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 labor and taxes are less costly, 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 in Syracuse, described in this Atlantic article, which opened eyes to the things we might see every day, but may not acknowledge with any frequency, honesty, hope and enthusiasm.

Syracuse, with a Democratic majority, has a new mayor in 2018. Ben Walsh, son of a Republican Congressman, grandson of a Republican Syracuse mayor, won election as an Independent, with strong bipartisan support. Onondaga County, staunchly Republican, had only three county executives in its history, until the resignation of Joanie Mahoney in November. Our fourth county exec? Ryan McMahon, who had been the Legislature's Chairman, was appointed her successor.

In that sense, we mirror the Blue/Red divide that occurs across the country - but we have a great opportunity now with the two young, dynamic leaders, who are friend and are committed to working together to ensure everyone can move forward - the city, the county, and its towns and villages. 

Two major challenges, other than the poverty issue, include figuring out what to do about recommendations to consolidate city-county services, and what do to with Interstate 81 which bisects the city and is at the end of its useful life. Currently being studied to death by the State of New York, the final recommendation is sure to ruffle feathers in the city, and perhaps in the county as well.  

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: restaurants, retail, office and residential units coexisting happily in the same space - and this is expanding beyond the boundaries of Armory Square. 
  • Progress is being made in the Inner Harbor area, and while the initial development was a couple of small hotels, we've got upscale residential opportunities already, and more development is planned. 
  • Culture is another strong point for the Salt City: we cover lots of bases there, with a thriving arts community including The Red HouseSyracuse 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.

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