Updated 12/29/2012 01:46 PM
Looking back at Mayor Palmieri's first year
At the beginning of 2012, we spoke with the new mayors of Rome and Utica on their first days in office. We asked them what they hoped to accomplish. Our Andrew Sorensen already updated us on Rome and now he tells how Utica fared over the past 12 months.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- When we spoke with Utica's Mayor Robert Palmieri last January, he said the year would be about change.
"My slogan when I ran for election was 'Utica deserves better' and I would hope at this point, after looking at a year in review that Utica is a little bit better," he said when we interviewed him again.
Palmieri's office is filled with this year's projects and plans. One of his big goals was to increase communication with residents.
"We have done that," he said. "We roughly have done close to 35 quality of life sweeps."
Every Wednesday, department heads filled the streets cleaning, identifying community problems, even scoring a drug bust.
As for other projects, city officials have come up with a new downtown parking plan, they're close to developing the old Bossert site and they sold the Harza building, all big changes. But through it all, there's been a cloud over Utica.
"There is no one that could afford a 40 percent tax increase, but that's what we were handed, so what we needed to do was not just look at public safety, we needed to look at the stability and the future of the finances of our city," said the mayor.
But the dozens of firefighter and police layoffs are a noticeable effect of the budget. The police union claims the double digit rise in quality of life related crime is a direct result of the mayor's budget decisions and facing another budget gap next year, public safety officials are nervous about deeper cuts.
"We're urging city leaders not to create another crisis, trying to solve that crisis," Fire Chief Russell Brooks said.
In another office filled with charts, Chief Brooks said he's concerned with talk around City Hall of closing firehouses to close the budget gap. That idea was floated by council members, but the mayor will likely have to cut something, somewhere.
Palmieri says he's doing all he can to keep the city solvent.
"We're no different than any other city throughout New York and the ability to make the city work is bringing people together and that's what this administration is doing," he said.
Looking at his first year in office, the mayor says he's made progress on a great deal of his goals, but the challenges ahead could be far greater.
Looking forward to 2013, he says he'd like to bring more businesses into the city.