February 22, 2014

Hell Hath No Fury... (Part 1)

...like an economic development project scorned.

There's been a flurry of public hand-slapping in response to the opinion expressed by SU professor David Rubin that Syracuse is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to Governor Cuomo's economic development handouts.  County Executive Joanie Mahoney (in part 1), former City Auditor Minch Lewis (in part 2), and State Assemblyman William Magnarelli (in part 3) have all chimed in.

Now I'm going to.

Rubin noted in his column, A Tale of Three Cities, that there seems to be quite a difference in what's happening in Buffalo and Albany compared to what's going on here in Syracuse and Onondaga County. Personally I didn't think the column was negative (although it did have a bit of sting). I agree with Rubin, looking at the Buffalo Billion particularly, that it seems we're not being offered (or else we're not taking advantage of) similar opportunities.

Rubin chastised Mahoney and Cuomo, as well as some members of the Common Council, for the stadium plan, and supported Mayor Stephanie Miner in her decision to say no. He also had some thoughts about the 'replacement plans' for the development along the west side of Onondaga Lake, with the amphitheater being the centerpiece of the project.

All of Rubin's attempted wit or sarcasm aside, even if  Mahoney disagrees with him, which she does, strongly, is this really the reaction you'd expect from someone in her position?
Public service is not easy...I think I speak for many when I say the abuse we take when we put ourselves out there to help our communities is annoying. The negativity is loud and you are just one of the many naysayers who stand back and throw stones from afar. Instead, why don't you pitch in to help? If you think you have ideas worth considering, why don't you throw your hat in the ring and get involved? Your column has caused real harm, not only to Syracuse University but to our entire community. I think you owe an apology to the members of the City council you insulted, to the Governor, to your employer and our entire region for your irresponsible words...
Those comments came at the end of her scathing reply to Rubin; here's the end of his response to Mahoney:
I am a columnist. Columnists and journalists "get involved" by asking questions, stimulating debate, and adding to the marketplace of ideas.  That is our role in a democracy. I would of course serve Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse in other ways if asked. I have never been asked (and I guess that option is now pretty much dead)...
I'm hoping that she at least cracked a smile at that last part. At the same time, I wonder what wrath might rain down upon my head for being a citizen with an opinion?

How exactly did Rubin's column cause real harm?  His words did not bring about the end of the stadium deal; nor did they cause any businesses to pack up and leave, nor did they likely scare any businesses away from coming here. In his commentary,I don't think he exposed a single fact or opinion that can't be found in a casual review of comments in any local media outlet's discussion forums. Truth be told, he was much kinder and gentler than many of those who comment anonymously.

His words will not have any impact on the proposed project for development on the west side of Onondaga Lake.  Those plans, considered visionary by some, are actually reflective of all of the ideas that have been tossed around since the 1920s. I'd suggest that the inability of government, businesses, and civic leaders to get a plan implemented over the past eight or nine decades, as well as changing winds of fortune, the global economy, free trade, climate change, rock and roll, and Miley Cyrus have done far more real harm here and elsewhere than Rubin's words earlier this month.

And those words certainly haven't damaged SU's reputation in any way. As the home of the Newhouse School,  SU should support not only Rubin's right to express his opinion, but also understand that not all of their 1,100 or so full- and part-time faculty would agree with the plan to move out of the Carrier Dome and into a challenged area of the city. I suspect many of the 21,000+ students and thousands of alumni - or current ticket holders for that matter - also weren't consulted and might also express disapproval, if given the forum Rubin has.

We can't all be politicians, but we are all entitled to our opinions. And in my opinion, throwing stones at someone for throwing stones is, well, kind of silly. I'm glad Rubin didn't apologize; had he, I wouldn't have accepted it.

I wish that Joanie Mahoney - someone I've supported in every election where I've had the opportunity - might consider apologizing to him and the rest of the people in this community who, like Joanie, have staked a claim here and who, like Joanie, want to make this a better place to live.

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