1) Joanie’s Fresh Start
Joanie Mahoney won the election for County Executive. A 21-vote primary victory over former County Legislature Chair Dale Sweetland was hers when she defiantly stared down the leaders of her party and won the hearts and minds of the rank and file. The GOP’s County party chair got Joanie’s campaign energized when he suggested that Joanie should stay home and mind her 4 young children. Joanie then trounced Bill Magnarelli in the general election, when the incumbent Assembyman ran a singularly inept and unenthusiastic campaign. I believe Joanie won because of, rather than in spite of, her relative lack of experience. No one wanted a grim company man anymore after 20 years of Nick Pirro. Voters wanted young, vibrant and optimistic. It made the election easy, but sets her up for a big fall if her first term is not noticeably different from “business as usual.”
2) Art. Ask For More.
The Everson put their director out on the street in the face of boring programs and a lack of fundraising. S.U.’s Warehouse gallery forced their director out because the programs were too exciting. The city hired a public art coordinator and seemed to focus their sights on reimagining the city’s abandoned parking meter poles. A section of E. Fayette began calling itself an art park, while down the road an art collective is attempting to create a live/work/practice/gallery space in an old warehouse.
3) Walsh 2.0
You are an 18 year incumbent, a member of your party’s leadership team and have brought millions of dollars back to your district. However, you almost lose your last election, losing both the city and Onondaga County. So, you adjust–quickly. You change your position on the Iraq War, allying yourself with other electorally-challenged Republicans suggesting the President slowly wind down operations. You reverse your policy on Town Hall meetings, scheduling them all over your far-flung district. You vote against the President on expanding children’s health insurance.
4) The Chiefs Honor Syracuse’s Glorious Railroading Past
Of course, they honored this past the way we have come to expect the Chiefs to honor anything–with incompetence, penny-pinching and above all else, lots of lost ballgames. The name change was a way to acknowledge that the aging fanbase still calls the team the Chiefs and will always use the racist epithet freely and without shame. We discovered that the protection money demanded by the Chiefs cost this town our pro soccer franchise, an operation that embarrassed the stodgy baseballers with their energy and excitement. Now we learn that the team will not pay its NatGrid bill. I‘d love to see the utility shut off the power in the middle of a game. At least next year we’ll be able to see the Chiefs lose on grass.
5) Route 81 Bypass–To Eternity
Common Councilor Van Robinson was a lonely voice suggesting that the city look at not repairing or replacing Rt. 81 when its anticipated lifespan comes up in another decade. But thanks to some public hearings, lots of buzz in the Post Standard and Sean Kirst’s newspaper blog and the key support of folks like Syracuse University and University Hospital, this is now an issue with legs. It is also perhaps the first time we have enough time and publicity to make a community development decision out in the open, with real public participation. Now we just need someone to stand up at a podium on Almond Street and thunder “ Governor Spitzer, tear down this highway!”
6) Excellus Workers Lose Downtown Farmer’s Market, Gain A Food Court
Excellus, the non-profit health insurance firm, moved its local operations (and 800 jobs) out of downtown and out to the old Agway building adjacent to Shoppingtown Mall in Dewitt. While much handwringing and finger pointing ensued, I’m still unconvinced that the move will cost the city much. The region still has the jobs, downtown is looking at several residential and commercial development projects starting up in the next couple of years and Excellus still has to pay their property taxes on the building. Chill out, it really is an opportunity, not a disaster.
7) “Watch Me Pull A Fat Government Grant Out Of This Hat!”
Nancy Cantor, S.U.’s Chancellor and Bob Congel, shopping mall tycoon, continue to prove that an idea need not be any more substantive than a couple of watercolors and some fancy dreams to attract beaucoups bucks from government officials blinded by the magic act. Millions for a freakin’ sidewalk between S.U. and Armory Square? Millions for a fantasy shopping, hotel resort, green technology museum? What about housing, insanely high heating bills and a decent education for all our children? Where are those magic acts?
8) Purple County, Blue City
The Democrats have carried the County in the past three Presidential elections, four U.S. senate races and the last U.S. Congressional District race. However, they have made no real progress in local county races. District Attorney, Sheriff, Comptroller, Clerk and County Executive have all been Republican since the Ice Age. But things are worse for the Republicans in the city. The County government buildings in downtown Syracuse must feel like West Berlin, surrounded by a hostile enemy. No more city Republicans in the County Legislature or city school board and only one on the city Common Council. While the Democrats found candidates for all offices, and even picked off a couple Republican incumbents, the Republicans had many vacancies on their lineup card.
9) Person Of The Year: Greg Robinson, head football coach Syracuse University.
In these cynical times, it takes a special person to always look on the bright side of life (as Monty Python maintained that Jesus once musically urged his followers.) Well, Coach Robinson, who has won only 7 games in three seasons on the Hill, is just that kind of special person. So relentlessly upbeat, you believe he may be brain damaged. In the the face of relentless pressure from spoiled fans, sadistic sports writers and Type A personalities in the Sports Department, Coach Rob continues to believe. This cynic salutes his favorite Pollyanna. The BCS Bowl is just around the corner in the mind of Greg Robinson. It must be a very cozy place to be.