1999 Platform

1999 Green Party of Onondaga County Platform

(For the most recent platform version from 2013 visit: http://syracusegreens.nationbuilder.com/platform)

This platform as adopted in 1999 by the Green Party of Onondaga County. While many of the contemporary details it refers to are outdated, the principles embodied in this platform still guide local Greens. The Green Party of Onondaga County is in the process of revising and updating this platform. 

Introduction

One reason why we started the Green Party in Syracuse and Onondaga County was that the established parties seem to have no vision for our city and county. The Democrats and Republicans hold all the elected offices, but they only seem to react to things after they became big problems: Onondaga Lake pollution, the pending bankruptcy of the OCRRA incinerator, Syracuse 's fiscal crisis, city school budget cuts, and so forth. Rather than taking initiative to deal with issues before they became big problems, they wait. Rather than dealing with the root causes of problems, they only act on the symptoms that have become unavoidable.

The Green vision in this platform tries to address the root causes of our local problems, not just the symptoms. For example:

•  the roots of noncompetitive elections and voter disinterest in winner-take-all elections and private campaign financing;

•  the roots of Syracuse 's declining tax base in a regressive property tax structure that encourages metropolitan sprawl at the expense of the central city;

•  the roots of the decline of good-paying manufacturing jobs in the absentee-ownership of manufacturing plants that have been moved to places with cheaper labor under repressive governments;

•  the roots of environmental problems like sprawl, Onondaga Lake, solid waste disposal, and toxic pollutants in an economic development approach that disregards the long-term social and environmental costs of projects in calculating short-term private benefits;

•  the roots of street crime in poor educational, employment, and recreational opportunities for at-risk youth.

The Green vision offers solutions that try to uproot the causes, not just ameliorate the symptoms. For example:

•  creating competitive elections and increased voter participation through proportional representation and public campaign financing;

•  revitalizing Syracuse 's tax base with progressive tax reforms such as land-value taxation that rewards property improvements in the city and discourages sprawl development;

•  reviving the region's manufacturing base by targeting economic development assistance to locally-owned firms that are anchored in our community through ownership that is cooperative, municipal, and/or held in voting stocks whose sales are restricted to local residents (like the Green Bay Packers);

•  reorienting economic development policies around the concept of sustainable development so that long-term social and environmental costs for the whole community can no longer be imposed by private developers or politicians seeking short-term financial or political gain;

•  providing the disadvantaged youth with good opportunities in the short term, saving us the greater long-term costs of crime and incarceration.

In short, the Green vision is about participatory democracy, progressive taxation, local democratic ownership, ecological sustainability, and good opportunities for all.

Party platforms are an American political invention, but have become a lost tradition that is worth recovering. The Democrats and Republicans do not have party platforms for their local candidates.

Our candidates have pledged to support the principles in this platform, not necessarily every detail. In any case, the details are always modified in the give-and-take legislative process.

You may not agree with everything in this Green Party Platform, but at least you will know what we stand for.

Do you know where the major party candidates stand on the issues we raise in the platform?

If nothing else, we hope this platform raises the debate in this election. Send us your comments: Green Party of Onondaga County, 2617 S. Salina St. , Syracuse NY 13205

 

Fair Elections

•  Proportional Representation: Replace the winner-take-all system with proportional representation in order to give all ethnic communities and political viewpoints their fair share of representation and power. The current winner-take-all system under-represents minorities on Syracuse Common Council by creating 9 out of 10 white-majority districts when nearly 1/3 of the city is people of color. The Greens support electing both the County Legislature and the Syracuse Common council by a “mixed-member” system of proportional representation in which half the representatives are elected by district, half at-large, and the overall composition proportionally represents the voters' support for each party. The Greens support electing the city school board, district seats for common council and county legislature, and single offices like mayor and county executive by preference voting, where voters rank their choices in order of preference. It takes over 50% of the votes to win a single-seat election. If no one wins in the first round, the second choice votes of the last place candidate are distributed and counted. This process continues until a candidate passes 50%.

•  End Racial and Political Gerrymandering: When the Common Council and the County Legislature redraw districts after the 2000 census, political majorities will create districts that over-represent them at the expense of minorities—the suburban majority at the expense of city residents, the white majority at the expense of people of color, and the major parties at the expense of minor parties. Through redistricting, the major parties will maximize the safe seats for their members by choosing their voters before the voters have a chance to choose them. By going to proportional representation after the 2000 census, we can end the traditional racial and political gerrymandering that is done by the major parties when new districts are drawn up. With proportional representation, district lines do not affect the overall balance of representation because proportional representation gives each political party, ethnic group, or any other group of like-minded voters representation in proportion to their voting support.

Public Campaign Financing: Our public elections have been privatized. Our politicians are the best money can buy; they sell out to the highest bidder. Private campaign financing is legalized bribery of elected officials by big money interests. For example, by July 1997, four months before the mayoral election, 180 companies had contributed to Roy Bernardi's mayoral campaign, one-third of which had contracts with the city worth more than $10 million (“Hopes of City Work Drive Political Donations,” Syracuse Herald American , July 20,1999 ). The Greens call for a Clean Money campaign finance system at the city and county levels: equal allotments of public campaign financing for all candidates who agree not to accept private money. The states of Arizona , Maine , Massachusetts , and Vermont have adopted this system for state elections in the last two years. Locally, it would cost taxpayers a few dollars per year to fund. That's a small price to pay for fair elections.

 

Grassroots Democracy

•  Keep the County Legislature at 24 Members: The pending reduction of the Onondaga County Legislature in 2001 from 24 to 19 members cuts the people's representation by over 20%, but only saves taxpayers less than 1/60 th of 1% (1/6000 th ) of the county budget. Bad deal! Restore our representation.

•  Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings: Establish Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings for direct democracy in city neighborhoods and county towns. The Neighborhood Assemblies and Town Meetings would be grassroots legislative assemblies, like New England Town Meetings, open to all community residents, with the power to instruct their elected representatives and administer local community programs and projects, with budgets provided by city and county revenue-sharing.

•  Initiative and Referendum: The Greens support amending the city and county charters to allow citizens to initiate legislation by initiative petitions that put the proposed legislation before the voters in a referendum.

•  Consolidation—Confederation, Not Centralization: Consolidation is not a panacea for getting more public services with less money. The Greens support consideration of cost-saving consolidation proposals on a case-by-case basis, judging each proposal on its own merits. Where consolidation seems beneficial, the Greens support implementing it on a trial basis to see if projected savings are really there before consolidating a service permanently. Consolidation should not mean centralization of control, but shared authority and responsibility. Consolidation should be structured on a confederal model, not a centralized model, where each city, town, village, and the proposed neighborhood assemblies and town meetings retain home rule and cooperatively purchase services with others on a voluntary basis.

•  Consolidate Revenues First: All the talk of consolidation is on the expenditure side. The revenue side should be consolidated first through progressive county tax reform with revenue sharing to create a fairer, more efficient local tax structure. Centralized tax collection and revenue sharing, combined with decentralized administration, will maximize democracy and minimize competition between tax jurisdictions competing for private investment with tax and regulatory concessions.

•  Community Federalism, Not Centralized Metropolitan Government: The Greens reject proposals to absorb city, town, and village governments into a centralized county government. The Greens support a centralized progressive county tax structure with revenue-sharing for decentralized administration of many governmental functions by city, town, village, and the proposed town-meeting governments.

2-Year Terms, 4-Term Limits, and Worker's Wages for All City and County Elected Officials: Longer terms, unlimited terms, staggered elections of officials, and high salaries all conspire to create a professional political class and effectively rob voters of their democratic right to change government policy by electing new representatives in one election. Politics should be the people's business, not the private careers of a professional elite.

