- This could be the year that Say Yes to Education becomes the game changer that its supporters have always claimed it would be. Since its introduction six years ago, the innovative program that promises college tuition to Syracuse city school students and support for all students striving to graduate has specialized in lowering expectations. As a result, its message has gotten muddled, critics multiplied and we are still waiting for that influx of parents to move to the city to take advantage of the Say Yes promise.
- In 2014, Say Yes will stop talking about collaboration as its greatest achievement. That’s like Scott Schafer telling us how great the Orange huddle is. As Say Yes reduces its funding for the schools, it should start a campaign to fearlessly promote Syracuse. Billboards will appear all across the Northeast asking this question: “Do you know that there is a town where you can buy a lovely four-bedroom home for $80,000 and send your kid to college for free? (Bring snow shovel).” City planners who seem to think we can repopulate the city with artists and retirees alone need to look at this market. Pricey urban areas across the mid-Atlantic region are loaded with debt-ridden young parents wondering how they will help their own kids succeed. Say Yes can drive them here and make Syracuse a Rust Belt success story.
Say Yes program/Michael Davis photo
- Is the Say Yes promise sustainable? Watch the fund set up to sustain the scholarships. It is creeping toward the halfway mark to its goal of $20 million. It’s all about the fund. Heavy hitters like Neil Goldberg, of Raymour and Flanigan, and Jack Webb, of NBT Bank, say it will happen. The Community Foundation has just kicked in another million. Watch the fund.
- Of course, we then have to believe that the schools will get better. Expect hard questions in 2014 from incoming school board member David Cecile, who knows the inside of a classroom very well. Watch for headhunters from other mid-sized districts to be courting Syracuse Superintendent Sharon Contreras.
Syracuse school Superintendent, Sharon Contreras/ Michael Davis photo
- While much attention is focused on the downtown revival and the Near West Side, watch a couple of small neighborhoods for examples of how community activists are working to improve the places where they live. Hawley-Green and the Oxford-Midland neighborhoods have weeded out bad elements and promoted responsible development, and you can see the contagious effect. There is no neighborhood in Syracuse that can’t be turned around by a dozen dedicated folk.
- Syracuse.com, after a serious review of the vile and sometimes racist online sewer that has become the comments section, decides to do something about anonymous posting. Henceforth, a software fix will automatically attach a name to these cowardly rants. The new name, randomly selected, will be “Tim Kennedy.” The New Times policy of allowing only people willing to put their name on their ideas to post will remain in effect.
- WikiLeaks will release its latest trove of documents obtained from Edward Snowden. Among them will be a secret campaign memo from the camp of Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) explaining the logic of his votes on Obamacare and decoding his public statements on NSA spying. Snowden will be quoted as saying that decoding Maffei was among his greatest challenges.
Rep. Dan Maffei/ Michael Davis photo
- Next year will bring big changes in personnel at the county and city levels. All Driscolls will change their names to Walsh. All Walshes will change their names to Mahoney, and all the Mahoneys will change their names to Ryan. Nepotism will still be known as nepotism.
Ann Marie Buerkle/ Michael Davis photo