New York Thruway Isn’t Ready For Cashless Tolls

Mass overhaul of highway’s roads and bridges should be the priority

920x920

The old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I don’t think anyone would use that infamous expression when referencing the road conditions of the New York State Thruway. You’re probably more likely to hear things like “It was so rough I almost went off the road” or “I might need new suspension now.”

And while construction repairs and upgrades are quite regular on the 570-mile highway system, there is a lot of talk lately about a significant upgrade that actually has nothing to do with the road itself — cashless tollbooths.

Yes, the toll plazas that have littered the thruway since the first segment of the road was completed in the mid-1950s may be completely transformed in the next few years so only electronic money transfers can be used. All tolls would be paid for by either a motorist’s E-Z Pass or by photographing their license plate and receiving a bill in the mail.

The system has already been implemented in some densely populated downstate areas, like on the Tappan Zee Bridge between Rockland and Westchester counties, and is being planned in more New York City locations. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Transportation Department officials have pledged to expand cashless tolls upstate so that the entire thruway is equipped with them.

Now, there’s little doubt that cashless tolling is the inevitable future of the thruway. Other states have been slowly implementing similar systems — it is currently used on the entire Interstate-90 stretch across neighboring Massachusetts. And use of the E-Z Pass over cash has soared since they were introduced in New York in 1993. Cashless tolling would also cut back congestion at busy exits and interchanges, which would improve commute times and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accidents. Who can argue with that?

So, we’ll eventually get to that point. Gov. Cuomo is correct to assert that cashless tolling statewide is a matter of when, not if.

But the underlying question is this: Is that “when” right now?

The current conditions of the road clearly answer that question.

The cost of revamping all of the toll plazas along I-90 and I-87 south of Albany would be extraordinary. The current structures would have to be dismantled and replaced with gantries that need to be wired with electronic equipment and cameras. And there would need to be offices for people to process the license plates of vehicles that come through and send bills to those drivers’ homes.

The estimated cost? Anywhere between $500 and $600 million — an amount that, adjusted for inflation, is actually 10 percent of what it cost to build the entire New York State Thruway system half a century ago. A cashless system project on a 45-mile stretch of road from Yonkers to Orange County was by itself budgeted for $31 million.

While the long-term benefits of cashless tolls make spending that kind of money appealing, that money would be better invested in projects that are more necessary right now — mainly overhauling the system’s crumbling infrastructure.

The thruway is a rapidly aging highway that requires much more attention than it is getting. Mike Elmendorf, CEO of the Associated General Contractors, estimates that the New York Thruway Authority should be reconstructing about 100 lane miles and 30 bridges every year just to maintain the interstate in its current condition. And that isn’t happening. In a lot of circumstances, some major reconstruction projects turn into simple patch work, essentially putting more band-aides on, which will end up costing more in the long run once those band-aides can no longer do the job.

Since roads and bridges are taken for granted in our daily lives, it’s easy for us to forget just how dire their situation is. A 2015 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ New York State Council graded the conditions of different types of infrastructure in New York by using a simple report card-like structure. Bridges received a grade of D+ and roads got a D-.

Specifically, more than 50 percent of New York’s bridges are 75 years old, and 2,012 of them are classified as “structurally deficient” and require consistent maintenance or improvements to safely operate for freight and commuters. And one-third of New York’s major highways are considered to be in poor or fair condition.

The thruway is a valuable artery in that web of infrastructure needs. The Thruway Authority estimates it will need $3.4 billion to fund road and bridge upgrades over the next 20 years. The current construction in Onondaga County between exits 35 and 39 — a less than 10-mile stretch — alone costs $9.9 million.

Inadequate funding and modest construction work will only leave infrastructure further neglected, meaning certain bridges could be forced to close or become weight-restricted, which would cause much more traffic headaches and economic disruption to the region than toll plazas that still collect cash from motorists.