 

Progressive Taxes

The poorest 20% of households in New York (average income of $16,500) pay 16.2% of their income in sales and property taxes. The richest 1% (average income of $1.3 million) pay only 3.7%. The Greens call for reversing the rates paid by rich and poor in Onondaga County through progressive tax reforms at the city and county levels. Progressive local tax reform would include some combination of the following measures:

•  Progressive Local Income Taxes at the city and county levels.

•  Commuter Tax: A progressive city income tax on commuters.

•  Land Value Taxation: Tax the market value of the land but not its improvements (homes and businesses). Land values taxation restricts property taxes to the unearned income derived from appreciation of all land in the community, which reflects social investments in good schools, parks, and other infrastructure and amenities, not the actions of the owner. By discouraging speculative investment in abandoned city lots and buildings, land value taxation stimulates inner city redevelopment. As such, it is an anti-sprawl. Because land ownership is far more concentrated than the ownership of home and business assets, land value taxation makes the property tax progressive.

•  Revenue-Sharing: County-wide revenue sharing to create an adequate floor of fiscal resources for all municipal governments in the county.

•  Sales Tax Cuts: Use increases in progressive taxes to cut the regressive county sales tax.

•  Green Taxes: Replace the regressive, across-the-board county sales tax with selective eco-taxes and “Green Fees” on environmentally harmful products, pollution, and waste.

•  Progressive Property Tax: Establish progressive rates based on the total value of each property owner's real estate within the county, with reduced rates for farms.

•  Property Tax Circuit Breaker: Limit the percent of one's income one must pay in property taxes to protect homeowners with limited and fixed incomes.

•  Renter's Property Tax Rebate: Establish a rebate program that limits the percent of one's income one must pay in property taxes through rents, which include property taxes passed on by landlords.

 

Economic Justice

•  Living Wages: Require the city and county and their contractors to pay their workers (including workfare workers) a family-supporting living wage of at least $8.00 per hour with day care and health care benefits, or at least $10.00 per hour without benefits.

•  End Corporate Welfare: Reform the Industrial Development Agencies: The Syracuse and Onondaga Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) have become conduits of corporate welfare grants, loans, tax exemptions, bonding, credits, and the like that have often wasted taxpayer money on failed businesses (Pioneer Freezer), union-busters (Landis Plastics), runaway shops (Pass & Seymour), polluters (recruiting semiconducter chip manufacturer), and shopping malls (Carousel Center) instead of the manufacturing that the state legislation establishing IDAs mandates. The Greens believe that public investment has an important role in shaping the kind of local economy we want to have. But the process must be more democratic and more conditioned on meeting explicit goals. The Greens call for the following reforms of the Syracuse and Onondaga County IDAs:

•  Labor and Community Representation: As an immediate reform, the IDA boards should be one-third each of representatives from business, labor, and the community. In the longer run, IDA powers should be incorporated into a publicly-elected Community Investment Board responsible for investing municipal bank, local public pension, and IDA funds.

•  Public Investment in Economic Democracy: First preference in awarding public subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives should go to cooperatives and community enterprises that are owned by workers and/or community institutions that are anchored to our community.

•  Performance Goals: Condition the receipt of public subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives on performance goals, including:

•  a minimum number of jobs retained and created;

•  compliance with labor, civil rights, and environmental laws;

•  neutrality in union organizing drives;

•  2-year early warning of intention to move or close;

•  worker/community right of first option to buy if the firm or plant is to be sold;

•  prevailing wages;

•  health coverage for all employees;

•  surety to reimburse the public treasury if the company fails to meet performance goals.

•  Carousel Center Expansion: The Greens question the benefits to city residents and neighborhoods of the Carousel Center . The $35 million in property tax breaks for the current Carousel Center subsidizes competition to neighborhood business districts. Most of the jobs provided by Carousel employers are low-wage, part-time, no-benefit retail jobs. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Pyramid Management Corporation violated numerous labor laws to stop the unionization of the mall's janitorial staff. Since most of the mall's tenants are absentee-owned national chains, profits are drained out of the community. These adverse affects will increase proportionally with any mall expansion. The Greens call for a review of the advisability of the proposed expansion of Carousel Center in light of these adverse affects as well as the re-routing of an estimated 29,000 daily car trips from Hiawatha Boulevard . At a minimum, any agreement with the city on a PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) or other subsidies and incentives should provide funding for companion development in the neighborhoods, such as affordable housing, funding for a Youth Hope Center , refurbishing neighborhood business districts, and funding for a co-op incubator with a revolving loan fund.

•  No Third Runway for Hancock Airport : The Greens oppose the construction of a third runway at Hancock Airport . The communities adjacent to the airport should not be burdened with more noise, jet fuel fumes, and freight truck traffic. The former Griffiss Air Force Base can serve as an air freight center if needed, creating more balanced regional development. For ecological reasons, the Greens prefer to see transportation investments in rail transport rather than air and truck transport because rail is for more energy efficient and emits far less pollution per passenger and freight mile.

•  Affirmative Action: The city's employment of people of color has declined in recent years. The Greens call for the reinvigoration of the city's affirmative action policies in employment, the awarding of contracts, and all other areas affected by historical and contemporary injustices. The Office of Minority Affairs and Contract Compliance should be re-established to implement the affirmative action program. Affirmative action, with goals and timetables, is indispensable for achieving equal opportunity, justice, and fairness for the members of all historically oppressed groups.

•  Negotiate the Onondaga Land Claim: The Onondaga Nation is expected to soon come forward with a strong land claim that includes Syracuse and Onondaga County . The city and county should take this land claim as an opportunity to redress an historic injustice and to create a new basis for social solidarity, economic prosperity, and ecological sustainability for all residents of the region. A mutually acceptable settlement growing out of negotiations is far more preferable to a settlement imposed by the courts in litigation. The city and county should negotiate with the Onondaga Nation to establish a new set of equal relations between the Onondaga Nation and the other people who now reside in this region. The framework of a just resolution would provide the Onondaga Nation with a viable land base and financial compensation while securing the tenure rights of existing home owners, residents, and family-owned farms and businesses (but not necessarily absentee-owned corporations). Instead of the confrontation from some governmental units in New York we have seen over the Oneida and Cayuga land claims, negotiated cooperation and creative thinking can create a tremendous economic and ecological opportunity that makes the Onondaga Nation's sovereignty an asset, creating unique opportunities to establish ecological economic enterprises that benefit everyone in the region, Onondagas and non-Onondagas alike.

 

Community Enterprise

•  Full Employment through Community Enterprise: Fair Work, Not Workfare: Institute a Community Full Employment Plan: use revenue producing public enterprise, as well as public service jobs, to employ unused resources (labor, physical plant) to satisfy unmet needs (child care, youth recreation, smaller school class sized, replacement of imported consumer goods that can be made locally, recycling and reprocessing waste into raw materials, housing rehabilitation, energy conservation, city parks restoration, and so on).

•  Community Enterprise : Replace corporate welfare for imported, absentee-owned businesses with vigorous support for homegrown, locally-owned businesses, especially in low-income communities. Locally-owned businesses would include cooperatives (businesses owned by their worker and/or consumer members), municipally-owned enterprises, community-based non-profits, community stock-held corporations (stockholders limited to community residents, like the Green Bay Packers), and resident-owned small businesses. Unlike private absentee ownership that drains profits out of the community, community ownership creates wealth that is anchored in the community for long-term use. Municipal enterprises are a direct, practical way to create jobs, increase tax rolls, reduce tax burdens, and increase total public revenues to pay for needed public services.

