Editorial Board

Both people and politicians must come together to have further dialogue on what a merger could mean for Syracuse, Onondaga County

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said Tuesday she hopes those divided about a plan to merge the governments of Syracuse and the county could foster a dialogue to mend those differences. That dialogue is essential to ensure that the everyday people who would be affected by a potential merge are aware of its effects.

Mahoney used her State of the County address on Tuesday as a platform to urge for a referendum on the merger to be held this year, which is what the most recent proposal regarding the merger calls for. Local officials starkly contrast on their views toward the merger, with Mahoney supporting it and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner strongly opposing it.

But since a potential merger would affect many nitty-gritty elements of government that directly impact constituents, there should be a greater emphasis on community involvement in the merger discussion. Mahoney said during her address that she wants to “dial down this poisonous dialogue,” and called for a more constructive conversation about the merger.

It’s clear that there is still quite a bit of uncertainty regarding the plan, and increased dialogue in the form of community sessions would give citizens an opportunity to learn about and voice their opinions on the potential merger. The new edition of the merger report was released in February, and it’s important that community members understand the changes that were made to the report and the goals and logistics of the merger.

These meetings should extend not only to Syracuse residents but also residents of Onondaga County, who may be concerned about potential changes to their districts because of the merger. Previous community meetings about the merger were well attended, demonstrating that people care about the merger and are willing to show up and talk about it.

Mahoney’s hope for the referendum to be held this year seem far-fetched if there is not enough of a dialogue held during community meetings about the merger. It’s essential that the process of debating the merger is thorough and that all voices that want to be heard are indeed heard and received.

And if community members can come together to talk about their different perspectives on the potential merger, Mahoney and Miner — the two most influential leaders in the county — should also be able to set aside their differences and meet to discuss the merger. It’s beyond time for the county executive and mayor to have a dialogue themselves about the real benefits and consequences of a plan that could affect many of the people they were elected to represent.

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