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SyracuseA commission of community leaders in Syracuse and Onondaga County say it’s time to discuss metropolitan government. It released a report detailing how a merger could save $20 million immediately and taxpayers could save $200 each a year.

The commission wasn’t shy. While it stopped short of making recommendations, it discussed consolidating police, fire, EMS, public works, courts, clerks, code enforcement and governments as a whole. It says $100 million is being spent on duplicated services. The report does make the situation look ridiculous.

The commission avoided the third rail topic of schools, believing there’s no public will on that front.

The commission will now solicit feedback from the community. If Syracuse and Onondaga County were to merge, there would be just under 500,000 residents. Syracuse would be the state’s largest city outside New York City. The commission notes there are advantages beyond cost savings to residents, such as shared planning and elevation in stature.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion plays out in the Syracuse area. Past discussions on metro government in the Rochester area have been met with fierce resistance. Former mayor Bill Johnson loved to talk about metro government, even metro schools. Maggie Brooks used his support for the idea to trounce him in 2003 in the race for county executive. The GOP’s infamous Pac-Man ad showed the city gobbling up all the towns. Needless to say, people like their towns and villages. Many want no part of the city.

Governor Andrew Cuomo loves to talk government consolidation, but I don’t see the will anywhere in this community to even have a discussion. Maybe our friends in Central New York will show us a path.


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9 Responses to Syracuse Talks Metro

  1. January 26, 2016 at 8:36 am rochester_veteran responds:

    I don’t see metro government (or metro schools for that matter) happening for Greater Rochester, especially considering the disfunction with Rochester city government and the RCSD. Who in their right might would want to absorb this mess?

  2. January 26, 2016 at 9:02 am Walter Liss responds:

    It might bear looking at Nashville, Davidson County, TN and its experience with Metro Government. I lived there for a couple years(’11-’13). I didn’t feel any drop off in my services and it seemed my neighbors felt the same. What I did enjoy was the tremendous tax savings, as my total bill for a $300K assessed home was a little over $2800!

  3. January 26, 2016 at 9:13 am Adrian Martin responds:

    Louisville is also another good example of how consolidation has really brought big benefits.

  4. “Why can’t the NY legislature get its act together on stripping pensions of convicted lawmakers?”

    They are each worried they might be next.

    (see John 8:7)

  5. I don’t see the school districts combining. The towns wouldn’t stand for the RCSD to have say over their children’s education.

  6. I don’t know how it would work here. Outside of the city and inner ring burbs the county isn’t very dense. If those towns start demanding service levels that the city and denser towns have things will get expensive quick. I’m also not sure how the city will benefit. We have excellent police, fire, and DES. Many of the towns have enough paid firefighters to make the response times look good, but not enough to handle fires or complex incidents, same with police. I have a feeling the city’s superior public safety will take a hit to compensate for the lack of it in the towns.

  7. January 26, 2016 at 11:13 am monkeytoe responds:

    ” If Syracuse and Onondaga County were to merge, there would be just under 500,000 residents. Syracuse would be the state’s largest city outside New York City.”

    Not sure this is accurate. The City’s geographical boundaries would remain the same, so it wouldn’t grow in either geography or population by merger. All of the other local Town’s and Villages around Syracuse would also remain in existence.

    In other words, if Rochester and Monroe County merged, residents of Penfield wouldn’t suddenly be considered residents of the City of Rochester. Yes, they’d still be residents of Monroe County. But, they’d also still be residents of Penfield.

    Even if the plan were to merge ALL town/village/city Gov’t’s within the County with the County, it wouldn’t change the geographical definitions of Cities/villages/towns. The City of Rochester wouldn’t be considered to include all of Monroe County.

    Consolidation is a good idea for everything but schools. Making a school district bigger always makes it worse.

    It won’t happen thought because the local democrats won’t give up their City of Rochester power base. If they consolidated the City and County, the Dems would lose plum patronage positions they have to give out in the City. And – I’m not saying this against the Democrats. If the situation were reversed, I would expect the GOP to be just as reluctant to give up power. The only way this is ever feasible is if the same party holds the reigns in both City and County, including Mayor, County Exec., and both legislatures. But even then, it would likely have to be the GOP in control, because the dems would know they would be unlikely (at least as things stand now, they could change) to win the County Exec and a majority in the County leg very often. So, Dems would still be reluctant to consolidate.

  8. You’re barking up the wrong tree on this, Rachel, and can pursue it in greater detail when you decide to run for political office. The cost savings you note here are an illusion. Consolidation will consolidate power with the city, a city already committed to spending $119.1 million per year on the Rochester City School District under the ridiculous “Maintenance of Effort” law. Enrollment is declining at a rapid clip at the RCSD, but taxpayers are on the hook for this amount no matter how many students attend school. You could be down to 1,000 students and taxpayers would still be on the hook for this $119.1 million. This is just one of many reasons that consolidation is a non-starter for anyone that lives outside of the city of Rochester and wants some sense of control over what money is spent on and how much money is spent.

    If you do get consolidation, the happiest people in the metro area will be real estate agents in Ontario County. Victor and Canandaigua could see a huge influx of former Monroe County residents if this ever passes. “Consolidation” would produce a big increase in the very urban sprawl that you seem to be obsessed with.

  9. There’s a lot of low hanging fruit before we get to true consolidation. Joint tax assessment, clerk, and civil service would be a start. If we couldn’t even pull that off, no reason trying to consolidate the rest. I think metro police would be a smart move too. RPD and MCSO spend a lot of time and money on specialty stuff like swat, horses, K9 etc. Whether we want to admit it a lot, crime crosses municipal boundaries. Criminals from the city go into the ‘burbs and believe it or not criminals from the burbs come into the city. They can claim they share info, but 2 organizations will never share like 1 large one. While a lot of townsfolk might be concerned about losing their local police, with a precient system local cops will stay local. If we can consolidate all that, then we should look at true city-county consolidation.

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