“When you sit in that office, you have only one constituent,” said Tom
Young, who occupied the mayor’s office from 1986 through 1993. Now he
is retired, but he goes downtown every day and puts in time working at
his son’s business, US Beverage. He tells the story of his four
children, who were school age when he ran city government, and who all
live in the city today. His six grandchildren all live in the city.
This was the first time the ex-mayor decided to come out for a
candidate in a mayoral primary, so it turned heads among local
Democrats starved for political news in the heat of summer, especially
when the only living Democrat to run the city chose to cast his lot
with Stephanie Miner.
Two-term Councilor-at-Large Miner is engaged in four-way Democratic
primary in which her principal rival is former Common Councilor, and
former Assemblyman, Joe Nicoletti. Community activist Alfonso Davis has
run an impressive race for a first-time candidate, and Carmen Harlow
entered too late to be taken seriously in many quarters. Primary voting
takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 15. On that same day Republican voters
will choose between former Parks Commissioner Otis Jennings and former
television executive Steve Kimatian.
Although Mayor Young was there to endorse Stephanie Miner, it was the
matter-of-fact tone of his remarks that impressed the most. What struck
me even more than the substance of his remarks was the volume.
In between pauses for traffic competing with his voice for the
attention of the handful of microphones surrounding him, he laid out
his reasons for endorsing Miner, praising her intellect and integrity.
When asked a question about the other candidates, he passed on what
might have been an opportunity to create a sound bite by criticizing
anyone else in the pack.
This quiet act in the drama of hometown democracy took place on the
same week that the volume on the national health care debate was rising
so high as to drown out reason, and the echoes of racist loonies
challenging the right of Barack Obama to be president were still
bouncing around. It came in a summer when politicians in Albany have
lost all credibility and the stench of corruption on the banks of the
Hudson reeks worse than Onondaga Creek after a heavy rainfall.
But on the steps of Syracuse City Hall, with very few people paying
attention, an older man who knew what it was like to be in that corner
office spoke of enduring values. A few of us wondered if the man of the
1980s was relevant any more, especially to a candidate who portrays
herself as the woman of the future. We shall see how the endorsement
Thus far, it has been a remarkably civil campaign. Each side has thrown
its share of elbows, and veiled references to personal shortcomings
ride beneath the surface of some campaign discourse. But for the most
part, the candidates are to be applauded for sticking to the issues in
what has been a very arduous slog through dozens of community forums
and meetings with constituents.
We can only hope that as the primary comes closer, the candidates
resist the urge to shout above the traffic. As politics elsewhere
descends into rule by rant, Syracuse can take pride in being a place
where reason may yet be given a chance to prevail. Whispering may
become the next in thing.