The bottom line is this. Cashless tolls aren’t going to be that useful if parts of the road that’s being tolled can’t be used. They may be the wave of the future, but ensuring a vital piece of road like the New York State Thruway remains fully functional and up-to-date is the more pressing matter of the present.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Don’t Allow Public Corruption to Become Normalized

Overturning Sheldon Silver’s conviction sets a dangerous precedent

Cassidy-Sheldon-Silver

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is seen in New York City. Silver, who was convicted in 2015 on corruption charges, had his conviction reversed last week.

“Distaste.”

That’s the word of choice, it seems.

When the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in June 2016, Chief Justice John Roberts said “there is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that.”

McDonnell was found guilty in 2014 of receiving gifts, money and loans from the CEO of a Virginia-based company in exchange for governmental “official acts” that would favor the CEO and his business.  The court threw out the charges, ruling that the actions the governor took — mainly arranging meetings on the CEO’s behalf and attending public events for him — did not constitute an “official act.”

Since then, lawyers for former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have attempted to use that same argument to free the disgraced Manhattan Democrat who was convicted in 2015 of extortion and bribery and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

And now, they have won. Last week, a federal appeals court overturned Silver’s conviction.

“We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver’s trial with distaste,” U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes told the press after the decision. There’s that magic word again.

At issue here isn’t Silver’s release by itself. It’s successfully using the McDonnell case as a basis to Silver’s appeal. That is “distasteful.”

McDonnell’s bribery charges involved, as Chief Justice Roberts called it, “tawdry tales, Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns.” Mr. Silver’s case is quite different. He was found guilty of funneling some $500,000 in state grants to a Columbia University doctor who, in return, sent his patients to Silver’s law firm — which then paid Silver for the referrals. He also voted for state tax breaks for a real estate company, which then steered business to a law firm, from which he also received referral fees. In all, Silver pocketed $4 million in kickbacks. The nature for Silver’s defense at trial was that those actions were “legal and normal.”

It should be noted that the evidence against Silver is still damaging and if prosecutors make a better argument in a re-trial, there’s a good chance Silver will still be sent to prison. And acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim has already announced his intention to re-try the former speaker.

But even if that’s the case, there are other convicted lawmakers who may now use the McDonnell decision to help escape. And that’s what’s most concerning. Take former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was convicted just weeks after Silver, of using his power to get his son a $78,000-a-year job to which he sometimes would not show up for. And when asked to actually come to work, he told his boss, “talk to me like that again and I’m going to smash your fucking head in.” Skelos’ lawyers have already made clear their intention to make the McDonnell decision central to their defense during their appeal.

The real consequence of the McDonnell case is that it significantly raised the bar prosecutors will now have to cross to successfully convict corrupt politicians because it significantly re-defined what it means to be a corrupt politician. And Sheldon Silver was the litmus test.

It appears now that an “official act” by a lawmaker that is deemed illegal will have to be an extremely formal action, like awarding a government contract to a friend. As a result, something like using the power of the speakership to fill one’s pockets with $4 million in kickbacks like Silver did could from now on be interpreted, as his counsel once called, “conduct that is part of the everyday functioning of those in elected office.” And arranging a high-paying no-show job for your spoiled son just because you’re the Senate majority leader, as Skelos did, could from now on be interpreted as a “normal father-son relationship,” which is what his counsel called it.

Essentially, what this means is that the McDonnell decision, amplified by Silver’s successful appeal, sets in place a dangerous precedent for corruption going forward, not just in New York but everywhere. It’s a solid defense that activity involving conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering and abuse of power are not the illegal things we would normally view them as, but rather, a normal part of how our government operates. And normalizing corruption is obviously something we do not want — especially in a city like Albany where it runs rampant.

More frightening still is that politicians who have already been convicted of crimes wouldn’t be the only benefactors of this new precedent. Since Silver, a high-ranking state legislator with such a high-profile trial is now free — at least for the time being — it may embolden other members of the state government tempted by corruption to now take the risk of getting caught, knowing that they could use this case as an argument for their actions. And that includes the legislators of the future who haven’t been elected yet. We could very well be sentencing ourselves to a system of government with tentacles of corruption so tight around it that we may never be able to break them.