Public economic development moneys should be transformed into public investments in both municipal public enterprises and private enterprises anchored to the community, such as cooperatives and community stock-held corporations. If the taxpayers pay for it, the public should own it. If we own our own jobs, they are not going to leave for cheap labor elsewhere.

•  SEDCO Loans for Non-Profits and Cooperatives: Change the city policy against SEDCO loans to non-profits and cooperatives.

•  Education on Cooperatives: Incorporate cooperatives into the curriculum of the city's Urban Business Opportunity Center 's Entrepreneurship and Business Management Skills Training Program and into the business curriculum at Onondaga Community College .

•  Cooperative Zones: Transform the city and county Economic Development Zones into Cooperative Zones where the economic subsidies and other benefits are limited to cooperatives or other community-owned businesses.

•  Cooperative Incubator: Set up a business incubator that can plan, finance, and hire, train, and technically assist the workers of new cooperative businesses. When the workers are capable of managing the business on their own, they would purchase it out of business revenues and loans, with the money recycling to the incubator to finance further new cooperatives.

•  Municipal Bank: Almost all locally-owned banks have been bought up by absentee-owned bank corporations. Reduce our dependence on absentee-owned banks for local investment by creating a democratically-controlled municipal bank, which can also serve as a yardstick to measure absentee-owned private bank's records of community re-investment.

•  Community Deposits: Deposit local government funds in local credit unions and the municipal bank.

•  Regional Self-Reliance—Local Production for Local Use: Syracuse and Onondaga County are very limited in the degree to which they can improve local economic conditions because they are highly dependent on the decisions of central governments and giant corporations and on prices and interest rates in the world market. This dependency makes the regional economy exploitable by giant corporations and links us to a downward spiral of wages and labor and environmental standards due to global competition.

The more this region can substitute local production for imports and local ownership for absentee ownership, the more control it will have over its economic destiny. Local government should support the Chamber of Commerce's “Buy Local” program and use its information to identify new import substitution businesses the co-op incubator could start.

As a general policy, economic development by local government should aim to increase self-reliance (production of a major portion of a good or service by locally-owned firms) in currency (see Local Currency below), banking (municipal bank and member-owned credit unions), food, energy, and clothing and building materials. Once we have achieved a measure of self-reliance in these areas, then we can enter into trade outside the regional economy as a matter of choice and opportunity, not necessity that leaves us in a weak bargaining position in the world market. Not only does this make good economic sense, it makes good ecological sense because it reduces the use of energy and resources and corresponding pollution from transportation.

•  Local Currency: A local currency that circulates only in the region for local goods and services would decouple a portion of the local economy from world market prices and dependence on an inflow of national currency from outside. By making local transactions independent of national and international economic conditions, we regain a measure of control over the local economy and circulate wealth within the community instead of it being extracted out by giant corporations. This independence from national and international economic conditions is especially important during recessions, making a local currency a local counter-cyclical economic policy. The local currency enables the local economy to function in spite of larger market conditions.

In response to economic globalization, some 40 US communities have established local currencies, the nearest being Ithaca where Ithaca Hours circulate among businesses and households, and Brooklyn , where Brooklyn Greenbacks are circulating. The European Union is funding four local currency experiments. The Greens call for local government to support the establishment of a local currency to facilitate trade among local businesses and households and to keep local wealth circulating within the community.

 

Good Public Schools

•  More Money for City Schools: City schools need more money to provide good educational services. School board members should be visible and articulate advocates for progressive tax reforms to insure adequate funding for urban education, including fairer, progressive income, commuter, and land value taxes in the city and increased county, state, and federal revenue-sharing.

•  Link Economic and Educational Policy: Syracuse schools will remain under-funded and the students under-motivated until there are basic changes in tax structures and economic opportunities. The present dependence on the property tax for school funding is inherently divisive, pitting older property owners against younger renters with kids. Progressive tax reform is essential for adequate funding for good schools. Inner city economic revitalization is needed so that students can believe their education will lead to real job opportunities.

•  Financial Independence for the Syracuse School District: Stop letting the Mayor and Common Council scapegoat the school budget for a municipal fiscal crisis caused by their own parties' repeated tax cuts for the wealthy at the county, state, and federal levels over the last two decades. The school board, which sets educational policy, should have the power to set spending levels and tax rates for our schools. It should answer directly to the voters at elections, not indirectly through the Common Council and Mayor who now approve school budgets. State aid-to-education funds should go directly to the schools and never, as they have in the past, be intercepted by the city and used for other city expenses. The Greens support state legislation to give the “Big Five” city school districts, including Syracuse , the same financial independence enjoyed by other school districts in the state.

•  Restore Program Cuts: The next school board should target increased resources for the classroom (not administration), for first-rate teachers committed to city students, up-to-date textbooks and classroom equipment, and restoration of the programs for advanced students and pregnant and parenting students.

•  Reduced Class Sizes: Increased funding should be used to hire more good teachers to reduce class sizes.

•  School Board Team Work: The Greens reject the partisan bickering and maneuvering by Democratic and Republican city school board members. School board members need to attend to school board business and save electioneering for election campaigns.

•  Equal Treatment of Schools: The second-class treatment of schools like McKinley-Brighton and Martin Luther King, Jr. must end immediately. An office in the school district should monitor resource allocations and facilities to insure that all city schools are treated equally.

•  Cut Bureaucracy through Parent, Teacher, and Community Participation in Site-Based Planning and Management: Decentralized, site-based planning and management, with parental involvement and release-time for teacher participation, is the way to have innovative and responsive schools that are not stifled by the central bureaucracy. The city school district's stated policy of encouraging parent and community participation in site-based planning and management should continue. After an initial planning effort, the policy stalled and has not moved on to site-based management. The policy needs to be re-invigorated. Establishing neighborhood assemblies as neighborhood governments will complement site-based planning by increasing public participation in all areas as citizens become better informed and feel more empowered.

•  Reject Charter Schools: The Greens believe that site-based planning can accomplish all the educational benefits claimed for charter schools without the drawbacks: funds diverted from the school district, discrimination against low-income and minority students, non-union staff, uncertified teachers, and other regulatory exemptions.

•  End Social Promotion: Students who are not ready for promotion are usually an indictment of the schools, not the children. The schools should be good enough so that every student gets the help they need to learn what they need to begin the next grade. However, it makes no sense to promote children who are not ready. The Syracuse City School District 's policy of social promotion of K-6 students should be repealed. Decisions to retain a student should not rest solely with their teacher, but should be a joint decision of the teacher, other school staff, the parents, and the student.

•  Improve Physical Designs of Schools: Too many of the city schools' classrooms, athletic facilities, and shared space are old and obsolete, perpetuating 19 th century institutional designs into the 21 st century. Planning for the schools' physical plant should include restructuring the physical design of schools to incorporate the best thinking for encouraging interest and learning and participation in class work and extra-curricular activities.

•  Curricula for Diverse Learning Styles: Students of different cultural backgrounds and personality types learn best in different styles. The schools' curricula should include sufficient options to cover all student learning styles.

•  Schools as Neighborhood Centers: The schools should be neighborhood centers with health and child care programs, internet access for neighborhood residents, and after-school, evening, and summer programs. Cut the exorbitant fees and unnecessary red-tape that keep community-initiated programs and events out of the schools. Use schools for meetings of the neighborhood assemblies.

