On September 24, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney announced that she would leave County government to take a job working with both SUNY ESF and SUNY Upstate. That new position will give her a lot of power to guide the City’s future.
For years, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has used other SUNY schools to direct State money to Upstate’s cities. Cuomo won’t give City Hall any cash to help close its budget deficits, but Albany, Utica, and Buffalo have all received lots of money from the State through their local public universities. Working high up in both of Syracuse’s SUNY schools will put Mahoney in control of a lot of State spending in the City.
SUNY Upstate owns a lot of the vacant land between Downtown and the Eastside, and it’s always pushing to buy up more land on the Southside just south of Downtown. Those are the two areas of land where City Hall is changing zoning to allow a lot more building because it wants to extend Downtown-style development out into the City’s neighborhoods. That’s a major piece of land-use policy, and, as a SUNY official, Mahoney will have a lot more say in its implementation than she would have had as County Executive.
So far, Syracuse University is the only school that’s really exerted its influence on the City. By taking this new job, Mahoney will have the opportunity to make SUNY Upstate and SUNY ESF big players in local politics too. As County Executive, she steered a suburban-dominated county government towards City-minded policies. Here’s hoping she continues to keep the City’s best interests in mind at her new job.