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Warning on the future of cities

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Warning on the future of cities
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What began as a hearing in Syracuse on state funding of consolidation studies turned into a new warning on the future of the state's cities. YNN's Bill Carey was at the session in Syracuse, where a mayor steered the talk away from consolidation and toward the question of whether urban centers can avoid bankruptcy.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It was a routine hearing for the State Assembly. Local leaders testifying on the state effort to encourage local governments to closely study the idea of consolidation. The members of the Assembly looking to see if monies set aside to help fund various studies is doing any good. It's a topic, they say, that clearly needs study.

“All local governments are looking into any way that they can conserve or restrain the expenses that they're incurring,” Assemblyman William Magnarelli said.

But the mayor of Syracuse had a different message for the lawmakers. The city has done what it can, she says, to cutback and consolidate and reduce costs. Now, she says, Albany and Washington need to step up with more funds, in the form of new aid, to help pull cities back from the brink.

“The problems facing New York cities are such that they cannot be resolved at the municipal level alone, without assistance from the state and federal government and the cooperation of neighboring local governments,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said.

The Assemblymen continued to try to focus questions on where further consolidation can help. Whether the state has provided adequate funds to fully study consolidation.

Miner continued to stress a new reality. The mayor telling members of the Assembly that the issue has gone beyond the question of consolidation to a question of survival. She quoted a fellow mayor, Thomas Richards of Rochester.

Miner said, “Before a city reaches the crisis point of insolvency or even bankruptcy, it will already have crossed the threshold of cultural and social bankruptcy. And that is where we, as mayors, find ourselves this year.”

The mayor spoke. The lawmakers listened. But there are few indications that either the state or the federal government plan any new effort to pour more aid into urban areas.

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