Consensus makes 50 recommendations to modernize government

Onondaga County and Syracuse

The Consensus Commission has released a comprehensive final report detailing ways it believes Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse can fuse resources and infrastructure to create a more efficient local government.

According to the report – three years in the making – the measures it recommends could result in nearly $23 million in savings.

The new legislative model combining city and county governments it recommends would consist of 29 districts – 12 more than the county legislature now has, and 20 more than the common council.

The commission says each district will represent a smaller number of people, offering a wide ranging voice when it comes to local issues.

There would also be four at-large districts for a community-wide perspective.

Former Syracuse-area Congressman and Consensus Co-Chair Jim Walsh says, ” Everyone is treated equally in this process, it’s not the City is being singled out, the County government will change also.”

The commission recommends the residents vote directly for the executive,  and that the government include a deputy executive who can focus on legacy issues and those unique to the central district.
Retired Syracuse Attorney Catherine Richardson, also a Consensus Co-Chair, says “Businesses want to come into an environment like that where it can be streamlined and they don’t have to deal with multiple governments.”

The say such a move alone could amount to nearly $23 million in annual savings.

Towns and villages would be able to vote to opt in to the metro governement.

The group also offers another 49 recommendations, including:

Infrastructure – Among the commission’s recommendations is a core highway service area for better coordination of planning and service delivery.

Public safety – The commission also recommends that local law enforcement merge municipal police services and the Sheriff’s Office – a move it believes would create $3.5 to $6 million in savings each year.

Municipal operations – The commission recommends among other things that village courts move into their surrounding town courts.

Economic development – The commission suggests a county-wide shared tax base among municipalities, not homeowners.

The commission says the report is the product of hundreds of meetings, thousands of analyzed data, thousands of public comments, multiple reports, and analyzed data.

The process had three goals in mind: better government, economic growth, and responsive and inclusive representation.

Lastly, they caution that significant changes are necessary if the community wants to avoid future service cuts, tax increases, or both.

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