Photo by Mike Greenlar | Central Current.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh introduced plans to address gun violence, traffic deaths, housing inequities and the arrival of Micron in this year’s State of the City address.

The shooting death of 11-year-old Brexialee Torres-Ortiz hung over the night. Director of the mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence Lateef Johnson-Kinsey led a moment of silence for Brexialee before the speech began.

Walsh revealed a plan to tackle gun violence that would give wraparound services to those most at risk.

The mayor gave his speech at 5:30 p.m. at Corcoran High School on Thursday night.

Community Violence Intervention

The city will begin using an all-encompassing program to tackle gun violence, which the mayor labeled the “Community Violence Intervention plan.”

Last year, Walsh’s administration brought in a consultant to evaluate the city’s efforts to stop violence and created the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence.

The plan is designed to address gang violence. About 34% of murders in the last decade and 50% in the last two years have been a result of gang violence.

City officials said that violence is not tied to territory or money but disagreements.

The plan introduced by the mayor Thursday involves several components:

·  Conflict management: Street Addiction Institute will hire outreach workers to stay in contact with clients and create spaces where rival gang members can talk out their disputes.

·  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Clients will receive therapy to “reduce criminal behavior among high-risk individuals.” Group therapy sessions will  happen two to three times per week for eight to 12 weeks in groups of five to seven people.

·  Mentorship: Each client will get a mentor through a community-based organization, like Street Addiction Institute.

·  Economic opportunity: People who go through the program will get a conditional stipend of $100 to $200 per week depending on their ability to avoid “criminal behavior.”

·  Job training and placement: CNY Works will help clients with job training, guidance, search and placement.

·  School re-entry: Mentors will help clients re-enter the school system to get their GED and in some cases go to colleges or technical schools.

Syracuse Housing Trust Fund

The city plans to create the Syracuse Housing Trust Fund, a $1 million fund to tackle housing projects.

Walsh said the fund will be “centered in equity to confront discriminatory practices of the past,” Walsh said.

The already has $1 million to create the fund and plans to pilot the first projects in the 15th ward, Walsh said. The city plans to work with the state and federal governments to continue funding the program.

The goal of the trust fund is threefold:

·  To repair and improve small- and mid-sized rental properties

·  To work with mortgage financiers to increase mortgage and home improvement loan approvals for homeowners

·  To increase mixed-income development to deconcentrate poverty.

Syracuse will become a ‘Vision Zero’ city to reduce traffic deaths and injuries

The city introduced its goal to join ‘Vision Zero,’ a group of cities that want to eliminate traffic deaths in their cities.

Over the last 10 years, a study by the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council found that the annual number of fatal crashes has doubled.

“For too long, traffic deaths and serious injuries have been considered inevitable,” Walsh said.

The first legislation will include:

·  Bringing legislation to enforce speed limits with speed cameras and red-light cameras in school zones.

·  Installing bus stop arm cameras which will issue tickets to people who ignore bus stop signs.

The city plans to also pilot traffic calming measures including speed humps, speed cushions and reducing lane widths to slow traffic

Improving permitting, zoning and planning

In October, Micron committed to building four chip manufacturing factories in Clay, which could juice the area’s population. That’s on top of already-expected growth.

Walsh said Thursday that will create a need for the city to plan for that growth.

For years, city and county planning has happened under the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency, which at least in part falls under the direction of the county executive.

The city will pull back some positions from SOCPA in zoning and landmark preservation. Those employees will be put in a new Central Permitting Office in One Park Place, at the corner of Fayette and State streets.  

“In doing so, we will achieve a long sought after goal of establishing a true ‘one stop shop’ for city permitting and development,” Walsh said, “and at the same time free up County planners to better facilitate smart, sustainable development in the suburbs and city alike.”


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