Syracuse Alliance for a New Economy: A Year of Growth and Partnership for Central New York

December 20, 2007 -- Partnership for Working Families

By Mark Spadafore, SANE Executive Director

In one year, SANE has grown from a small group of committed individuals to a recognized organization with a full-time Executive Director along with a comprehensive and diverse Executive Board.  The Executive Board has grown to sixteen members who represent local businesses, labor unions, community outreach organizations, and religious organizations.

This year has been the launching point from which Syracuse will begin to see accountable development in action.  Executive Director Mark Spadafore has focused on increasing the visibility of the organization to enhance its ability to positively impact the outlook of development in the area.  The improved recognition of the group has led to increased visibility in the community and greater access to upcoming projects.

Mainly, this year has been about changing attitudes and perspectives regarding development.  While Syracuse is a place in dire need of development, it is most in need of quality development that will deliver living wage jobs and other services to strengthen the economy.  As Board President Sharon Owens said, “The community faces development from a point of weakness… we should expect standards to be in place, especially when public money is involved.”

The first project SANE took on was the Joint Schools Construction Board (JSCB) project: renovating all the schools in the Syracuse City School District.  At the end of August, 2007, Executive Director Mark Spadafore made a presentation to the JSCB to advocate Community Benefits Agreements as well as a new job-shadow program, “A Taste of the Trades.”  The program is designed to show at-risk students the opportunities that they can have for employment after high school.  Currently, negotiations are beginning to implement the program.

SANE focused on a second project this year, the Near Westside Initiative.  This project seeks to revitalize the Westside of Syracuse with new development and building recreational areas as well as a corridor to Armory Square.  In November, Executive Director Mark Spadafore met with the Development Team for the Near Westside Initiative and gave a presentation on Community Benefits Agreements.  He also advocated for active participation by the local community to ensure that they benefit from the new business and construction revenue.  SANE is involved with both of these projects to ensure that the needs of the community are addressed.  SANE is also currently engaged with the CDC that is overseeing the project on how to implement a CBA.

Lastly, SANE is coordinating an Economic Development Disparity study with Good Jobs First.  The project will create the kinds of databases that will map out items such as plant closings, IDA deals, and Empire Zone deals.  Good Jobs First is utilizing the Syracuse University Community Mapper, a useful resource introduced to Good Jobs First by SANE. The project will compliment the many existing databases which also aid SANE (such as poverty, race, income, land parcels, prisoner re-entry, etc).

The study will show in a quantifiable way how economic development money does not create the jobs it promises and that a new model must be followed – one with Community Benefit Agreements and accountable development.

Through the affiliation with the Partnership for Working Families, SANE has gained access to a wealth of resources and knowledge.  John Goldstein was present for the first presentation to the Joint Schools Construction Board to provide oversight and encouragement to the new organization.  Additionally, the Partnership has helped SANE connect to training programs and other organizations in the area.  SANE has become a part of a nation-wide movement to improve development standards; the Partnership network has become an invaluable tool for forging connections between groups toward the common goals of achieving accountable development and building a participatory economy.

Going into our second year of existence, SANE hopes to successfully expand our staff to include an organizing director.  SANE should have at least one CBA in effect, at least one new campaign underway, and making the issue of community benefits and accountable development commonplace in the development community and among public policy makers.