Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Otis Jennings for Mayor of Syracuse
Otis Jennings is a fine mayoral candidate and I am pleased to endorse him for mayor over his Democratic opponent, Stephanie Miner. However, this endorsement is not without qualification. I would like to see Mr. Jennings make his commitment to cutting waste and spending in Syracuse more specific. Also, it should not be difficult to find spending cuts, and he should do so during the campaign, not after election. Although Mr. Jennings says that he would like to cut spending, he is equivocal enough to wriggle out of his commitment when the time comes to risk offending vested public employee and union interests.
Nevertheless, he has a number of good ideas, and his candidacy is preferable to the politics of economic decline to which the Democrats are committed. Mr. Jennings says that he aims to set priorities for spending reductions. He would replace property taxes with a fee for service for fire and police protection, requiring not-for-profits to pay the charge. That is an idea that all Towns in New York should consider. As well, he would market Syracuse police services to neighboring communities on a fee-for-service basis. His approach of using service fees rather than taxes is good, as is his commitment to refrain from hiding behind hidden fees, taxes and charges.
I agree with his broad aim of reducing non-essential services and "right sizing" of Syracuse government but I urge him to be more specific. Syracuse's budget is probably large enough to contain considerable dross. Finding cuts in the Syracuse budget is like catching fish in a barrel. He should do his homework and make commitments to specific cuts now.
While I agree with Mr. Jennings's aim of reducing the cost of government, centralization is not the answer. It is unfortunate that he quotes the son of the Emperor of Waste (who was the inventor of those hidden fees and taxes he opposes), Andrew Cuomo. As the son of the Emperor of Waste, perhaps Andrew Cuomo should be called the Prince of Waste.
In any case, centralization of government is NOT the path to lower costs. The reason New York State has high taxes is NOT that it is too decentralized, but that it is TOO CENTRALIZED. The bloated Medicaid costs, due to incompetence and corruption in Albany, are the reason for the state's INSANE property tax burden. The solution to bloated costs is to hack away Albany's and the counties' power and download authority to the towns, not to centralize. Although there may be economies of scale, diseconomies of corruption and stupidity will dwarf any cost savings.
Clearly, Mr. Jennings is thinking like a Republican while his opponent thinks like a politically correct tax-and-spend Democratic Party waster. I certainly hope the good people of Syracuse make the right choice this November and vote for Mr. Jennings.