•  Reject Corporatization and Privatization: The Greens oppose school vouchers, corporate funding through “pouring rights” and other marketing programs, and other schemes to raid public school resources, turn our children into a captive market for commercial interests, and undermine democratic public funding and accountability.

•  OCC Branch in the Inner City: The Greens support Onondaga Community College 's creation of branches around the county and call for the next branch to be located in the inner city area of Syracuse where the need is greatest.

•  More Evening and Weekend Hours for County Libraries

•  No Genetically-Modified Foods for City School Children: Milk for cows injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and other genetically-engineered foods should be banned from meals provided by the schools.

•  Organic Gardening Program: Expand the city school district's horticulture program into an organic gardening program in all of the schools which incorporates organic gardening and nutrition into the curriculum. The gardens would provide excellent, low-cost food for school meal programs and practical applications of many subject areas, from ecology, science, and math to reading and writing.

 

Housing and Community Development

•  Increase Affordable Housing: Studies by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition in 1996 and 1997 found the price of an average one-bedroom apartment in Greater Syracuse is more than 40% of renters can afford and the price of an average two-bedroom apartment is more than 46% of renters in Greater Syracuse can afford. The supply of low-to-moderate income housing must be increased in order to bring rental prices down. The Greens oppose subsidizing for-profit developers with government grants and loans to build affordable housing. Government grants and loans for affordable housing should be limited to non-profit developers, especially those that are democratic, community-based organizations.

•  Increase Home Ownership: Over 60% of city residents are renters. Yet home owners have far more commitment to property maintenance, keeping taxes paid, and neighborhood quality than absentee landlords for whom properties are merely an investment, not a place to make a life. Syracuse needs to expand and better market its Community Development programs that support home ownership. In particular, the city needs a new program for people—most often younger families, workers, and professionals—whose college or vocational school debts are too high to qualify for home mortgage financing in the private market, but whose income is too high for the city's programs aimed at moderate income home ownership. The new program should provide both home ownership education and mortgage financing. To receive mortgage financing, the home owner would have to live in the residence for as long as they owe the mortgage. To qualify, they would have to receive a denial from a private lender, go through a home ownership education class, and go through a financial screen. To remain qualified, they would have to keep taxes paid, keep the building up to code, and have no drug or prostitution convictions. Failing to maintain these conditions would cause an immediate call of the mortgage note or loss of the property. The mortgage lender could be a revolving loan fund within Community Development or within a municipal bank set up for this and other purposes. The program should more than pay for itself over time directly out mortgage interest payments, not to mention the indirect benefits: expanded tax base, improved quality of neighborhood life, and the economic multiplier from an increased base of consumers with decent incomes who are committed to the city.

•  Fair Housing: Blind testing has repeatedly documented racial discrimination in the county housing market in recent years. The Greens call for vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws with prosecution and penalties for realtors and landlords that practice racial discrimination.

•  Community Land Trusts for Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Development: Community land trusts (CLTs) are democratic community organizations that hold land for the benefit of the community and the individuals in the community. CLTs remove land from the speculative market, enabling the community to retain access to the land and control of its development. When CLTs in low-income communities bring the value of the land up because of the housing and business improvements they build on the land, CLTs enable low-income people to remain in the community as it improves instead of being displaced by the rising costs of land and housing. The CLT enables the community as a whole to capture the unearned income from rising land values as the community improves, income which can be used to subsidize the housing costs low-income families in the neighborhood. Syracuse has two CLTs, Time of Jubilee and Eastside Neighbors in Partnership, which have improved run-down neighborhoods with affordable housing and now business development without displacing existing residents. The city should continue to fund these two organizations and encourage similar CLTs for neighborhood development in other run-down city neighborhoods.

•  Code Enforcement: City housing codes are inadequately enforced, leading to substandard housing and blight in low-income neighborhoods where absentee landlords own much of the property. Increase the staffing for code enforcement to make these properties come up to code. A branch of the city law department devoted solely to code enforcement and the execution of tax and other liens should be created. In order to make absentee landlords bring their properties up to code, the city should request the Housing Court to issue court injunctions ordering landlords to fix up their properties or face contempt of court and jail time.

•  No Auction Sales to Absentee Landlords: The city is aggressively auctioning off tax delinquent properties. Many of the properties are being grabbed at bargain prices by absentee landlords who then run the properties into the ground while collecting rents but not paying taxes…until they end up on the auction block again. Auctions of tax delinquent properties should sell only to owner-occupants. Potential buyers should have the opportunity to inspect the properties before they are auctioned.

•  Reassess Properties at Sale Price: Many city properties are selling for far below their assessment. Keeping the assessments high discourages purchase and occupancy and encourages the abandonment of city housing. When properties are sold below their assessed value, they should be immediately reassessed to reflect their market value.

•  Rehabilitate or Demolish Abandoned Homes: The number of abandoned homes in Syracuse has increased from 500 in 1993 to over 1100 in 1999. These houses should be taken by the city for either rehabilitation for affordable housing or demolition, depending on their condition.

•  No Residential Property Tax Increase in Syracuse : A property tax increase in Syracuse will only accelerate the out-migration from and home abandonment in Syracuse . Increased revenues for city services and schools should come from progressive tax reforms, not an increase in the highly regressive property tax as now structured.

•  Land-Value Taxation: Land-value taxation would cut or eliminate property taxes on improvements (homes and businesses) and shift the property tax to the market value of the land. It would tax the unearned income from general appreciation of land values, which reflect the general improvement on the community due to social investments in infrastructure, schools, housing, parks, transportation, and the like. As experience with land-value taxation in Australia , New Zealand , Taiwan , and several Pennsylvania municipalities shows, shifting the property tax from improvements to the land has many beneficial effects, including:

•  making the property tax progressive because land ownership is far more concentrated than home ownership, business ownership, or income;

•  a tempering of housing costs, especially for low-income people;

•  a reduction of the property tax burden on low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters;

•  a stimulation of home repairs and improvements because these improvements would not add to the property's assessment;

•  a stimulation of new construction of housing units in the city, especially apartments which generate more income per land area than sprawling housing developments;

•  lower rents as more housing is constructed;

•  a suppression of land speculation by making it unprofitable to hold empty lots and abandoned buildings while waiting for the property to appreciate due to social, not the owner's, investments and actions;

•  a stimulation of productive investment because business improvements are not taxed, and especially in the poor inner-city neighborhoods, where land values are depressed;

•  an incentive for compact development and a disincentive for suburban sprawl because land-value taxation requires land to be used intensively to cover land taxes;

•  reduced costs for local government as compact development replaces sprawl because the costs of all municipal services are multiplied by distance.

•  Moratorium on Upward Reassessment of Property Improvements: A first step toward land value taxation could be a 3-year moratorium on the upward reassessment of properties based on improvements. This would create an incentive to upgrade city housing and to invest in city businesses.

•  Empower Neighborhood Assemblies on Housing and Community Development Issues: The TNT (Today's Neighborhoods Tomorrow) sectors are merely consultative bodies, with agendas set by the city administration, not the neighborhoods. Few people participate because they are merely sounding boards for the city administration with no decision-making power. The Greens call for replacing TNT with real neighborhood governments, assemblies of all residents like New England Town Meetings, grassroots legislatures with real powers. The 8 TNT sectors are too big for neighborhood assemblies. Something like 15 assemblies, reflecting the real self-identified neighborhoods of the city should be created. They should receive budgets as block grants from the city to spend on neighborhood programs. The assemblies should have real powers with respect to neighborhood economic development, code enforcement, community policing, parks and recreation, and the extracurricular use of neighborhood schools.

