Syracuse Mayoral Race 2017

Remaining Democratic mayoral candidates face off in final debate before Tuesday’s primary

Paul Schlesinger | Asst. Photo Editor

Juanita Perez Williams, Joe Nicoletti and Marty Masterpole squared off at the Democratic debate on Sunday. Masterpole is not pictured in this photo.

The three remaining Democratic candidates in the 2017 Syracuse mayoral race faced off Sunday in the final debate before Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Juanita Perez Williams, Joe Nicoletti and Marty Masterpole spent much of the debate repeating previously-stated stances on the potential Syracuse-Onondaga government merger, economic development and the city’s budget deficit.

But Perez Williams, who narrowly leads in the polls, and Nicoletti, the party’s designee, traded blows on hiring in the Syracuse Police Department and whether or not they would support the party nominee after the primary.

The debate aired Sunday night on WSYR.

Perez Williams and Nicoletti argued early in the debate over Nicoletti’s refusal when asked to say whether or not he would support the winner of Tuesday’s primary.

Nicoletti, who is also running for mayor on the Working Families Party line, said he would not make a decision until Tuesday night “out of respect” for the Working Families Party.

Perez Williams said Nicoletti had a history of dividing the party and attacked him for switching to the Republican ticket in the 2001 Syracuse mayoral race.

“If you’re a Democrat, you fall behind Democrats,” Perez Williams said.

Marty Masterpole, the third Democrat in the primary, said he was proud of running as a “positive” candidate and said he wanted to get a Democrat elected without “party bickering.”

Perez Williams said a Democrat needed to be in office to stop a potential government merger between the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Nicoletti also criticized Perez Williams for what he said were previous statements opposing additional police hiring.

Perez Williams said Nicoletti took her comments out of context. She said the city does not have the budget to hire more than the current number of vacant police officer positions.

Perez Williams, in previous debates, has said she would fill current SPD vacancies but would then aim to shift city employees’ responsibilities, according to Syracuse.com. She repeated that statement during the debate and said she would try to find ways to get other city agencies to support the police.

Nicoletti said police officers vacancies needed to be filled.

Masterpole said he would consider working with the county to create a metropolitan police department.

Nicoletti and Perez Williams are neck-and-neck among Democratic voters.

An August Spectrum News-Siena Research Institute poll of likely Democratic voters found Nicoletti narrowly trailing Perez Williams. Of the 497 people polled, 36 percent said they would vote for Perez Williams, 34 percent would vote for Nicoletti and 8 percent would vote for Masterpole.

Polls are open Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m.

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Paul Schlesinger | Asst. Photo Editor

(from left) Ben Walsh, Juanita Perez Williams and Marty Masterpole at a public forum on Sept. 5.

Syracuse budget deficit

To balance the city’s budget, Perez Williams said she would look into restructuring how the city utilizes its services. She said she didn’t want to increase property taxes before analyzing how to use city resources more efficiently.

Masterpole said he would talk to county, state and federal representatives about how to cut costs by modernizing the government.

Nicoletti said sales tax revenue “is the main surviving revenue for this city.”

He and Masterpole later added they would not reduce spending in any city operations. Perez Williams said she had not been looking at how the city deploys its resources because she’s “not on the inside.”

Economic development and jobs

Nicoletti said he would partner with the Syracuse City School District to provide career preparation programs for students who would rather seek jobs in the community than go to college. He also said every project approved by the city should provide the community with jobs.

Perez Williams said the city should match skill sets with local industries to pair businesses with local workers.

Masterpole said he is willing to give businesses tax incentives if they create jobs that benefit Syracuse residents.

Syracuse-Onondaga County merger

All three candidates said they opposed the proposal to merge the city of Syracuse and Onondaga County governments.

Relationships with the county and state governments

Masterpole and Perez Williams said any disagreements between the city and other legislators should be behind closed doors.

Nicoletti said he had good relationships with New York state Senator John DeFrancisco and New York state Assemblymember William Magnarelli.

All three candidates said the city should work together with county and state legislatures.

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