never had a violation for a traffic or parking infraction.

We should also understand how much immigrants are contributing to our city by halting the population decline, providing employers with needed labor, and starting small businesses. According to a February 2017 report by New American Economy, foreign-born residents in contributed $1.7 billion to the metro area's gross domestic product. 10,707 city residents, 26.2 percent of all city residents, were refugees in 2014. All immigrants, including refugees, have higher levels of education than U.S.-born citizens in the Syracuse area with 30 percent of foreign-born residents and only 22 percent of U.S.-born residents having college degrees.

Undocumented immigrants are only 4% of the total immigrant community in metro Syracuse, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. While exact numbers are hard to determine, immigrants make up more than 10% of city residents. The city has taken in 10,000 refugees since 2000, who account for 7% of the city's population. Together with other immigrants, it is safe to say that well over 1 in 10 Syracuse residents is an immigrant. The Sanctuary City policy will protect the constitutional rights and public safety of these new Americans as well as native born Americans.

Syracuse Municipal Photo ID Cards

The City of Syracuse should follow the example of New York City and make free municipally-issued photo identification cards available to any Syracuse resident. Many city residents do not have photo ID for many reasons, particularly among poor people and undocumented immigrants. All Syracuse residents would benefit because it would enable their most vulnerable neighbors to better participate in the community and economy and cooperate with law enforcement. It would enable them to open checking and savings accounts, rent apartments, access health care at hospitals and clinics, get public library cards, have proof of identity in interactions with law enforcement, and have access to many buildings for social services, job seeking, and education. 


We need urban renewal, not urban removal. We need development without displacement and gentrification that reinforces race and class segregation. Development should raise up low-income people, not remove them through rising property values that price people with limited incomes out of their neighborhoods.

Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance

Require a mix of low-income, moderate-income, and market rate units in new or substantially rehabilitated housing developments.

Inclusionary zoning will address the lack of affordable rental housing in Syracuse as well as housing segregation. 65% of Syracuse residents rent and 53% of Syracuse renters spend 30% or more of their income on housing, with 29% spending 50% or more on housing. 30% of income is the federal standard for housing affordability.

It took decades of deliberate race and class discrimination to create segregated neighborhoods where the city has the highest concentrations of black and latino poverty, and 5th highest concentration of white poverty, of the nations 100 largest metropolitan areas. It will take time to desegregate our neighborhoods going forward.

But we can begin by stopping to the segregation worse. Over the last two decades city policies and subsidies have gentrified downtown, pushing low-income people out, while all low-income housing has been built in the ghettoes. More recently, the big Inner Harbor development was approved for exclusively upscale housing.

Inclusionary zoning will ensure that new housing development and re-development going forward contributes to desegregation.

Reverse Fire Department Cuts

We cannot risk deaths and property damage due to recent cuts in fire fighting capacity.

Repair and reopen Station 7.

Reverse the replacement of two engine companies at stations 6 and 7 with a single engine company at Station 1.

Reverse the reduction of firefighters on duty from 69 to 65 per shift.

Lead-Safe Housing

Lead abatement must become a top priority. It is inexcusable for Syracuse to have the nation’s highest child lead poisoning 46 years after the Surgeon General’s 1971 urgent recommendation to prevent and treat lead poisoning in children.

Safe housing is a right. It's a crime to rent properties that poison children. The lead crisis reflects our racial and economic housing segregation, with its highest concentrations of black and latino poverty, and fifth highest concentration of white poverty, among the nation’s metropolitan regions.

With 65% of city residents renting, we must start by requiring landlords to remove lead and receive a lead-safe certificate before renting. The ordinance that Common Council voted down last year requiring inspections of all rental housing every three years must be adopted to enforce lead-free renting and other housing laws.

After 20 years of funding, the city lost its federal lead abatement funding in 2015 for faulty testing procedures and quarterly reports. This poor management must be corrected. While the federally-funded county and the state-funded Green & Health Homes Initiative lead abatement programs are helping homeowners as well as landlords, the city should seek to restore federal funding for its own lead abatement program to more rapidly resolve this problem.

