Save Our City!

Local newspaper columnist Dick Case has devoted several columns on the need to consolidate the city of Syracuse government with the larger Onondaga County government. One of the ironies of this situation is that Mr. Case, an excellent writer, also devotes several columns a month on the forgotten history of our region–people, towns, architecture, traditions. I guess he wants something else to write about that has disappeared–the city of Syracuse.

According to the 2000 Census, about 35% of the city’s residents are non-white and 25% of the city has an income below the federal poverty line. The county is roughly 95% white with a poverty rate of less than 10%. (Since the city is wholly subsumed inside the county, even a lousy mathematician like myself can figure out that the suburbs and rural areas of the county have few poor people and even fewer people of color.) Here’s a non-census statistic that I believe in, but can’t prove–100% of the people living outside the city can’t stand the city and its residents.

They’ll go to the Carrier Dome and the Carousel Center, but only because there’s good parking and not much chance of running into black people. That’s why white folks left the city to begin with–they didn’t want their kids going to school with black kids. Of course there are some exceptions, but they’re getting harder to find.

How do I know this? I’m white and I grew up in the suburbs. White folks say racist things that stun me on a regular basis. Most educated whites are sophisticated enough to know that you shouldn’t express openly bigoted remarks, but in all-white groups they sometimes slip up. African-Americans should remember that just because whites aren’t saying nasty, racist things, that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking them.

In Mr. Case’s March 14th column he stated: “Some people think the moment’s right for Syracuse and Onondaga County to move quickly toward merger of government services, consolidation of city and county, modernization – whatever we want to call the critter.”

Not me. A consolidated government will be the municipal equivalent of a hostile takeover in the business world. Merge and purge. The loss of the city of Syracuse will result in:

A Midland Ave. raw sewage treatment plant–no questions asked, no dissent tolerated.

A vacant, rotting shell of a Hotel Syracuse standing near an ugly, vapid concrete Motel 6-like county convention hotel. (Continuing the County’s devotion to Soviet Realism-style architecture. Was the designer of the new courthouse on drugs?)

Elimination of DPW trash pick-up and the imposition of private hauler trash fees. (This will give poor city residents the chance to join their suburban neighbors illegally dumping trash on city vacant lots.)

A County Legislature vote to ban any merger of city and county schools (as well as any revenue-sharing.)

No city residency requirement for government employees, completing the flight of families with good-paying jobs to the suburbs.

What would I like to call the critter? ROADKILL. Save Our City!

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