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Breaking the barrier: Van Robinson

Before any or the current announced mayoral contenders declared their intentions for this fall's race, Van Robinson's name had been prominently mentioned. Then he generally deferred those discussions with a wait-and-see attitude. Now, having declared his candidacy for President of the Common Council, he reflects, "If it was ten or fifteen years ago, I would have jumped at it. But being mayor is a 24/7 job, and now, it just doesn't fit with my family concerns. Now, I'm more interested in bringing other people along in the process, and you just can't do that as mayor."

Robinson still gets calls from people concerned with violations of their civil rights, just as he had since serving 12 years as president of the local chapter of the NAACP. A Syracuse resident since 1968, he is in the last year of his second term as a Common Councilor-at-Large. He has been actively involved with the school reconstruction issue, and sees the Say Yes program, providing college scholarships for graduates of city high schools as key to a successful future for the city. But he worries that African-Americans and Hispanics are suspicious of the program as a subterfuge, specifically to get middle class white folks back into the city.

Robinson says he would love to see city employees living within city limits, but maintains that no effort has gone into creating incentives toward that end, especially in housing opportunities.

Having lost most of the local manufacturing base, he feels economic stimulus should be applied to the transition to small information, technical, scientific and communications businesses. He is interested in creating new revenue streams, like a service fee, not a tax, on Syracuse University.

{Q}"I remember at one point there was a mayor who suggested a tax on Syracuse University," Robinson recalls, "and what happened to him."{Q}

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