So, Judge Jose Cabranes, forgive us if the citizens of New York might find court decisions that set free our disgraced lawmakers “distasteful.” While the rule of law must be accepted, we have the right to be alarmed that the consequences of law can do the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do —ensure that the people get justice. Thanks to the decision regarding Silver, that justice the people deserve is being put on hold once again. And thanks to the McDonnell decision’s weight, it may never come at all.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Mainstream Media Is Just Doing Trump’s Work For Him

Press isn’t doing enough to curb president’s claims of fake news

cnn-is-standing-by-its-controversial-reddit-user--2-28988-1499307980-0_dblbig

Over the weekend, all mainstream media outlets were reporting that President Donald Trump now has a 36 percent job approval rating, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. It was the lowest rating of any president during their first six months in office dating back 70 years. As significantly low as that is, Trump is still more popular than the media outlets that reported those ratings.

An April Morning Consult survey reported that more U.S. adults trust President Trump’s White House more than the national political media. And a recent Harvard-Harris poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the mainstream press is full of fake news.

Trump’s constant hostile behavior toward the press is religiously condemned by journalists and news offices big and small across the country. And it should be. But aside from editorials touting themselves as the fourth estate, those journalists and news offices have also done little to win back the trust of the American people that has been waning for decades. And in some cases, they only end up enforcing the idea that the media is only out to get Trump and bring him down. They are essentially proving him right, on accident.

That’s how the president was able to tweet out a video of a WWE broadcast that was edited to show Trump beating up a man with the CNN logo on his face. Sent from both his personal and @POTUS Twitter accounts, it was one of the president’s most-shared and most-retweeted posts ever.

CNN has been Trump’s favorite media punching bag lately amid the fallout of an embarrassing incident where the network had to retract a story related to the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. An article on CNN’s website reported that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” which cited a single anonymous source. The story was taken off the website and three journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, resigned.

Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci, who was the subject of the story, tweeted the next day “CNN did the right thing. Classy move. Apology accepted. Everyone makes mistakes. Moving on.”

But not everyone was as gracious. Trump burned CNN on Twitter for the story and conservative commentators like Fox News’ Sean Hannity went wild with it, adding yet another monologue about what he regularly calls “the destroy Trump media.”

This time it wasn’t Trump himself lashing out at MSNBC anchors or sharing conspiracy theories that he read in The National Inquirer. This a mainstream media wound of their own doing, one that just gives Trump and his supporters more traction when they shout “fake news!” when a story unfavorable to the president is reported on in the future.

CNN credited the error to breakdown in standard editorial processes. Stories like those are usually reviewed by several departments, including fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers. And in this case, that reviewing process wasn’t executed properly.

The network can talk about its editorial processes all it wants to, but those who aren’t a member of the journalism industry are less likely to be forgiving. And CNN and other media outlets can tout themselves as martyrs of the First Amendment all they want to, but major mistakes like this one makes people more likely to feed into Trump’s argument that the press is dishonest and bias.

And unless serious change comes for the business, more mistakes like that will be made, especially if the industry continues to demand more with fewer people, further eroding public confedence in them. 

We’re setting ourselves up for that. Just recently, employees at The New York Times staged an office walkout after the company announced it would be significantly cutting the number of copy editors from its staff. Those employees understand that it is going to be incredibly difficult — dare I say impossible — to maintain the stellar editing process the Times has with so fewer people to review and scrutinize content.

The real danger here — and we’ve already seen it to some extent — is the day when “the destroy Trump media” gets it wrong so often that democracy-shifting and legitimate news stories about Trump or any other member of government are simply ignored by the public at large. For instance, the missteps by organizations like CNN have greatly damaged the coverage of the Russia investigation. And now we have the son of a former presidential candidate who at least entertained the idea of collusion with a hostile foreign power, which is a big deal, yet so many people are convinced it’s just more propaganda by fake news.

Journalists like to preach about the importance of a free press and its place in our republic. But that sacred constitutional right is only valuable if that same free press is trusted by those it was designed to protect. 

And right now, it’s not.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Lake Ontario Flooding Response Could’ve Gone Smoother

Relief to victims was tainted with politics and blame game

20170702_194549

An underwater boat launch is seen July 2 at Fair Haven Beach State Park.

