Jan 11, 2010 Herm Card Uncategorized
For those of us who photograph and write about news events, working outdoors in single digit temperatures is a less than inviting prospect. So it was at 8:30 Saturday morning as I pulled on lined weather pants over a pair of long thermals and a pair of sweat pants, then a thermal top, a turtle neck, a hooded sweatshirt, a fleece vest and a pea coat. I completed the ensemble by packing three weights of gloves, and two knit caps in my camera bag.
It seemed a bit incongruous to be dressing this warmly for Mayor Stephanie Miner’s ceremonial inauguration in Clinton Square, since she certainly had the wherewithal to change the venue to someplace more comfortable and audience friendly.
But — this is Syracuse — this is January — this is who we are (as she would later remind the 300-plus hardy souls in attendance), so I headed downtown with a plan. I would park at the Atrium entrance on Washington Street and hang around inside (assuming it was open) until the moment she arrived. Then, braving the cold, I would shoot some photos, take some notes, and flee.
It started out fine. There was a parking spot right where I hoped and the Atrium lobby was open. And then, unbelievably, things got better. Mayor Stephanie Miner, the 53rd mayor of Syracuse, earned my everlasting respect and gratitude by revealing her concern for the common man. Not only was the Atrium lobby open, (it was crowded with people — supporters, city officials, entertainers for the event and media types) there were two tables of coffee, doughnuts and other edibles for the assembled masses. The availability of snacks is frequently a key factor in my approach to (and assessment of) an event; and this was definitely an unexpected bonus.
I ventured outside to check the layout and found a partially enclosed photographers platform raised above the crowd. Packets of hand-warmers were being distributed to the crowd — energy expert Nick Togias provided me with a pair and Fire Chief Mark McLees came to my rescue and showed me how to make them work. In the space of 10 minutes, food, shelter, warmth — three basic human needs — satisfied.
I had more coffee inside, and, at the sound of bagpipes, went to work, as the Syracuse Kiltie Pipe Band led the mayoral procession from City Hall to the Clinton Square stage. Their pace was brisk (think kilts in 8 degree weather) and the ceremony started on time — good for us all.
Another plus for the new mayor is that she made good on her promise of a 45-minute ceremony. The invocation, recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and introduction by Councilor Bill Ryan were brief. The formal (though really only ceremonial) swearing in by Judge Kate Rosenthal reflected Mayor Miner’s sense of humor, as did her remarks to the crowd.
She apologized for the weather conditions, but paid tribute to the crowd and the city, saying how touched she was by the people coming out in such conditions, and emphasizing that this represents the kind of people we are.
“I have to tell you that it was my idea to have this ceremony out in the open in Clinton Square. I did that because I truly believe that we here in the city of Syracuse have to embrace what is unique and fantastic about us. We are hardy stock, we Syracusans.”
The entertainment that followed was representative of the diversity of the city. Students of the Ed Smith (School) Notable Singers performed first, followed by the choir of the Living Waters Church of God in Christ, the ODESA (Ukrainian) Dance ensemble and the Eradication Squad precision drill team. Miner exercised her mayoral prerogative, perhaps for the first time, by asking the leader of the Living Waters choir for an encore. As he reassembled the singers, he said, smiling, “When the mayor asks .”
Following the benediction, the mayor invited the crowd to a reception in the Atrium for coffee, snacks and conversation.
I had succeeded in getting my photos, and taking my notes. So, there was nothing else to do but have another cup of coffee and a muffin and chat with people and get a pretty good idea that the new administration was off to a good start with the people on the street — especially the people who were on the street to welcome our 53rd mayor on an 8 degree January day in 2010.