Syracuse Is In Economic Trouble, But There Are Lots Of Upsides As Well
Usually I have lots of pictures to share of my local adventures but this time the topic warrants something slightly different. I’ve been sitting on this story from February written by Carl Schramm for Forbes Magazine titled By Forgetting Its Proud Economic History, Syracuse Loses Its Future, knowing I was going to write about it eventually but wondering how I was going to do it.
The story garnered a lot of attention locally, lots of it negative. People in general didn’t like it, and it got to such a fever pitch that the author ended up writing a second article backing up the first and basically saying we were missing the point. And he’s from the area so he should know what he’s talking about.
There’s almost always two sides to every story, and I’m feeling both sides of this particular story. I have to get this part out of the way; he’s not wrong. We don’t like how he said it and what he said but he’s not wrong. We can’t ignore that our mayor declared that the city would probably be bankrupt by 2014; that’s only a year away. We can’t ignore that the Syracuse school system is in the hole to the tune of around $50 million. We can’t ignore that the city’s pretty much only collecting taxes on 68% of the properties in the area. We can’t ignore that manufacturing has left the area and that our unemployment really hasn’t dropped as much as we probably need it to.
In the two years this blog’s been in existence I’ve written on some of the problems of Syracuse and central New York as well. I started out talking about assessment issues. We lost our symphony orchestra. I wrote about Syracuse schools & their problems. I talked about issues with Loretto, problems with Erie Blvd East’s crackling infrastructure, the ignoring of small businesses by the main Chamber, Shoppingtown Mall and the Galleria. Those aren’t pretty stories to be sure.
On the other hand I’ve talked about some of the good things the city has to offer. I talked about community theater, Armony Square, multiple restaurants and local networking, the Regional Market and Destiny USA.
Of course, Mr. Schramm might say that’s not quite enough to offset the problems of the city. I’d say that’s true, but I’d also say we have lots more to come. Syracuse University’s new Maxwell Center is creating a whole new breed of entrepreneurs, and a guy named Nasir Ali is working with leaders in town to help keep them here. The downtown area, at least parts of it, are going through a regrowth and rebuild and more people are moving into that area, living in luxury apartments, and there’s talk of creating another new neighborhood near Destiny. The Tech Garden continues to help create new business ideas and works on keeping those ideas in central New York, and the area is starting to be known as a technology power in its own right.
In other words, though I said Schramm was right, he was also wrong. So no one knows who Lyman C. Smith is (I’m sure he only means those of us who don’t go to Syracuse University. I bet most people under the age of 30 don’t know who Lee Alexander is, a guy who was probably the best mayor the city of Syracuse ever had, even if he turned out to be a crook.
The reason I and my buddy Phil point out some of the bad things in town isn’t to make the area look bad; it’s to make sure that when all this new stuff is coming into the area that no one forgets to fix these other things as well. It’s the same reason there’s a petition going around now looking for the demolition, clean up, and revitalization of the area around Carrier Circle. Those of us who are still here are proud of our area, love our area, and want to make sure someone in a power position knows it and tries to do something about it. And the rest of us are ready to offer suggestions if asked… or offer those suggestions on our blogs if we’re not asked.
Syracuse and the rest of central New York is in transition. And we’re doing it faster than Buffalo or Rochester or Albany. We’re doing it faster than Cleveland and Detroit. We’re going to get it done; who’s with me on this thought?