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Reviving downtown

Posted at: 03/21/2013 7:58 PM
By: Ray Levato

She is the mayor of Syracuse and she has a different approach than Rochester Mayor Tom Richards for keeping her city from bankruptcy. Upstate cities like Rochester and Syracuse are trying to reinvent themselves to keep afloat financially. But skyrocketing pension and other costs are squeezing their budgets.

The mayor of Syracuse was in Rochester Thursday. Stephanie Miner has made headlines around the state by challenging Governor Cuomo. She didn't give any advice to Mayor Tom Richards, but instead of borrowing like Rochester wants to do to help its budget crunch, she's calling on the governor instead to provide more aid to struggling cities.

Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner and Rochester Mayor Tom Richards are both democrats. They agree on at least one thing, that their cities won't ever be what they once were.

Mayor Stephanie Miner, City of Syracuse, said, “The cities of Rochester, that was Rochester in 1950, the city of Syracuse of 1950 is not coming back. But guess what? It shouldn't come back because it's not 1950.”

But they don't agree on everything. Miner spoke at a forum on re-inventing cities. Richards was at a gun violence forum. One issue where they disagree is the state comptroller's offer to allow municipalities to borrow to pay for their rising pension costs.

Miner said, “Borrowing to pay for operating expenses is just not a sustainable solution. We've done the analysis, and what it shows is that we're going to end up paying significantly more money over ten years, and in 15 years.”

News10NBC's Ray Levato said, “She's against it. You're for it. Why would it make more sense to you and not her?”

Mayor Tom Richards, City of Rochester, said, “The problem is the pension payment has run up rapidly. It's gone up $77 million over five years for us. And we can't raise enough revenue fast enough to check this. Now we might be paying more 15 years from now. But we'll be alive. We'll have gotten through this crisis that we're in right now.”

Levato said, “He disagrees on the pension borrowing. He thinks that would be good for Rochester. Would you convince him maybe that it isn't?”

Miner said, “I've laid out my argument and my rationale. He's laid out his argument and my rationale. It doesn't mean that one person is a bad person or one person is a bad mayor. It just means we have a difference of opinion.”

Time will tell. And openly challenging the governor in a letter to the New York Times is politically dicey, but she's no stranger to big-time politics.  Miner is a former aid to Andrew Cuomo's father, Governor Mario Cuomo and she also worked for former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.