Race No Longer Matters
by New Times Staff - Wednesday, June 18th, 2014
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WHY THE RACE OF AN ELECTED OFFICIAL NO LONGER MATTERS TO ME

By Kenneth Jackson

OK, I said it: I no longer care about the race of a candidate.

As someone who’s participated more than 25 years as an activist and writer, I consider myself a “recovering politician.” Participating at all levels, I was involved in Democratic politics in the Valley at the time when blacks weren’t accepted politically south of the Matson-Dixie Line, as Matson Avenue was the cutoff for the election district. I remember 90-year-old Democrats controlling 385 weighted votes while I as a young man had only 98. Our responsibility was to get out the vote in “The Valley.” That’s where I was told, “Blacks can’t run here.”

In Syracuse and Onondaga County 2014, there are more African-American elected officials than ever, and yet I have no feeling of pride, as I’ve felt with President Barack Obama.

That feeling of empowerment is absent as we’ve reached total domination of the Syracuse Common Council. Sam Roberts is an assemblyman, and for a minute it appeared that a call to those officials would result in greater access to the political system, a harbor for those who are electorally homeless.

But as I scan the horizon of our great city, I have to question as an African-American activist what has this done for us, the African-American community?
Activists who were once demanding inclusion have become the problem. How are you going to advocate for others when you have a separate agenda for yourselves?

How can you advocate for Mother’s Against Gun Violence when you scowl at me after an entire block of citizens met with you to complain, Councilor Helen Hudson? Sewer flushing for our block is not allowed, but it doesn’t prevent Onondaga County from extracting sewer fees. For several years, raw sewage was being drained from a home into the ground until the driveway bulged due to a growing ball of human waste. Meetings were held; they went nowhere. In fact, Hudson complained about her sewer replacement and even told us the cost.

Excuse me. We pay you to represent us. Get it?

I could name each name and the incident, but that would take too much time.

How can you empower a struggling black community when you don’t respond to complaints? When the state Assembly paid appointed staff to promise jobs to desperate African-Americans in search of employment only to have them show up and find that there were no jobs? A former aide to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton quit and left Syracuse. The same office handled complaints from a minority business enterprise that went missing, went nowhere. No follow-up phone call or letter.

These actions or lack thereof didn’t involve one single white person.

 FROM STATE CHAMPS TO HOMELESS

By Walter Bowler

The 2013-14 Onondaga Youth Hockey Association (OYHA) 14U hockey team won the state Tier III championship in March. It placed second in the Northeast Regional tournament against teams from six other states, and the boys were honored on May 21 in Albany by state Sen. John DeFrancisco and his colleagues. It was the second time in three years that a 14U team from OYHA, which is not affiliated with the Onondaga Nation but has played at the arena in Nedrow for the past 12 years, earned the state championship.

Fast forward another month, and this group of boys – and all the OYHA players – are without a rink.

In April, the city said the Meachem ice rink would close until Syracuse could come up with $1.5 million for repairs. This threatened to leave the Valley Youth Hockey Association without a place to play. Thankfully, early this month Mayor Stephanie Miner announced with State Sen. David Valesky and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli that money from the state would allow the city to repair the rink.

But officials from the Valley association had already sought another rink. By the time the money was found to save Meachem, Valley hockey was close to a deal with the Onondaga Nation to play in Nedrow. The contract has been approved.

At the announcement of the Meachem repairs, Valley association President Pete Thomson said, “Meachem is our home ice.” It has now become clear that Valley wants to lock up the ice both at the Onondaga Nation and at Meachem, where, Thomson said, “our kids are comfortable.”

“Having two rinks will open up many possibilities for us,” Thompson wrote of the contract for the Nedrow rink.

He failed to mention the effect on the OYHA of Valley’s effort to tie up two rinks. It would be sad if the good work of Miner, Valesky and Magnarelli to save Meachem comes at the expense of the OYHA.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The futures of both rinks are secure, and there are two hockey organizations that need a place to play. The solution is obvious, right? Valley moves to Nedrow, and OYHA goes to Meachem. OYHA has been assured by Miner’s administration that it will have a chance to bid for the Meachem rink.

Until now, there was room in southern Syracuse for both Valley and OYHA teams; there should be room for both going forward. The Valley organization wants to grow, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of the children and families of the OYHA.

Walter Bowler is the father of P.J. Bowler, a goaltender on the 2013-14 Onondaga Youth Hockey Association (OYHA) 14U state championship hockey team.

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