The 4th of July has a reputation for turning small communities along the southern Lake Ontario shoreline into bustling hubs of economic and recreational activity. The Green Harbor Marina and Campground in Orleans County “usually looks like Myrtle Beach,” its owner said. Now, 24 camping sites are flooded. Sodus Point had to cancel its parade and fireworks display. And the boat launch at Fair Haven Beach State Park, which is usually jam-packed with boats, trucks, trailers and picnickers, was this year an empty parking lot with barriers blocking a launch completely underwater.

It was a sad sort-of finale to a long, painful and expensive process to provide proper relief to homeowners and businesses after months of watching lake water flood their properties. And to many, this finale is only the beginning of the recovery.

The last few months, we have seen political pandering at its best and government at its worst. We’ve seen too much blaming and not enough resolving. And it’s those small communities along the southern Lake Ontario shoreline that have paid the price.

While they’ve been trying to minimize the damage, public officials from every governmental level have been looking for someone to find at fault for the flooding. The favorite target: The International Joint Commission (IJC), the organization that prevents and resolves disputes over water boundaries between the U.S. and Canada, and their handling of Plan 2014, an initiative to change regulations of the levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to help the ecosystem, shipping industry and recreation.

Plan 2014 was initiated in January, mere weeks before high water levels began to impact coastal areas. Yet it was an easy answer for Republican congressmen who represent constituents along the lake. Reps. John Katko and Chris Collins religiously opposed the initiative for over a year and sent several letters to President Donald Trump this spring asking him to withdraw the U.S. from Plan 2014.

“If you raise the lake level, which is what Plan 2014 did, you get devastation. A third-grader knows that,” Collins said in May.

The other thing you learn in third grade is that significant events seldom take place all at once, and due to only one reason. Plan 2014 was a project that took years to put together but has only been in effect since Jan. 6. By that reasoning alone, it’s hard to argue that Plan 2014 had been in place long enough to raise Lake Ontario to its highest level in 100 years.

Even if that argument had some traction, it is more than likely not the only reason for the lake’s historic levels. But that’s not politically convenient. Rep. Collins seems to think that the flooding wouldn’t have happened without Plan 2014, even with record rainfall this spring and recent high water levels in Lake Erie flowing in via the Niagara River.

For his part, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spent less time focusing on Plan 2014 directly and more on the IJC itself. He sent what he called “one of the nastiest letters” he’s ever written to the IJC on May 28. In it, he suggested that the lake could’ve been lowered last fall because the IJC reported in July 2016 that water levels were unusually high and would remain so for months to come.

That letter reflected the governor’s ignorance of much of the affair, since lake levels last summer were actually lower than normal, not higher. The July 2016 news release Cuomo’s office referred to was actually dated April 2016, when water levels were high, but they dropped off when the summer drought began to wreak havoc on upstate New York. Cuomo’s accusations even rubbed our northern neighbors the wrong way, as a Canadian senator declared he was fear mongering and “spreading falsehoods.”

It is disappointing that Cuomo has spent so much energy writing nasty letters to the IJC and burning the organization in front of television cameras but almost hindered financial aid to those impacted by flooding — which people with eroded yards and entrepreneurs with closed businesses probably care more about at this point instead of who or what is responsible for it.

Yes, the governor promised around $7 million in funds this spring, but balked at a $90 million relief package that was passed unanimously in both the state Assembly and Senate in the closing days of this year’s legislative session.

The session ended with Cuomo considering vetoing the bill due to a lack of specifics on where the $90 million would be coming from. Cuomo eventually signed an amended package last week that gives $55 million in funding instead, though that amendment was only possible because of the state Legislature’s extraordinary session at the end of June, which Cuomo called to extend the New York City mayor’s control of its educational system, not because of unfinished Lake Ontario flood response business.

Still, some are worried the $55 million won’t be enough or that there will be complications and clashes over how the money is divided up. New York is also in the process of applying for federal aid from Washington, but some also worry the state’s slow and careful approach to that may cause it to be forgotten over time.

And with all the hot air that’s been produced lately, there’s been almost no talk about efforts to help prevent similar flooding from occurring again.