•  Resident Friendly Downtown: Downtown business development planning should include downtown residents in the planning process. Making downtown a resident-friendly neighborhood, with businesses like groceries that cater to neighborhood needs, will improve the overall business climate downtown.

•  County Moratorium on Greenfield Development: Establish an urban growth boundary that permits no new development of farmland or forest outside of already developed areas in Onondaga County . This will stop further suburban sprawl, support compact development, and protect farmland and wildlife habitat. It will encourage the clean-up and redevelopment of inner city Brownfield sites for industry and the development of new housing as infill.

•  Community Gardens , Urban Farming, and City Park Improvements: Compact development with shared residential and green space in place of sprawling single-family homes with their own lawns and gardens makes economic and ecological sense. But access to green space, including personal garden plots, and public space for social congregating, are necessary to make compact development a good way to live, not just more densely populated way to live.

The city should establish an aggressive community gardens program to provide apartment dwellers with access to garden plots. The program should develop lots for community gardens, with toxics removed from soil beds, and provide technical assistance to gardeners on everything from gardening advice to administering community tool sheds. The program should also encourage urban farming for sale in local groceries and farmstands.

The other part of green space for city dwellers should involve an expansion of programs and landscape maintenance in city parks and a “Greenway Network” linking all city (and eventually county) parks, shopping districts, and neighborhoods with a convenient and safe network of paths for pedestrians, bikes, skateboards, and (for the disabled) speed-limited, non-polluting electric carts.

 

Crime Prevention and Police Accountability

•  Youth Jobs and Recreation: Jobs, job training, and recreation for low-income and at-risk youth are the most effective anti-crime measures in terms of both costs and results. Jobs and justice—not more cops and jails—is the way to break the cycle of violence.

•  City Peace Conversion: Since 1993, Parks and Recreation staffing has been cut from 125 to 25, while the Police Department has been increased by more than 100 to over 500 cops. Replace 100 cops (by attrition and transfers) with 100 community youth workers who can prevent violence with interventions and link at-risk youth to education, recreation, and jobs, which are the best way to assure public safety.

•  Youth Hope Center: The Greens support the call for a Youth Hope Center in the inner city, a one-stop station where youth can get public jobs doing useful work, technical training for better jobs in the private sector, and related support services like basic literacy training, life skills education, child care, transportation, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, counseling, and recreational programs during after-school and evening hours. OCC could use it as a branch for holding classes in the inner city. The city failed to live up to its 1990 promise to build a community center on the near south side at the corner of New and State Streets in return for placement of the steam plant amidst the public housing projects. The money from the developer and the Housing Authority is collecting interest. The city should now make its promised contribution and the project should move forward. A Youth Hope Center incorporating the New and State site and the old Central Tech greystone building is how the city should finally fulfill that promise.

•  Police Cooperation with the Citizen Review Board: The Chief of Police and all police officers should cooperate with Citizen Review Board inquiries and hearings, or be fired. Common Council should put the Mayor and police union on notice that police cooperation with CRB hearings must be in the 2000-2001 city-police union contract or Common Council will not appropriate the required funding. The Citizen Review Board ordinance should be strengthened by giving the CRB the power to override the police chief on policy and the right to initiate legal action without the approval of the city's lawyer. Any consolidation of Syracuse with other police agencies in the county should extend the Citizen Review Board to cover those jurisdictions.

•  Residency Requirement for Police Officers: If cops had to live in the city they police, there would be less disrespect and violence toward city residents, their neighbors. The Greens support repealing the state law the exempts police officers from residency requirements, including the Chief of Police.

•  Elect the Chief of Police: For the same reasons the County Sheriff is elected and not appointed by the County Executive , the Chief of Police should be independently elected by the people, not appointed by the Mayor. An independent election insures the independence of the Chief of Police from possible conflicts of interest with the Mayor and city administration. An independent election insures that the people decide whether the Chief of Police is doing a good job, not a Mayor who may owe the appointed Police Chief political favors.

•  Community Policing: Allocate sufficient resources out of the Police Department budget to establish community policing units in all city neighborhoods. Assign units to particular neighborhoods where police and community people get to know each other and work together to reduce quality of life and nuisance crimes as well as burglaries and violent crimes. Include year-round Police Athletic Leagues for all ages and abilities as part of the program.

•  Jonny Gammage Law: The County Legislature and Common Council should memorialize Congress in support of the proposed Jonny Gammage Law to require an independent federal prosecutor whenever police or other law officers are charged with violating civil rights, causing bodily injury, or homicide.

Hate Crimes Resolution: The County Legislature should follow the example of Syracuse Common Council in its unanimous resolution with the county's own resolution memorializing the State Senate to pass the Hate Crimes Bill, which has already passed the State Assembly.

 

Health and Welfare

  •  State and Federal Takeover of Medicaid and Welfare Costs: Federal and state mandates require the county to pay a portion of Medicaid and welfare benefits out of regressive local sales and property taxes. These expenses account for the spending of about half of all county sales and property tax revenues. Regressive local taxes mean and low- and middle-income people pay a disproportionately high share of the benefits, while high-income people pay a disproportionately low share. These programs should paid by the state and federal governments that mandate them out of progressive taxes collected at the state and federal levels. Pending such changes, local tax reform should make the local tax structure progressive.

•  Universal Health Care: The best way to affect a state or federal takeover of county Medicaid costs is the adoption of a “single-payer” health care program, replacing the grotesque bureaucracy and waste of “managed care” by private insurance companies (25-30% of costs going to administrative overhead and profit) with universal health insurance coverage by a single public payer (2-3% of costs going to administrative overhead, as in the case of Medicare). The Greens call for a democratic universal health care program, not only funded by a single public payer out of progressive taxes, but also democratically controlled by elected local, regional, and national health boards. The Greens support establishing this at the New York State level (where 4 million people lack health insurance) and at the national level (where 44.3 million people lack health insurance).

•  Welfare “Reform” and Department of Social Services: Like welfare rolls across the country, welfare rolls in the county have declined since the passage of the federal welfare reform bill in 1996, which requires welfare participants to work and sets a 5 year lifetime limit on benefits. Recent national studies show that people leaving welfare are faring worse than when they received welfare benefits and that many people eligible for housing, income, food stamps, and Medicaid benefits are being denied those benefits by county welfare departments. According to a recent study by the Children's Defense Fund and the National Coalition for the Homeless, only 8 percent of former welfare participants who find jobs earn wages that bring them above the federal poverty line. According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, 75% of former welfare participants who join the workforce do not have health insurance, 40% are having trouble paying rent and utilities, and one-third are having trouble getting enough food to eat. Another recent study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that the poorest 20% of female-headed families—the 2 million families with 4 million children that welfare is supposed to help—have lost one-seventh of their income since welfare “reform” was adopted. Welfare “reform” has driven the poorest families deeper into poverty while the economy has been growing. What happens during the next recession? The Urban Institute study found that 20% of those who left welfare for jobs have already had to go back on welfare, using up more of their 5-year lifetime limit. Those who are on welfare still have to work, only they do not have real jobs. They are required to work for the minimum wage equivalent of their benefit package without any of the labor law protections of other workers. If they quit their job assignment, they lose benefits. The job assignments rarely impart marketable skills and welfare participants are often told to quit school in order to do their work assignments. The whole system is perpetuating poverty, not uprooting it or even ameliorating it. Fundamental state and federal reform of the recent so-called “welfare reform” is needed. In the meantime, there are several things that can be done at the county level by the Department of Social Services:

•  Respect for Welfare Participants: The constant grievance of people participating in public assistance programs run by the county is the routine disrespect they receive from DSS employees. Many DSS employees have been recruited from collection agencies and consistently treat welfare participants in real need of assistance as if they are hustlers trying to defraud DSS. The DSS policy mandating civil treatment of welfare participants must be realized, or new leadership and personnel must be hired to do the job at DSS.

