Local politician Ben Walsh was re-elected for Syracuse mayor as of Tuesday, November 2. Walsh ran with the Independent Party for this year’s election and has identified independently since getting into politics. During the 2017 election, Walsh made history becoming the first Independent mayor to win office representing Syracuse in more than 100 years.
Walsh defeated candidates Khalid Bey, running with the Democrat Party, and Republican representative Janet Burman. With a total of over 19,300 voters, he swept the elections with over 60% of the votes. This left Bey in second place, receiving 27% of votes, and Burman receiving the final 12%. This year’s election had a turnout rate of 26%, ranking as the second-lowest turnout in 100 years.
In his opening speech, Walsh stated, “Syracuse, you picked hope and optimism for this great city. You rejected the division that has impacted politics elsewhere and had held us back for far too long, and you chose working together to solve the challenges we face.” Walsh also acknowledged his competitors, saying, “Janet Burman’s relentless focus on public safety reflects our desire for safer neighborhoods. Janet, I want you to know that I will work tirelessly to keep our city safe.” He then continued on to his other competitor, “Khalid and I go a ways back and have always worked well together. Khalid has given a large portion of his life serving this community and has done so with dignity and a forceful commitment to ensuring the voice of the people is heard.”
The runner for the Democratic party, Khalid Bey, describes himself as a straightforward, practical, and pragmatic person. He has previous experience in politics spending 10 years on the Syracuse Common Council He says his experience in the mayoral election has taught him about how government is “unattractive” to voters. “We, politics and our government have to figure out what that is to try to reinvigorate the excitement about doing that civic duty to get more people involved,” he stated. Bey emphasized his stances on many important topics in his campaign such as job security, stability in homes, the ability to feed families, safe neighborhoods, and safe educational environments. Bey especially appealed to the black and lower-income communities in Syracuse. “These are the things everyday people think about. I’m hoping that those who continue on in government will make that a part of the effort next year,” Bey adds.
Republican candidate, Janet Burman is a retired economist who ran the state Workers’ Compensation Board in Syracuse for several years. “Of course I’m disappointed, but I had realistic expectations,” she says, “I thought it was a great campaign, there’s nothing I would change. I’m really excited about the fact that voters were so much more engaged in this election.”
Syracuse, like many cities, is suffering from an increasing rate of violent crime. “What’s happening right now, it’s just unsustainable,” Walsh says. “We cannot have a growing, rising city that is losing young people to violence on our streets every day. They just can’t coexist.’’ Walsh says that he hopes to “transform” Syracuse and is heading into his second term with optimism about the potential for new jobs and developments. On this note, sometime during his time as mayor, it is said that construction will start on a new high school. This new school will be focused on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. This construction will take place in the abandoned Central Technical High School building. In addition, Walsh is intending to spend a 123 million dollar windfall of federal stimulus money intended to restore government services and boost the economy. Around 30 million will be used to improve housing with up to 125 houses estimated to arise in vacant lots within the coming years.
Aside from Walsh, new common councilors and a new city court judge were elected. Erica T. Clarke of the Democratic Party was elected as the City Court Judge with 69% of votes. With 74% of votes, Helen Hudson of the Democratic Party was elected as the president of the Common Council. Jennifer Schultz, also among the Democratic Party, was elected as councilor of the first district with 64% of votes. Patrick Hogan with 84% of votes and among the Democratic Party was the elected Councilor of the second district. With 98% of votes, Chol Majak of the Democratic party was elected as the councilor of the third district. Latoya Allen was elected as the councilor of the fourth district with 98% of votes, also of the Democratic party. As the Councilor of the fifth district, Joe Driscoll of the Democratic party was elected with 98% of votes. Rasheada Caldwell and Amir Gethers, both part of the Democratic party, were elected as Syracuse’s Councilor-At-Large. Twiggy Billue, Nyatwa Bullock, and Karen J. Cordano, all part of the Democratic party, were elected as the commissioners of education.
Ben Walsh will continue his term in office on January 1, 2022. This is Walsh’s second and last term in office, as mayors have a two-term limit. Walsh hopes to go into office with optimism and a better vision for Syracuse. With the winners from the election mainly being Democrats, Syracuse Common Council has a full Democratic board for the first time in six years.