It’s too bad, really. The families and businesses along Lake Ontario will now get a better opportunity to get things back to normal, but how we got here could’ve gone much cleaner. If we need a reason to be embarrassed by government, look no further than the sandbags and closed boat launches that line miles of shoreline in central and western New York.

We should be thankful for the many people who have gone out and beyond in this crisis. For months, there have been many inspiring stories about hometown citizens and volunteers working round the clock to do what they could to stop the rising waters from damaging their neighbors’ homes and community hotspots. Decent human beings are usually capable of taking hard times in stride and pulling more than their usual weight when they need to, especially when it involves the place they love and call home.

If only our politicians could do the same.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” byclicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Time For Term Limits in Albany

Restrictions on leadership posts would be a small step toward curbing corruption in the Legislature

Carl Heastie

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is seen in the Assembly chamber at the Capitol in Albany.

Surprise! The latest state legislative session in Albany ended with no ethics reform measures whatsoever. Hell, it had hardly even been mentioned since the session began in January.

That’s not to say there weren’t at least some efforts from some lawmakers small efforts, but at the rate the Legislature moves, we’ll take anything we can get.

One of those efforts came from the Republican-controlled state Senate. While several of its members face scrutiny over receiving stipends for leadership positions they do not actually hold, they overwhelmingly supported legislation that considerably restricts the powers of those same leadership positions.

Back in April, the Senate voted 49-9 on a bill that would place eight-year term limits on leadership posts in either legislative chamber, including the temporary president of the Senate, Assembly speaker, majority and minority leaders and all committee chairmen.

Bravo.

The bill died in the Democratic-led Assembly.

Boo.

Not only that, but this is actually the third time the Senate has passed similar legislation and the third time it has failed to go through the Assembly and come out the other side.

It doesn’t help that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has made no secret his disapproval of term limits in general, and has maintained that position in his two-and-a-half years as speaker.

“Term limits is not something that the conference supports,” Heastie said in December, referring to the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

Heastie’s standing on this issue is incredibly disheartening, given the reason Heastie is speaker in the first place.

His predecessor, Sheldon Silver, was convicted last spring on charges of extortion and fraud, just one legislator in a long list of Albany corruption cases in the last decade. He was found guilty of using his powerful position to pressure outside organizations with business before the state, or as former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara called, “monetizing” the speakership.

The former Manhattan representative had been a member of the Assembly since 1977, and was elected speaker in 1994, meaning he spent 20 years holding a heavy hand in what went on in Albany.

Many suspect that long of a time with so much power emboldened Silver to use the post to his advantage for his own financial gains. Term restrictions would ensure that a fresh face would inherit that powerful position and others like it at most every eight years, in an attempt to stop it from turning into a power center and corrupting its holder.

Silver is the prime example for a sound argument on term limits in the leadership and he’s hardly the only leader who’s faced corruption charges. When Heastie replaced Silver after his resignation, he vowed to work hard to change the system in Albany that leads to political misconduct.

Why he and other Assembly Democrats can’t see this as a way to do that is as frustrating as it is disappointing.

Speaking of changing the system, term limits wouldn’t just help prevent individuals from becoming entrenched in power, but they would help shake up the way power itself is cycled in the Legislature the cycle Silver, and now Heastie, are part of.

New York’s “three men in the room” form of governing is appalling and has been going on for far too long the three men being the Assembly speaker, Senate majority leader and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has put forward his own form of term limit legislation. Those three men essentially dictate all major legislation through secret negotiations and backroom deals, constantly leaving other lawmakers and the public in the dark until the last minute. A much more occasional rotation of people in those positions would give more legislators a voice in formulating state policy.

This ridiculous form of power brokering can itself be a contributor to abuse of power and create crooked politicians. Indeed, the last five (FIVE!) Senate majority leaders were all indicted on corruption charges and the most recent one even advocated for term limits.

The thing that makes term limits so necessary now is the explosion of careerism in New York politics in recent decades. State senators are now serving twice as long as they did in 1965 and the average tenure in Albany is now more than 10 years. This is mainly because incumbents have been able to quash most of their competition during elections in recent years. A good portion even run unopposed each cycle. In 2016, less than a handful of the more than 200 incumbents lost re-election.

