We all make New Year’s resolutions, even our elected leaders. But while most of us are trying to commit to more gym time or spending more time with family, our local municipal leaders are resolving to provide better services, more efficient government and more value for our tax dollars.
Read on to find out what some of your newly-elected and reelected town and county leaders have to say about what they hope to accomplish in 2014.
Town of Cicero
Supervisor Jessica Zambrano
The town of Cicero is a vibrant community that is home to many informed citizens and great businesses. As I campaigned for town supervisor, I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of residents on their doorsteps and dozens more have reached out to me via phone and e-mail to let me know what is on their minds. Because Cicero residents’ concerns these last few months have primarily focused on deteriorating road conditions, economic development, and codes enforcement, I will direct my efforts likewise.
The town board will continue to fund the highway department with $800,000 per year for road repair and maintenance, and to implement the roads equipment replacement plan for the second year of our five-year plan. While this is a significant part of our town budget, by making well-researched investments in our infrastructure, we can continue to maintain our appeal to businesses and families alike.
It is noteworthy that the town is receiving numerous inquiries about starting up or relocating businesses in Cicero. Despite various challenges to our economic growth efforts, the town will continue to assist business development with open communications and a streamlined planning process.
Reorganization of the Codes Office was completed in December with the addition of a full-time director of codes enforcement and establishment of three full-time code enforcement officer positions. All positions are now filled and the staff is moving forward to process the issuance of permits on a timely basis and to address codes compliance comprehensively. This should result in fewer delays in renovation/construction projects and also quicken the pace of dealing with the relatively few people who violate codes to the determent of their neighbors.
In addition to the major items above, there are some things that are smaller in scope, but still of great importance to our townspeople. The town board has installed a number of safety and security measures in the town hall, but further evaluation of our security systems in 2014 is warranted. Our seniors remain vulnerable because of their fixed incomes, so we are planning to add in-house advocacy services on a trial basis. Last, but not least, the town board is committed to improving customer services and we will devote time to identifying how best to meet that objective. There are other challenges facing the town, but we have very committed and enthusiastic board members who are dedicated to improving the quality of life for all of our residents.
Councilor Michael Becallo
My top priority for this coming year is to be an advocate for the people. In 2014 I will keep working toward bringing our community together and ensure that Cicero remains a great place to call home.
Councilor Mark Venesky
In 2014, I intend to hold true to my pledge of fiscal accountability, encouraging responsible growth for our town and maintaining a commitment to our community.
I would like to see all residents get more involved in the process of government and with the government that they elected to represent them.
I look forward to working with you as we face the challenges ahead confident that we will do the right things together.
Onondaga County Third District Legislator Jim Corl
I look forward to serving as county legislator for the third district in 2014, as there are many difficult issues that need to be addressed on behalf of the residents of Onondaga County. My goals for the coming year are to look at ways we can control spending, promote economic development for our county by making it easier for businesses to expand or relocate to our area and, of course, focus on long-term planning to address our aging infrastructure.
Having the experience at the town level will be helpful when working toward attaining these goals as all municipalities face similar issues and have limited budgets. I look forward to continuing working with various municipalities to help save taxpayer dollars at every level which is a benefit to all residents.
Certainly, 2014 will be a challenging year; however, as long as we stay committed to working together we can make government more efficient and have it better serve the community.
Town of Clay
Councilor James Rowley
As we begin a new year in Clay, one of my goals as town councilor is to deal with new mandates that emanate from Albany on a regular basis in a manner least detrimental to Clay taxpayers. My new year’s request is to have the governor stop advancing schemes that are fiscally unsustainable and do nothing to help local governments and school districts cope with their fiscal difficulties. The newest Albany initiative comes from the governor’s Tax Relief Commission’s proposal to burn through $2 billion on property tax rebates. This proposal hurts Clay’s taxpayers because these precious dollars could be used to help bring much needed jobs to Central New York. A short term, one-shot tax rebate will not begin to solve the long term problem of high property taxes in New York state. While the governor’s goal of local government consolidation is understandable, the Tax Relief Commission’s proposal is the wrong way to do it. It may take a constitutional convention, but the governor must first change the laws under which local governments and school districts are organized and operate. Without this type of fundamental change, government consolidation on a scale necessary to have a chance of bending the cost curve which drives high property taxes in New York state is not possible in my opinion. In the meantime I am confident the Clay Town Board will effectively manage all the mandates and new initiatives imposed by Albany in a fiscally responsible manner.
Onondaga County Second District Legislator John Dougherty
In 2013, we achieved the lowest county tax levy since 1983. Part of this was due to a reduction in unfunded state mandates, but the rest was due to an increase in the efficiency of county government. My primary goal for 2014 is to build on this and to continue driving the county property taxes lower.
A potential challenge over the next few years is related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. More than half of the unfunded state mandates passed to the counties by New York state pay for Medicaid. With the Affordable Care Act taking effect in early 2014, some of the expenses paid for by Medicaid should be paid by the federal government. As of now, it is unknown if any of the expense of the Affordable Care Act far will be passed on to the individual states (and therefore onto the individual counties). In 2014, I will be watching these costs very closely as many Onondaga County residents get health insurance for the first time.
In 2013, we started a Land Bank in Onondaga County. This program buys tax-delinquent, abandoned or decrepit properties, renovates them and sells them to a responsible owner. So far, this program has been very successful as a few properties in the city of Syracuse and in the southern part of the county were returned to the tax rolls. The effect has been significant with entire neighborhoods seeing an improvement thanks to only a few properties being repaired. In 2014, I would like to see the Land Bank purchase and renovate some properties in the town of Clay in an effort to improve neighborhoods that are full of otherwise well-kept homes.
The Oak Orchard treatment plant is currently operating at very near capacity due to recent growth in the town of Clay. As a result, all new sewer connections are on hold in Clay and in parts of Cicero. I am currently working on a solution to this issue within the county and with the New York State DEC. In 2014, I hope to see this issue resolved so Clay can continue growing as it has been for many years.
For the past few years, the county jail has been experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of inmates suffering from mental health issues. According to state law, inmates with mental health issues that may pose a threat to themselves or to other inmates must be placed under constant watch with a dedicated jail deputy per inmate. As you can imagine, this constant watch is very expensive and putting inmates with mental health issues in the general population is less than ideal. To correct this, we are considering the construction of a mental health section at the jail. This would allow inmates with mental health issues to be separated from the general population and supervised more effectively with fewer total deputies. Over time, this will yield a substantial savings to the county. In 2014, I hope to make some real progress towards this goal.
Town of Salina
Onondaga County Fourth District Legislator Judy Tassone
First I will continue my push to see that the cleanup work of Onondaga Lake and the trail around the lake continues for the citizens of our county. I’ll also continue to fight for lower taxes, and good constituent service.
What else would you like to see from our elected officials in 2014? Tell us at Facebook.com/eaglestarreview.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.