•  Real Jobs for CWEP Workers: Most work assignments for welfare participants do not impart job skills or have advancement opportunities. Welfare participants on work assignments are required to work, but are not covered by labor laws. Meet the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP) requirements for welfare participants with real jobs instead of work assignments so that welfare participants earn prevailing wages for the work they do and have the same labor rights as other workers. When there are not available jobs in the private and non-profit sectors, employ welfare participants in public jobs meeting community needs. Use the unused federal welfare block grant money in the state's funds to fund this real jobs program.

•  No Displacement of Existing Workers with CWEP Workers: It appears that CWEP workers are doing jobs in government agencies and private companies that should be done by real employees with decent pay, benefits, and labor rights. The Greens are adamantly opposed to the replacement of existing workers with CWEP workers, which would eliminate good public jobs with decent pay and benefits in the public sector and be a public wage subsidy for private sector businesses. Commission an independent study of CWEP work assignments to document that either no jobs have been taken by CWEP workers or which jobs have been taken by CWEP workers.

•  Education and Training Opportunities: Hours of participation in educational and job training programs should count toward work requirements. Stop making welfare participants quit educational programs in order to qualify for benefits.

•  Ombudsman: Welfare participants need an independent source who can inform them of their rights and the benefits to which they are entitled. The county should hire, outside of DSS, an independent ombudsman to provide this service to welfare participants.

•  Study of Former Welfare Participants: Onondaga County is not tracking what happens to former welfare participants once their health and child care benefits run out. We don't know if the new welfare policies are helping or hurting low-income families in Onondaga County . The county should fund an independent study to find out what the impact over several years of the new welfare policies is on low-income families.

 

Pollution Prevention

  Age-adjusted cancer rates have increased 60% since 1950 due to the new synthetic chemical and radioactive pollutants released into the environment since World War II.

We are bathing in a chemical soup that includes 75,000 new synthetic industrial chemicals that did not exist in the environment before World War II. Most of these chemicals have not been tested for their environmental and health effects.

Nearly 50% of those alive today will get cancer. Scientists believe 70% to 90% of cancers have environmental causes.

Pollution is a global problem that will require fundamental social and technological changes to stem, but there are actions we can take in Onondaga County now to reduce our exposure to disease-causing pollution.

•  Require Public Notification of Pesticide Applications: Pesticides are potent neurotoxins that have been associated with birth defects, cancer, immunological disorders, and hormonal disruption. At the very least, the public should know when pesticides are being applied.

•  Phase Out Pesticide Use by Local Governments: Reduce pesticide exposure to municipal workers and local citizens by phasing out all uses of pesticides by local government over three years, with exceptions only for public health emergencies. Reliance on pesticides usually means the underlying causes of pest infestation are not being addressed. Non-toxic pest control measures result in long-term solutions that save money over the long term.

•  Support Organic Farming, Gardening, and Yard Landscaping

•  Reduce Industrial Discharges into Air and Water

•  Require Notification of All Food Additives and Genetically-Modified Food

 

Solid Waste

Solid Waste Reduction and Recycling:

New York 's Solid Waste Management Hierarchy is: first, reduce and reuse; second, recycle; third, incinerate; and fourth, landfill. Landfilling should be the last resort. But incineration should not even be an option at all. Incineration makes waste more toxic, emitting some of it into the environment out of the smokestacks and landfilling about one-fourth of the original tonnage as hazardous ash. New York 's misconstrued Solid Waste Management Hierarchy has created unnecessary incentives for incineration, encouraging Onondaga County to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to building the last major incinerator in the country. Already, 5 years into the short 20 years of expected operation before it is worn out and scrapped, the OCRRA incinerator is on the verge of bankruptcy.

The first step in getting out of this mess is to maximize solid waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. The goal should be to handle all trash within the county, without trash imports or exports. In order to shift solid waste priorities from incineration (and then landfilling the incinerator ash) to waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, the Greens call for the following policies:

•  Waste Reduction and Reuse

•  A Real Green Fee on Solid Waste: Not OCRRA's misnamed “Green Fee,” which was a flat rate, but a “pay as you throw” fee schedule, scaled to the amount waste generated, in order to encourage waste reduction and reuse.

•  Incentives to Materials Recovery Industries: Target economic incentives to businesses that repair, recondition, recycle, or resell waste materials. OCRRA and the county Economic Development department should work closely to help develop these industries.

•  Green Fees on Non-Recyclables: Get serious about recycling: pass a county trash reduction law with a schedule of Green Fees on non-recyclable packaging and products sold in the county.

•  Buy Recycled and Recyclable: County and local government should increase purchases recycled and recyclable products, especially from local sources.

•  Recycling

•  Convert the OCCRA Incinerator into a Recycling Complex: The OCRRA facility on Rock Cut Road already has much of the equipment needed for separating recyclables from the waste stream. Serious waste reduction, reuse, and recycling will render the incinerator unnecessary.

•  Invest in Recycling Industries and Infrastructure: Public willingness to recycle is not matched by industry's capacity to handle waste materials. Materials recovery and recycling industries are a golden opportunity for the creation of locally-owned businesses with secure, decent-paying jobs. This ecological approach is also an economic development approach: for the same volume of trash, recycling creates more than six times more permanent jobs than incineration. These industries should receive the highest priority in county economic development incentives and assistance. The infrastructure for composting, construction and debris (C&D), and hazardous waste collection needs public investment for expansion.

•  Public Education and Training: Public education programs by OCRRA need to be increased, not cut to in order subsidize the incinerator to keep it burning trash. The need for education is especially great for hazardous household wastes and for education on how to buy recycled and recyclable products.

•  Landfilling

•  Use Lined Landfills for Non-Recyclables: Dispose of non-recyclable municipal waste in lined landfills. Sterilize and then dispose of medical waste in lined landfills.

•  Don't Use Unlined Trash Dumps: Onondaga County trash should not be dumped in unlined landfills where pollution leaches into the soil and water and vents into the air.

•  Close Seneca Meadows: Close the hazardous unlined Seneca Meadows trash dump. Stop OCRRA from sending its hazardous incinerator ash to Seneca Meadows. Not only is this the right thing to do for environmental reasons, it is the right for economic reasons as well. For one thing, the state-of-the-art lined landfills in the northeast have tipping fees that are comparable in price to unlined Seneca Meadows. For another, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has held incinerators liable for clean-up for pollution from ash dumped in unlined landfills. OCRRA may find itself liable for cleaning up pollution from ash it has dumped at Seneca Meadows.

•  New County Landfill : Site and build a state-of-the-art county landfill for ash and other solid waste. The Van Buren site for the ash landfill already owned by OCRRA should be re-evaluated as part of this process.

•  Incineration

•  No OCRRA Incinerator Bailout: Incineration should be the last resort for trash disposal in the short term and phased out completely as soon as possible. Make incineration compete on its own merits without subsidies. OCRRA's proposed “Green Fee” was misnamed. It was not Green at all because the fee had no relation to the amount of trash collected and thus created no incentive for trash reduction. OCRRA's so-called “Green Fee” was really just a flat tax on every household and business in order to bail out the OCRRA incinerator.