Lead abatement is costly. But lead in our children hurts their academic performance, memory, and motor skills. It increases their likelihood of school suspensions and then incarceration in the correctional system. If we don’t pay for lead abatement upfront, we pay even more on the back end.

Ida Benderson Senior Center

Restore funding and find a convenient downtown location to re-open.

Community Benefit Agreements

Require developers to agree to negotiated enforceable performance goals for job creation, affordable housing, and compliance with civil rights, labor, and environmental laws as a condition of permitting and public economic incentives.

Community Land Trusts

Develop Community Land Trusts that protect low and moderate income residents and enable neighborhoods as a whole to benefit from rising land values when neighborhoods improve.

Transportation Justice

The point of a transportation system is to move people, not cars as such. Too much of the city is built around accommodating cars when there are more convenient and economical modes of transportation that are crowded out by cars and parking lots, including walking, biking, and mass transit.

A Hawkins administration will:

  • push the ongoing development of complete streets with better sidewalk, bike lane, and traffic calming infrastructure.

  • work for more frequent, convenient, disabled-accessible public transportation, including bus and light rail.

  • encourage the development bike share and care share operations.

Public Housing

While home ownership market in Greater Syracuse is the most affordable of the nation’s metropolitan regions, Syracuse has a shortage of affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income people. 65% of Syracuse residents rent and 53% of Syracuse renters spend 30% or more of their income on housing, with 29% spending 50% or more on housing. 30% of income is the federal standard for housing affordability.

With little federal and state investment in public housing since the 1960s and more cuts to public housing and community development block grants proposed by the Trump administration, Syracuse will have to rely on its own resources in the near future to expand rental housing for low- and moderate-income people.

An inclusionary zoning ordinance can help by creating housing developments where the market rate upscale units cross-subsidize more affordable units.

But a realistic program will require public housing. The private housing market never provided a sufficient supply of affordable rental housing. Private landlordism is not the appropriate dominant form of home ownership in a civilized society that recognizes the right to decent housing for all as it recognizes the right to education, health care, and social security.

With what limited funding the city can provide on its own, and with the hope of a recommitment to public housing from the state and federal governments in the future, the city should expand the supply of public housing according to the following principles:

  • Public housing should be scattered site, located in all neighborhoods, not just poor neighborhoods.

  • Public housing should be mixed-income. It should be available to all who choose it, regardless of class or status, so that public housing stops being segregated poor people’s housing.

  • Public housing should be expanded not only by new construction, but also by the active purchasing of existing properties on the private market and by the city taking over properties from chronically delinquent landlords by eminent domain.

  • Public housing projects should incorporate tenant democracy in the management of the project.


As the Green Party’s mayoral candidate in 2005, I presented the Greens’ vision for a Sustainable Syracuse. It was a conceptual vision, not a finalized plan, meant to provoke discussion and action. Its mission statement called for “neighborhood-directed development using green technologies and widespread community ownership to create living-wage jobs in a city that is ecologically and economically sustainable.”

2005 Sustainable Syracuse Vision Paper

Sustainable Syracuse Vision Maps and Drawings

Greater Syracuse can get ahead of the curve and prosper from leading the transition to the zero-carbon economy that the world needs to avert catastrophic climate change. City and county planning should promote regional organic food and clean energy self-reliance, as well as an ecologically sustainable and diverse manufacturing. It is time to bring together and employ the technical expertise and the idle labor, land, and buildings located right in the city to build an ecologically sustainable prosperity.

Carbon Free by 2030

Develop a plan to power, heat, cool, and transport Syracuse solely with carbon-free clean energy by 2030, as a 2013 study of powering New York State only by clean wind, water, and sunlight sources shows is technically feasible and cost effective.

A city-owned public power utility will be essential to have the power to build our own clean sources of electricity, heat, and transit and help finance green building retrofits and electrified mass transit and vehicular traffic. With the state and federal governments stalling on climate action, cities like Syracuse must take the lead to avert climate catastrophe.

