The Green Party of Syracuse is looking to be a contender in the upcoming city elections. To update its party platform, it invited the public to speak and offer analysis Sunday, March 3, at the Westcott Community Center.
The party platform runs pages and pages on the website. Green Party representatives said it has not been updated since the 1990s.
“We haven’t created a local platform for as long as I’ve been around. We’re in the process of recruiting candidates for the citywide elections. We invited people who live around the city but who also have certain areas of expertise in different aspects of living in the city,” said Ursula Rozum, former Green Party congressional candidate. “We see it as a way to be participatory so it’s not just people behind a curtain making the decisions or coming up with our platforms. Our platform is based on the ideas of regular people.”
Throughout the Sunday meeting’s fourhour runtime, people stepped up to speak about the issues they felt most passionate about. There were people with index cards, notes and briefcases and others in sweat shirts with nothing but their ideas.
Notable issues included the problem of abandoned houses in the city, pension reform, legislation reform to make it easier for people with criminal backgrounds to find employment, drug reform, health care and access to legal services for the poor.
Howie Hawkins, Stephon Boatwright and Barbara Humphrey presided over the meeting, asking questions and taking notes on the ideas so they can take them into account when building the party’s new platform.
Former Syracuse city auditor Phil LaTessa spoke about the need for pension reform, citing his experience as a city employee.
“Unfortunately, we cannot afford to give the types of pensions we’ve been giving,” he said. “I became city auditor and had to contribute to pension. After completing one year, I got a letter saying I no longer needed to contribute. … They said, ‘You were in the system in the ’80s, and it’s been 10 years since then, so you don’t have to contribute anymore.’ … That’s ludicrous. Those are the types of things we need to address.”
Two of the biggest problems that were brought up more than once were abandoned houses and crime in Syracuse.
“The housing situation’s the elephant in the room,” said one speaker. “We spend millions to dig out East Genesee Street, and there are abandoned houses all over the city.”
Several other speakers mentioned concerns about affordable housing and the need to keep an eye on the city’s new land bank. The land bank is a program intended to help return vacant, abandoned, underused and tax-delinquent properties to productive use.
“The city has over 3,000 vacant lots and 19,000 vacant properties, and about 40 percent of those are in just neighborhoods and the South and West sides of the city,” said one speaker.
People proposed several solutions to crime, such as making it easier for people who have criminal records, most of which are drug related, to get jobs and end the cycle of crime.
Several people—such as Dan Cowen, a senior at Syracuse University—said they intended to run for office. Cowen, who spent the meeting scribbling on a legal pad, accompanied by a photographer with a lens the size of a forearm, said he planned to run for a councilorat-large seat.
“We’ve been talking about who may run for what,” said Hawkins. “We may not get a mayoral candidate, though I’d like to see one because I don’t think the mayor should get a free ride. Some of us might win some other offices, which will still do good for the city.”
To learn more about the Green Party of Syracuse or to submit platform suggestions, visit www.syracusegreens.org.