•  No Trash Imports, No Tire Burning, No Permit to Increase Trash Burned: Reject all OCRRA incinerator bailout schemes that make Onondaga County the garbage dump of the northeast in general and New York City in particular when it closes the giant Fresh Kills dump at the end of next year.

•  Update Scrubber and Monitoring Technology: As long as the incinerator must run during the transition to an ecological waste management policy, it should use the best technology available

•  Increase Inspections for Recyclables and Hazardous Materials: As long as the incinerator must run during the transition, no recyclable or hazardous materials should be burned.

 

The Future of OCRRA:

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) was really set up as a vehicle for building the incinerator. Its waste reduction, reuse, and recycling programs are an afterthought. They must compete for trash with the incinerator, giving OCRRA an inherent conflict of interest.

The OCRRA incinerator was an ill-conceived, expensive public works program, the last incinerator built in the US at a time when excess capacity for waste disposal was well-known. It was not a rational answer to the solid waste problem. Now that the incinerator is built, all of the construction jobs it created have vanished. Meanwhile, ash from the incinerator—made highly toxic by the burning process—is being landfilled. It is a common misconception that incineration eliminates the need for landfills. In fact, incinerators produce 25 pounds of ash from every 100 pounds of garbage, only the ash going to landfills is far more toxic than the original trash.

With the incinerator on the verge of bankruptcy, now is the time to begin investing in an ecologically and economically sound approach to solid waste emphasizing waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. Even were the incinerator to operate for the final 15 years of its expected lifetime, now is the time to begin planning and making investments in an ecological, post-incinerator system of solid waste management.

•  Shut Down the OCRRA Incinerator: The OCRRA incinerator is an environmental nightmare. It should be shut down permanently as soon as possible. It is permitted to release .003 pounds of dioxins per year, which amounts to 127 million “adult lifetime doses” of cancer-causing dioxins per year, or 348,000 “adult lifetime doses” per day. Dioxins cause reproductive disorders (reduced sperm, dwarfed genitalia, hermaphroditism, infertility), birth defects (up to seven generations hence through genetic mutations passed through descendants), mental and physical deficits in children, and weakened immune systems. Dioxins are only among the worst of hundreds of toxic chemicals coming out of smokestacks of the OCRRA incinerator. No calculation of profit or county bond ratings is worth this assault on human health and the environment.

•  Study All Options for Dealing with the $160 Million Incinerator Debt: The Greens reject allowing OCRRA to go bankrupt only to have a giant waste management company buy the OCRRA incinerator on the cheap and run it without local public oversight. The Greens also reject bailing out the OCRRA incinerator in order to just keep it running. Socializing the costs so private investors are guaranteed a profit is not be the county's responsibility.

The county should evaluate all options with an open mind, including the options that involve shutting down the incinerator permanently, which no one in county government has raised as a possibility. Some of the options worth evaluating for their comparative economic and environmental costs include:

1. County Takeover of Incinerator, Paid for with Real Green Fees: Take over the incinerator in order to shut it down permanently when the transition to landfilling non-recyclables is complete. The take over could financed with callable bonds that enable the county to refinance when bond ratings recover after an initial lowering if the takeover involves OCRRA's bankruptcy. Revenues to pay off the bonds should be raised through Green Fees that discourage waste generation: fees based on waste generated (for example, a residential per-container fee), without exemptions for industries now exempted from flow control agreements. At least three options exist to take it over.

1a. Assume Debt: The county could simply take the incinerator and assume its debt.

2a. Eminent Domain: The county could take it over by eminent domain and let the courts determine its fair market value, which is likely to be less than the $160 million debt, and let the bondholders take the loss.

3a. Bankruptcy and Then Purchase: This option would make the bondholders eat the $160 million debt and enable a county takeover at lower cost, without allowing the incinerator to fall into the hands of giant waste management company.

2. Ban Mass Burn Incineration in the County and Let the OCRRA Go Bankrupt: This approach will prevent the purchase of the incinerator by a giant waste management company to operate it without public oversight when OCRRA goes bankrupt. The costs the county may incur for OCRRA's bankruptcy due to lower bond ratings and higher interest rates may be far lower than paying off the incinerator's $160 million debt. Non-recyclable county waste would then be shipped to out to other landfills until a state-of-the-art county landfill could be sited and built in the county.

Other factors which must be clarified before concluding which option is best for Onondaga County include:

•  full disclosure of any contracts the City of Syracuse and other entities in the county may have signed that obligate them to cover the incinerators' debts, and whether any such obligations where fully disclosed to the officials approving them in order to see if there is legal ground for suing to get out of such contracts;

•  whether the state, which encouraged the county to build the incinerator, will provide financial assistance to cover the incinerator's debts, as several states have for other lemon incinerators, and whether, because of that encouragement, the county has any ground for suing the state for such funds.

•  OCRRA Focus on Waste Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling: With the incinerator taken out of its hands, OCRRA can concentrate on waste reduction, reuse, and recycling without an inherent conflict of interest because it is also running an incinerator that needs a large volume of trash to burn. OCRRA's scope should include operating some recycling facilities, including conversion of the Rock Cut Road incinerator site into a recycling complex. Operating these public enterprises instead of contracting out to private enterprises should be pursued when it can save Onondaga County residents money or it is needed to prime local recycling markets. Another option to be considered for public recycling enterprises is to train the workers to operate them as cooperatives and then sell them to the workers.

•  Elect the OCRRA Board: Replace the political appointment of industry cronies with public elections to the OCRRA Board.

•  Relocate OCRRA Administration Offices to Rock Cut Road : While it won't solve the problem of incinerator debt by itself, OCRRA's administrative overhead should be cut by consolidating administrative offices at one site on Rock Cut Road .

•  Municipalize Trash Hauling: Through municipal government or OCRRA, municipalize trash hauling operations where necessary to pay for this service at cost instead of being gouged by giant trash-hauling corporations.

•  Public Title to County Trash : Greens support state legislation to allow municipal governments to take title to all trash placed at the curb for disposal. While some in Onondaga County support this as a way to re-establish flow control and feed the incinerator, the Greens see it as a way for the county to maintain control of its solid waste system instead of having giant waste management companies run the system. With county title to county trash, the county can just as well emphasize waste reduction, reuse, and recycling as feeding the incinerator. Without title, Waste Management or BFI may run our waste system with little public regulation.

 

Renewable Energy

•  No Nukes: The Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 nuclear facility is the 5 th most error-prone of the 111 nuclear facilities in the US , according to an August 1999 study released by Ralph Nader's Public Citizen. The Nine Mile Point facility was found to have operated outside the design basis given in their operating permit 24 times in the last three years. A serious nuclear accident involving a core meltdown and the release of substantial radiation could render Syracuse and Onondaga County uninhabitable for generations. Short of a major accident, the Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 and the Fitzpatrick nukes are releasing radioactive gases routinely that are deleterious to our health. The city and county should participate officially in all regulatory proceedings concerning the three nuclear power plants in Oswego County, work aggressively to shut down these nuclear power plants, starting with Nine Mile Point 1 with its cracked reactor core shroud and many other serious problems, and demand state and federal economic adjustment funding to assist the redevelopment of a post-nuclear economy and tax base for Oswego County.