Green the Interstate 81 Corridor - Build a New 15th Ward Neighborhood

Take down the viaduct, reroute through traffic onto I-481, and build a walkable green neighborhood around the old 15th Ward community street grid: a car-free neighborhood supported by mass transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure, with a central park surrounded by mixed-use, mixed-income, mixed-age development. Move commuters, shoppers, and tourists in, around, and out of the city and this core central neighborhood by building a first-class metro mass transit system instead of continuing car-dependent transit by rebuilding the viaduct or replacing it with a stop-and-go boulevard.

Deer Management

Culling urban deer with sharpshooters has not proven effective. Deer fertility and in-migration just increase in response to the available food supply.

We do need an effective response. Urban deer wreck plants and gardens. They increase vehicle collisions and injuries. They are aggressive toward people when protecting fawns.

I favor the employment of "Bark Rangers," as park rangers affectionately call their border collies that chase deer out of the resort towns in Banff and Waterton Lakes national parks in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana. Dogs have effectively protected three commercial apple orchards from deer in Oswego County, as well as a commercial vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley of Washington. They have been used in towns in British Columbia. A stray border collie even took it upon herself to protect the American Rose Center gardens in Shreveport, La. from deer and was adopted as a valued member of the staff. John W. Laundre, a biology professor at SUNY Oswego who studies predator ecology, suggested dogs to control deer in Syracuse five years ago in a Syracuse Post-Standard letter. It's past time to try this idea out.

Lyme disease is popularly attributed to ticks on deer. But scientific studies find no correlation between Lyme disease incidence and deer populations. Rather Lyme disease is associated with rodent populations, especially mice. Foxes, who feed on rodents, keep ticks and Lyme disease down in urban areas in upstate New York. So let's employ trained teams of dogs to keep the deer out and let’s protect their canine cousins, the foxes, to keep the mice and Lyme disease out.

Litter Reduction

The city's excessive litter gives a poor impression to visitors and potential new residents and businesses. It is also an environmental problem, especially from the ubiquitous plastic bags traveling down our streets with the breeze.

Here are a number of measures the city should take to reduce litter:

  • A municipal plastic bag ban. Plastic bags are a major source of litter and cause many environmental problems.
  • Strengthen litter laws and enforcement by police, corporation counsel, district attorney, and courts, with fines and sentencing violators to litter clean-up.
  • Focus enforcement at fast food establishments on both owners and customers.
  • Establish position of Litter Enforcement Officer funded with litter fines.
  • More public trash cans in neighborhood business strips and residential areas with high litter.
  • Install, service, and maintain trash cans at Centro bus stops.
  • A public civic pride anti-litter campaign, something like the “Dunk Your Junk” campaign under Mayor Young in the late 1980s, with mock basketball backboards over the trash cans.
  • Summer youth jobs picking up trash (also part of Mayor Young’s anti-litter program).
  • More focus on litter clean-up from DPW, especially on the city’s gateways.
  • Make sure NYS DOT removes litter from I-81 and I-690 and their ramps.
  • Require loads in trucks to be securely covered.
  • Instruct residents to securely cover the paper in their curbside recycling bins.
  • Instruct DPW sanitation crews to pickup recyclables that fall out of bins on trips from the curb to the truck.

Sustainable Syracuse

Sustainable Syracuse Vision Maps and Drawings

The core mission in the Greens’ vision of a Sustainable Syracuse is to create “neighborhood-directed development using green technologies and widespread community ownership to create living-wage jobs in a city that is ecologically and economically sustainable.”

While we want development at the neighborhood, city, and regional levels to be directed from the neighborhood and town level, we want to emphasize that building a Greater Syracuse that is sustainable fiscally, economically, and ecologically requires developing and nurturing local goods production. The high value-added nature of manufacturing is what creates material wealth and serves as the foundation for the service, retail, and government sectors. When Syracuse was more of a manufacturing center, the city was at its peak of prosperity. We need to return to producing much of our material wealth in our neighborhoods, city, and region in sustainable agriculture and industry, with sustainable agricultural feedstocks supplying raw materials for clean, ecological manufacturing. That requires regional planning to develop a significant measure regional food and energy self-reliance and thus a viable material base for ecologically sustainable and diverse manufacturing.

