On one of the coldest nights of a chilly January, Mayor Stephanie Miner warmed up the crowd in the gymnasium at the renovated St. Patrick’s School on Tipperary Hill with a story about a question asked by a young boy she met in a kindergarten class at Blodgett School. “Can boys be mayors, too?” the pupil asked Miner, the first woman to run City Hall in Syracuse. Yes, she assured him, boys can do anything that girls can do.
In the back row of the audience, a contingent from the advocacy group Save 81.org listened to the mayor, who did not tip her hand on her preference for how to deal with the aging highway. Instead, she took the opportunity to take a slap at the state Department of Transportation for failing to provide the city and the public with enough data to help with the decision. Describing the “amount and detail of information provided to the community by the state DOT thus far” as “underwhelming,” she called on DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald to offer more specifics about design, impact and the goals of the project.
Save 81.org, for its part, continues to press for the state to remove a boulevard option from consideration, citing in its numerous Facebook ads and a Jan. 17 press release a poll it released in November purporting to show community opposition to such a plan.
But 11 weeks after the release of that poll, Save 81 leaders have still not offered any details about who conducted the poll, what questions were asked nor who funded it (see: “Poll Position,” Syracuse New Times, Jan. 8).
Asked by the Syracuse New Times at the mayor’s event, town of Salina Superintendent Mark Nicotra maintained that it was paid for “by the coalition. We all chipped in.”
At the same time, Nicotra acknowledged that the group has no legal status yet and no bank account. So who wrote the check for the poll, which experts say could have cost as much as $25,000?
“I don’t know,” says Nicotra, who describes himself as “one of the leaders” of Save 81.org. “I’ll tell you when I know.”
Nicotra said he has not seen the report from the polling company about how the survey was conducted. Former city Auditor Minch Lewis, another Save81.org participant, also could not say who paid for the poll or how it was conducted. “I prefer to talk about the economic impact,” said Lewis, when asked for details about the poll.
Maffei and the NSA
Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) was in the crowd, brimming with excitement and pronouncing himself a bit nervous as he contemplates the advent of fatherhood. Maffei’s wife, Abby Davidson Maffei, is expecting the couple’s first child in August.
Maffei was asked for his reaction to President Barack Obama’s recently announced plans to reform the way the National Security Agency spies on U.S. citizens. On Jan. 17, the president said that he was giving several agencies a March 28 deadline to come up with a plan to transfer to private hands the metadata the government collects on all our phone calls. He also promised to stop eavesdropping on the phone calls of the leaders of allied countries and to provide for public advocates to testify at the secret FISA court proceedings that authorize wiretaps and other forms on domestic spying.
Maffei deferred comment for the moment, but two days later sent this communication via his press aide Whitney Mitchell:
“While keeping our country safe and protecting our national security is of the utmost importance, it is critical that Americans’ civil liberties and personal privacy are not infringed upon in the process. We must ensure the NSA is acting appropriately, and we must balance our national security with our responsibility to uphold and protect the Constitution. I have supported reforms to the NSA, like the Amash Amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which would have limited the agency’s collection of phone metadata.
“I am encouraged that President Obama is seeking reforms to some of the NSA’s intelligence programs in response to the American people’s concerns. I applaud him for canceling the NSA program that collects bulk metadata and his support for more restrictions on the NSA that will protect Americans’ civil liberties. Unfortunately, I am concerned that his call for greater transparency has not gone far enough, and I was disappointed that his speech did not address new restrictions in more detail.”
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