•  No Nuke Sales to AmerGen or Entergy: The sale of these nukes to AmerGen or Entergy would be an economic farce and pose a grave environmental danger. Construction costs for Nine Mile Point 2 alone were $6.4 billion. Yet Niagara Mohawk and the other utilities that now own them want to sell NMP 1 and 2 for less than $50 million in net proceeds! Ratepayers are expected to pay $3.2 billion over the next 15 years to enable NiMo to make a 10% profit on the $1.8 billion NiMo still owes on NMP 2. The proposed buyer is AmerGen, a 50/50 partnership of British Energy and Philadelphia Electric (Peco). When British Energy took over British Nuclear and its 15 nuclear plants in 1996, it promptly fired 1/3 of the workforce, raising serious concerns about safety and a near meltdown at the Hunterston B station in Ayrshire , Scotland . Peco is a non-union company. AmerGen is committed to buying 100 American nukes as the industry deregulates and utilities divest their generating plants. AmerGen's strategy depends on shifting the original construction costs to the old utility and its ratepayers while cutting operating costs through massive staff cuts, sacrificing safety and job security to turn a profit. Entergy has made a late bid to enter the market to buy NMP 1 & 2 after seeing AmerGen's bid. Entergy's record is no better than AmerGen's. The sale of NMP 1 & 2 to AmerGen or Entergy must be stopped to protect Central New York 's environment and ratepayers and utility workers.

•  Nuclear Free Zone: The city and county should declare a Nuclear Free Zone to bar the transport of nuclear waste and plutonium MOX fuel through the city and county on the interstates and railroads.

•  Solar Power through Public Power: The city and county should municipalize the remaining electric transmission and distribution systems that are not already municipalized in order to escape the bailout of NiMo's nuclear investments that are built into NiMo's high transmission and distribution charges for the next five years by the Public Service Commission's regulatory rulings. The municipal utilities should buy power from renewable sources and invest in energy efficiency and generation from solar-based renewable sources, such as wind, solar-electric, solar heating, solar-hydrogen fuel, and biofuels.

 

Onondaga Lake Clean-Up

  •  Study the Ogden Plan: The Greens support opening up the Onondaga Lake clean up plan to bids and proposals, including the Ogden Plan and other alternatives to the County Plan for wastewater treatment and Onondaga Lake clean up. The Ogden Plan claims to reduce costs from $445 million to $286 million, reduce completion time from 15 to 3 years, make future expansion of capacity easier, and release cleaner water into the lake. Many environmental scientists who have studied Onondaga Lake are concerned that the existing County Plan will incur great expense and still fail to clean up Onondaga Lake . It is worth a year of delay to evaluate alternative proposals.

•  Keep the Project Labor Agreement: The Greens want any Onondaga Lake clean up program to have a Project Labor Agreement that insures local workers and businesses their fair share of the jobs and contracts. The consideration of alternatives to the current County Plan should consider their effectiveness in cleaning up the lake and the costs. Savings should not come at the expense of a Project Labor Agreement.

•  Don't Privatize the Drainage and Sanitation Department: Savings from an alternative plan should also not come at the expense of privatizing the Drainage and Sanitation Department. As the experience with the Thatcher-era privatization of England's water and sanitation utilities shows, the subsequent orgy of profiteering, failure to reinvest in infrastructure, and declining quality of service costs the public far more than the one-time infusion of cash from the sale.

•  Sewage Volume Reduction: Promote water efficiency and recycling in homes and businesses to help bring sewage volume to within the capacity of sewage lines and water treatment facilities and end the problem of sewer overflows into the lake and its tributaries.

•  Separate Storm and Sewer Lines: Continue separating these lines in the city to bring sewage lines within the capacity of the sewage treatment facilities.

•  Expand Biological Treatment: Replace chemical sewage treatment with biological treatment by microbes and marsh plants wherever feasible. Biological treatment creates cleaner water at half the cost, plus it creates new wildlife habitat.

 

Ecologically Sustainable Development

  •  Greenway Network: Develop a countywide Greenway Network linking parks, wildlife preserves, and other greenspace to all neighborhoods, schools, and shopping districts through a comprehensive and usable system of walkways and bikeways. Support community gardens in the city. Reforest urban areas. Establish permanent natural habitat preserves to foster biodiversity.

•  Reclaim the Syracuse Waterfront for Public Use: Develop a comprehensive plan to reclaim the waterfront in the city for public use. The waterfront should not be monopolized by private shopping malls, industries, and luxury residences, or wasted on sewage treatment facilities. The waterfront should be accessible and useable by everyone.

•  Environmental Audits: The Syracuse city auditor, the county comptroller, and comparable officials in other municipalities should begin a program of periodic environmental audits that run parallel to their fiscal audits. The environmental audits will document the unnecessary use of toxics and the unnecessary waste of energy and resources and point to opportunities for “eco-efficiency”—the greater utilization of non-polluting materials and the more efficient use of energy, paper, and other materials, which saves taxpayers money and reduces adverse impacts on the environment.

•  Social and Ecological Accounting: County and municipal comptrollers and auditors, in consultation with their respective administrative agencies and legislative bodies, should devise a system of social and ecological accounting that track all the costs and benefits and all the assets and liabilities that affect our quality of life, not only those monetized in the market. Social accounts would use a variety of indicators (not just the government fund balances or gross product measures) to give a more complete picture of the state of our community. For example, it would be useful to know the labor and energy productivities of governmental services and common commodities. These would provide “shadow prices” in terms of labor-time values and energy-consumption values against which to judge actual market prices. Such information would be useful in challenging gouging profiteers and the underpayment of workers in certain occupations and in documenting best practices in energy efficiency. Ecological accounts would enable audited governmental units to track their eco-efficiency, give planners a more complete view of Onondaga County's economy and environment by accounting for natural as well as human-made capital, and assist municipal governments in making ecologically intelligent polices that protect and restore the ecological foundations of our local economy and environment.

•  Sustainability Planning: Our present economy, based on non-renewable fuels and materials imported from across the planet, is not sustainable. It steals from the economic resources of coming generations. As non-renewable fuels and materials decline, prices will rise.

Now is the time to make plans for a sustainable regional economy based on renewable energy sources; renewable materials that are non-toxic biodegradables or recyclables; and zero emissions of toxics. The planning should develop a time table for investing the non-renewable fuels and materials of our present economy in the creation of viable renewable technologies that will provide a sustainable, self-reliant economic base for the region.

At present, with a declining farming and manufacturing base, Onondaga County has become an economic backwater that is increasingly dependent on wealth-draining imports, the decisions of distant corporations and governments, and the movements of prices and interest rates in a world market over which we have no control. With a revitalized farming and manufacturing foundation, the service and retail sectors will have plenty of customers and the public sector plenty of revenues.

Public policies and investments should promote import substitution through local sustainable production:

•  Ecological Farming: Promote a regionally self-reliant organic food and agriculture system that links urban consumer cooperatives to family farm cooperatives. Promote urban farming and gardening.

•  Ecological Manufacturing: Promote worker/community-owned manufacturing co-ops using eco-technologies based on nontoxic biodegradables and recyclables and renewable energy sources. Maximize the use of local agricultural raw materials for nontoxic biodegradable and recyclable products that are manufactured locally.

•  Ecological Transportation: Stop mall-ing Onondaga County . Bring work and shopping back within walking distance in the neighborhoods. Build a convenient network of paths for bikes and electric carts. Replace excess roads and parking lots with light rails, parks, and urban farms. Replace old CENTRO buses with clean buses and mini-vans powered by natural gas and, as it becomes economical in the next decade, non-polluting hydrogen fuel cells. Study the feasibility of a light rail or trolley system.

•  Ecological Building : Build new structures and retrofit old structures with nontoxic materials that maximize energy and water efficiency and the use of on-site renewable energy sources.

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SyracuseGreens
As a political party we work to establish political action based on cooperation, rather than exploitation, on conservation rather than consumption, and on sustainability rather than short-term gain. We believe in an alternative, independent politics.