Below is a list some of the features of the original Sustainable Syracuse vision. They are listed here not as final goals but as the beginning of discussion and action toward a Sustainable Syracuse.

  • A Garden City urban agricultural corridor north-south along the Onondaga Creek corridor on the South Side and Valley, with Onondaga Creek is de-channelizes and restored as a meandering tributary creating riverfront properties and recreational opportunities.

  • An eco-industrial corridor east-west along the old Erie Canal route for clean manufacturing that builds upon the region’s existing strengths in processing agricultural products and environmental services.

  • Redig the Erie Canal from the Inner Harbor through downtown and the city to the East to bring an east-west water corridor to be enjoyed across the city.

  • Greenways for bikes and pedestrians networking the city, free from auto traffic.

  • Pedestrian walkways in downtown and neighborhood business districts.

  • Rebuild a light rail system for Syracuse, perhaps an overhead, on-demand Personal Rapid Transit on elevated rails above the streets and greenways.

  • A central park for the city at the core of mixed-use development when the elevated portion of Interstate 81 is taken down.

  • If/when Destiny USA becomes economically unviable, convert the area into a mixed-use, mixed-income community, with apartments for seniors and families, a community center, a grocery store, a mass transit link to downtown, and a publicly accessible waterfront on Onondaga Lake.

  • If the Inner Harbor project as approved stalls, go back and do it the right way, as a mixed-use, mixed-income "new urbanism" community more along the lines of the Andres Duany proposal once displayed in a conceptual drawing at the Inner Harbor.

These are ideas for discussion. The most important component of the Sustainable Syracuse vision is a democratic process that empowers the people of Syracuse to choose sustainability. Ecological and economic sustainability obviously requires renewable sources of energy and materials and viable businesses that can meet their expenses over the long term. Sustainability principles often also call for social equity or environmental justice so that everyone enjoys the fruits of a new green economy. But what is often missed is the democracy that gives us the power to choose sustainability over the profit and power interests of the powerful outside forces of big business and central government bureaucracies.

That is why we call for Neighborhood Planning and a strengthened Department of Planning and Sustainability, as well as democratic Community Enterprises, so we can make our own decisions about sustainable development.

Neighborhood Planning

The most important feature of the Sustainable Syracuse vision is not the particular projects we suggest, but empowering the people of Syracuse to make the decisions on the particulars. Empowering the people to make these decisions requires Neighborhood Assemblies in each of the city's real neighborhoods where residents can debate, decide, and instruct representatives on reviewing and updating the citywide Comprehensive Plan and determining their own Neighborhood Plans.

Strengthen the Department of Planning and Sustainability

The city needs its own planning capacity if it going to do more than just react to developers’ proposals. It needs to do real urban and community design, not just administer zoning rules. It should be staffed with urban and community designers, architects, and engineers – and artists who can put design ideas in graphic form for the Neighborhood Assemblies and city officials to evaluate. The department should also recruit and facilitate the involvement of professors and students from area’s universities in providing this expertise. The City Planning Department would not make planning decisions. Its role would be to provide expert consultation to the democratic planning process based in the Neighborhood Assemblies and to the evaluation of developers' proposals by the assemblies and city officials.


Syracuse needs to speak up for itself if we are ever to have a reasonable urban policy out of the federal government that will enable us to meet our real needs.

The federal government is wasting our tax money on war and militarism, corporate welfare, and restrictions on our rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, it is failing to address people’s basic needs and the global climate crisis.

As Mayor, I would speak out on these issues and work with other cities in calling on our federal representatives to stop the wars, cut the military budget, fund our domestic needs, and restore our constitutional rights and civil liberties.

