Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon (standing) speaks at a forum at Destiny Christian Center on Syracuse's North Side. Onondaga County legislator Bill Kinne (seated) laid out his platform in the race's first public forum. Credit: Chris Libonati | Central Current

In only 45 minutes, Onondaga County Legislator Bill Kinne and County Executive Ryan McMahon tried to differentiate themselves.

For one of the first times this election cycle, the two candidates laid out their platforms in the same room.

McMahon, a Republican and the incumbent, touted his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and drawing Micron to Central New York. Kinne, a Democrat, argued making the region better for people already living in Central New York means taking care of basic infrastructure like sewers and roads.

And while Kinne largely talked about infrastructure and housing and at times evaluated McMahon’s work, he also came out swinging.

“Ryan’s a nice person, but to me he represents everything that’s wrong with politics,” Kinne said of McMahon in his closing remarks.

The forum was split into three sections. The candidates alternated as they introduced themselves, laid out their platform and then made closing remarks.

Here’s a bit of what the candidates focused on in the first public forum:

McMahon touts Micron, lays his vision for Onondaga County

In McMahon’s opening remarks, he set the stage for much of his pitch to voters the rest of the night.

“Onondaga County is back,” he said.

McMahon told those in attendance that for the first time the county can “play offense” and touted his role in making it that way. The county executive argued he got the county to its current stage — with Micron on the way — and that he’s the person to see that kind of growth to fruition.

He laid out the three broad ways the region needs to get ready for Micron. It needs to prepare the community, the workforce and White Pine Commerce Park, the site on which Micron is set to sit.

The site will require changed infrastructure: roads to carry people, pipes to carry water and sewers.

Central New York will need a workforce to fill the available advanced manufacturing jobs. He touted the clean room simulation lab set to be built at Onondaga Community College.

McMahon focused a portion of his platform on how the community needs to prepare for Micron. He cited Onondaga County’s comprehensive plan, which focused on center-driven growth. The county executive argued the neighborhood near Destiny Christian Church — the North Side — should be walkable to the Inner Harbor.

He outlined the broad strokes of an “all of the above strategy” to tackle housing. McMahon ticked off affordable, market-rate and senior housing among the types of housing the county needs to add.

The county has also spent $8.7 million on the city’s lead crisis over the last year, he said. While McMahon complimented the city for making more flexible funds available to test kids for their blood-lead levels, he also called on Syracuse Common Councilors to make more money available for housing initiatives.

“We need the city of Syracuse to double down and match us,” McMahon said. “We’re spending more money right now on the housing issue than the city is. We need more from the city.

The city’s 2023-24 budget is $350 million. The county’s 2023 budget is $1.4 billion.

McMahon said his office has teams already set aside to work on preparing the site, workforce and community for Micron and that they’re the right people to see it through.

“The same team that got us through Covid and help lead that, that same team that put together a plan to really drive forward with this opportunity is the same team that can execute this opportunity,” McMahon said.

Kinne focuses on infrastructure, housing, mental health

Kinne led off his platform by saying his goal over the next four years is to “get working and housing” for Onondaga County residents.

He focused on infrastructure in the county.

“Pipes, water pipes, roads, bridges,” Kinne said. “They have to be taken care of and not in a piecemeal way.”

Kinne said he believes county pipes and sewers must be replaced.

“I’m going to talk about the taxpayer that’s been here for 40 years, the taxpayer that’s been here for five years and they have sewage in their basement,” Kinne said.

He said the county should use its surplus — sitting at well over $100 million — on infrastructure and the county’s mental health system.

Part of the reason for the surplus, Kinne argued, were layoffs from when the pandemic started. Kinne said he would hire more mental health workers.

Kinne also said he believes the county needs to find ways to get contractors to build more housing without the county building any houses. Part of that, he said, could come from using the surplus.

“It’s good to have a great bond rating, but, you know, people are suffering,” Kinne said. “We need to deal with the people.”

Much of the end of Kinne’s platform and his closing remarks focused on what he couched as McMahon’s failures.

Kinne chastised McMahon for his attempt to close Jamesville Correctional Facility without asking the New York State Commission on Correction.

He pointed to McMahon giving a job in his administration to former Onondaga County Sheriff candidate Esteban Gonzalez that pays $105,000.

Kinne dinged McMahon for pushing an $85 million aquarium on land in the Inner Harbor Kinne called polluted. He said McMahon failed to sell the plan to voters or the county legislature.

“You have a choice this year, folks. A sincere choice. We’re two different people,” Kinne told the crowd.

Read more of central current’s coverage

Suggested Reading

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or libonati@centralcurrent.org.