Stephanie Speaks at Go Vote, South Side Homeowners Association, and Minority Contractors Association Forum

Syracuse mayoral candidates take questions on minority issues, South Side

by Meghan Rubado / The Post-Standard
Wednesday April 22, 2009

Syracuse, NY -- The city's five mayoral candidates fielded questions tonight about achieving goals for the South Side and improving minority participation in city government.

A forum at the Dunbar Center, 1453 S. State St., allowed the mayoral hopefuls to respond to several questions written by representatives from the hosting organizations: Minority Contractors Association of Central New York, the South Side Homeowners Association and Go Vote. More than 100 people attended the 6 p.m. forum.

All five candidates gave two minute responses to each question. The Democratic candidates were consultant Alfonso Davis, Common Councilor-at-Large Stephanie Miner and former Councilor-at-Large Joe Nicoletti.

The Republican candidates were former city parks Commissioner Otis Jennings and former Clear Channel executive Steve Kimatian, who Tuesday lost his party's designation to Jennings. Kimatian said he will run a primary. The Democratic committee is scheduled to choose its candidate in mid-May.

Moderator Jeffrey Bellamy asked the candidates how each would address the lack of an accurate reflection of the community's ethnic makeup in city government. Specifically, Bellamy mentioned the lack of any African-Americans in commissioner positions. The question came from voting education group Go Vote.

Here is a sampling from each candidate's response:

Kimatian: "You have to go outside your normal pool. And you cant just say it. You have to really do it. You have to aggressively find ways to find people. You have to make an aggressive outreach. In my administration, we will have minority representation, guaranteed."

Jennings: "(As city parks commissioner) we hired a diverse group of individuals. Knowing how it felt to be the first African-American man to head up a major department in the city, I've been barking about this. We will have a diverse administration. We have to recruit."

Nicoletti: "This question is symptomatic of a larger issue. I want diversity throughout (all) departments. Why aren't we recruiting our young people to bring them in at all levels, some as commissioners, some as middle management and some as entry level and sending them up the ranks."

Davis: "The discussion in the past, it's been surface. Under my administration, we will have a true consistency of adequate, quality people that are a reflection of the community. City Hall has never reflected the community. It will under my administration. And thats not a promise. Its just who I am."

Miner: "I don't think you can appoint one or two people as commissioners and say, 'There you go; there's your representation. You're all set.' The richness of our community is our diversity. We need a government that looks like the people it represents."

Other questions included concerns about reviving housing on the South Side, creating opportunities for young people and ensuring that minorities are well represented on major city construction projects.

Questions written on index cards by audience members were not asked due to a lack of time, but the questions would be forwarded to the candidates, Bellamy said.