Stop the Wars and Bring the Troops Home

The US military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Libya are all part of a complex regional war for oil, gas, pipelines, and globally strategic military bases (Jason Leopold, "Eager to Tap Iraq's Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion," July 3, 2009,; Pepe Escobar, "Pipelineistan Goes Af-Pak," May 12, 2009,; Robert Dreyfuss, “Obama’s NATO War for Oil in Libya,” The Nation, August 23, 2011; Gareth Porter, “The War Against the Assad Regime Is Not a ‘Pipeline War’," September 21, 2016).

The idea that these wars are a “war on terror” is just cover for terroristic war by the U.S. military. Drone warfare, killing by remote control, has become the preferred way of conducting the “war on terror” in the Middle East and North Africa, with U.S. Air Force now training more drone “pilots” than bomber and fighter pilots combined. These assassinations – and the civilian deaths from “collateral damage” and outright mistakes – are viewed in the receiving countries as terrorism directed at them. They have already come back to haunt us in revengeful terrorist attacks today and, inevitably, in drone attacks on us unless we draw back from this military tactic.

Along with growing drone attacks, the US is engaged in covert military operations all over the planet. In 2016, the US Special Operations Command operated in 138 countries, 70% of the world’ nations (Nick Turse, "Special Ops, Shadow Wars, and the Golden Age of the Gray Zone," January 5, 2017,

To provide the infrastructure for drones, special operations, and conventional military engagements, the U.S. maintains global military empire of nearly 1,000 bases in over 100 foreign countries. This empire is undermining our republic – economically by the costly misuse of limited resources, politically as rights are sacrificed for secrecy and security, and strategically as US military occupations of other countries naturally generate hostility toward the occupiers.

These wars are undermining, not protecting, the security of the American people. Impoverished people in these countries pose no threat to the US as long as we leave them alone in their own countries. We should buy their oil and gas on the world market, not try to steal it from them at much greater expense.

Police work, not wars of occupation, is how to catch and bring terrorists to justice, as the military think tanks know full well (Rand Corporation, "How Terrorist Groups End: Implications for Countering al Qa'ida," July 28, 2008).

To build peace, the U.S. should become the world’s humanitarian superpower, making friends instead of enemies, by building schools, clinics, water and sewage treatment facilities, and solar and wind power installations, and other useful physical and social infrastructure around the world. This peace building would be far less costly than drones, special forces, occupying armies, military bases, and naval armadas.

Cut the Military Budget and Invest the Peace Dividend in Human Needs

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children....

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

– President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” April 16, 1953

Syracuse taxpayers pay over $100 million a year in income taxes for US military spending, according to the National Priorities Project, which uses the $528 billion Department of Defense base budget for its figure. A more comprehensive accounting of all military spending by the Departments State, Homeland Security, and Energy (nuclear weapons), the intelligence agencies, veterans benefits, and the military share of interest on the national debt yields $1.1 trillion for FY 2017/2018, which would be over $200 million a year paid by Syracuse taxpayers. Compare that to the city budget for FY 2017/2018: $720 million – $293 million for city operations and $427 million for the city schools.

U.S. military spending in recent years has been at a higher level than any time since World War II – higher than any year of the Vietnam War, the Cold War, or the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (Winslow Wheeler, "How Obama Will Outspend Reagan on Defense," June 17, 2009; William Hartung, “Why Can’t We Rein In This Ridiculous Military Spending?Mother Jones, October 30, 2016).

Restore Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties

The Secret Evidence Act (1996), the Patriot Acts (2001, 2006), the Homeland Security Act (2002), the Military Commissions Act (2006), and Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 are all still in force. These laws violate our constitutional rights, civil liberties, and international war crime treaties by legalizing warrantless email and phone surveillance, secret detention, indefinite detention, arrests without charges and no access to lawyers or habeas corpus, secret "evidence," torture, military tribunals for civilians, and "extraordinary rendition" to the CIA’s global network of secret torture centers.

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Howie Hawkins is the 2017 Green candidate for Syracuse Mayor
Hawkins for Mayor