Years and even decades in the Legislature can mean years and decades in leadership positions. And with no term limits, little or no chance of losing the seat and no other significant ethics measures, it leaves many avenues for bad intentions to go on undetected.

Well, there’s nothing we can do at the moment about the strength of incumbents. And there’s no significant ethics measures, nor a sign there will be any time soon.

However, what we do have is one legislative chamber willing to make term limits a reality. Maybe eventually it may be wise for us to consider term limits for all legislators, but restrictions on leaders would be a good start, and again, we’ll take what we can get.

On that, the Senate has done its job. Now it’s time for Democrats in the Assembly to do theirs.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

I Just Moved to ‘One of the Worst U.S. Cities to Live In’

Website’s ranking of Syracuse doesn’t say it all

186420868

The skyline of Syracuse, New York is seen.

I had barely been a Syracuse resident for five days. It was the first hour of the first day of my new job here. I was scanning the website of CNY Central, the television station where I now find myself working at. And what’s the big headline I see at the top of the page?

“Website ranks Syracuse as one of the worst U.S. cities to live in”

Quite the glowing endorsement for your new hometown, isn’t it?

If I hadn’t spent my first 22 years of life as a central New York native and had no knowledge of the region at all, I probably would’ve been wondering: Luke, what the hell were you thinking?

The salt city was ranked by the website 24/7 Wall St. at no. 31 on its list of worst U.S. cities to live in with a population of at least 65,000. They were arranged based on things like crime rates, employment growth, attractions, educational attainment and housing affordability.

In regards to Syracuse, the website cited the city’s high poverty rate, struggling job market and cheap housing prices for its placement on the list.

Now, there are naturally going to be those who completely agree with the city’s standing and wonder why the hell someone like me would move here. Others would defend the city until hell freezes over — and if you’re here in late January, you may very well think that it had already.

I don’t think anyone denies that Syracuse has its problems — as every city does — or that its struggles are unique in upstate New York. Rochester was ranked no. 32 and Buffalo no. 22 on 24/7 Wall St.’s website, after all.

And that includes me. I’ve used this column to criticize the city and its way of doing things several times in the two years I’ve been away. I spent that time in the Capital Region as the Monday editor at a daily newspaper there, all the while making sure to keep close tabs on the latest news and politics of this area.

There’s a lot of things I would like to see change here. I would like to see special attention given to re-energizing the area economically. Yes, industry defined the city for more than 100 years, but what can we use to redefine it in the 21st century?

I would like to see a mass overhaul of the area’s aging infrastructure, including the reconstruction of Interstate 81 through the city done carefully and correctly.

I would like to see a more community-to-community effort to combat poverty and the heroin epidemic.

And maybe most importantly, I would like to see more reasons for 24-year-old recent college graduates like myself to move here and fewer reasons for others to leave, as so many people have done in the last few decades.

Yes, I wish some things here were different. But does that mean I think it’s one of the worst places in the country to live in?

It’s probably too soon for me to answer that question definitively. But I don’t believe my current opinion will change as the weeks and months here move along.

I’ve already had Hoffman hot dogs, been to Onondaga Lake Park and shopped at Wegmans. I get to work among a great collection of journalists — both veterans of the field who I grew up watching every morning while I ate my cereal and young professionals I’ve crisscrossed with in the New York media market since college who are now making a living. And there’s just something I like about the buzz of Destiny USA during the holidays and excitement around the New York State Fair at the end of summer.

All of that certainly doesn’t seem too bad to me.

Plus, statistics, studies and rankings of worst cities to live in are hardly the reasons we use to decide whether to live in Syracuse or not. And in case they are, try this one. Earlier this year, Syracuse was ranked no. 49 out of 589 cities for top places for recent college graduates to live in and work.

As a young media professional and new resident of the city, I think I like that one better.

Luke Parsnow is a digital producer at CNY Central (WSTM NBC 3/WTVH CBS 5/WSTM CW6) and contributing writer at The Syracuse New Times in Syracuse, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88