Syracuse Stephanie Miner has taken a hard line on the need for more solutions for struggling municipalities, and she’s butting heads with the state’s top leader: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Miner makes no apologizes for her outspokenness on the issue, or her scathing op-ed in the New York Times today that knocks Cuomo’s pension-smoothing plan and calls for him to do more to solve local governments’ woes.
“I’m the mayor of the city of Syracuse. I live here. I see every day the importance that services provide to the people of our city, and we struggle every day with how to afford them as state mandates, like pensions, crowd our ability to pay for services,” Miner said in a telephone interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau this afternoon.
“This is not something I can look past. I have a responsibility to represent my people and I have a role to play to talk about that.”
Miner said she’s not concerned about potentially crossing the de facto head of the Democratic Party — which she happens to co-chair at Cuomo’s behest.
“I think that’s a democratic process, to have a discussion about policies and if we get into a position where only one person’s views in our party or in our state are allowed, I think the people of the state are going to suffer for that,” Miner said.
She said she hasn’t spoken recently with the Cuomo administration. When asked she thinks they are unhappy with her, she said, “I don’t think that they are pleased.”
But she added, “We’re professionals. I’m trying to solve problems for the people of Syracuse and the people of Syracuse are New Yorkers and he’s the governor of New York state.”
Syracuse, like other upstate cities, is struggling with growing costs, a decline tax base and poverty. Half of the city’s properties are tax exempt.
Miner, who is seeking re-election this fall, said she’s worried about cities in New York becoming like Harrisburg, Pa., the bankrupt state capital that can’t even fix its sinkholes.
She said Cuomo needs to convene city and state leaders to dig deeper into ways to help the state’s municipalities. She said reforms to arbitration laws should be considered, as should allowing governments to recoup fees for services from tax-exempt properties.
“I think that the governor should exercise the leadership, which he has done before with other intractable problems, get everybody around a table and say, ‘Okay, let’s everybody start to figure out how do we get to a solution that puts municipalities on stable, financially responsible footing.'”
Earlier today, Cuomo’s top aide Howard Glaser said the Syracuse mayor shouldn’t look for state hand outs and should find ways to balance her books.
Earlier this week, Cuomo said he has done more to curb state mandates than any governor in recent history.
“We have even more mandate relief in this budget. We have done more mandate relief over the past two years than government has done in decades, literally,” Cuomo said in Poughkeepsie.