Syracuse, the heart of Central New York, is my hometown. Sure, I grew up in a tiny village on the western fringe of Onondaga County, but I've lived in the city since 1978 - more than half my life.

We're like many small cities across the Northeast: there once was a strong manufacturing base, and now there's not. There once were a lot of people in the city, people of economic means, and now there are not. The jobs went where it's cheaper to manufacture things - other states, where economic costs are considerably less than they are here, or overseas.  The people went to the suburbs, the ever-expanding suburbs, with ever-growing houses, cars, yards, and appetites for visiting the city, but no longer living here. 

We have a serious poverty problem here, which was made famous, if that's the word, in this Atlantic article, which opened some eyes to the things we might see every day, but may not acknowledge with the right level of honesty - or hope and enthusiasm. I fall victim to that myself, I admit, and need to do better.

Syracuse, with a Democratic majority, has a term-limited mayor. Onondaga County, staunchly Republican, has had only three county executives in its history. In that sense, we mirror the Blue/Red divide that occurs across the country - and we don't have a great way of dealing with this, yet. What used to be a strong, widely hailed partnership between the mayor and the executive has crumbled, and that has contributed to crumbling relationships between their administrations and, to an extent, the opinions of city residents and county residents. 

Two major challenges, other than those 'officially' associated with the poverty problem, and with the divided political landscape between the city and the literally surrounding county, include a long-awaited recommendation on consolidation of city-county services, and what do to with Interstate 81 which bisected the city and is nearing the end of its useful life. 

The challenges we face here are not insurmountable. We have a thriving downtown residential community, with occupancy rates hovering enticingly near 100% much of the time. Old buildings are being refurbished into mixed-use facilities containing a mix of restaurant, retail, office and residential units - and this is expanding beyond the boundaries of Armory Square.  Progress is being made in the Inner Harbor area, and while initially we're getting a couple of small hotels, there's hope for more that is accessible to all city residents, including recreational and cultural opportunities.

Culture is another strong point for the Salt City: we cover lots of bases there, with a thriving arts community including Syracuse Stage, Syracuse Opera, Symphoria, and very busy local musicians. We've got the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, the Everson Museum of Art, the Erie Canal Museum, the MOST, and more. We have recreational opportunities throughout the city and county. 

In short: we've got a lot that's good, a lot that's great, and a ton of opportunities, some of them urgent. The challenge for all of us, me included, is to find our 'home' here, and fight for it. 

Grains of Salt posts focus on what's going on locally. This theme was just introduced in 2016, so older posts on the local scene can be found using keywords Syracuse and Onondaga County, or try Neighborhoods.