Creating the New Syracuse Experience

Unfortunately, one week ago our campaign for Mayor officially ended.  I am tremendously grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion about Syracuse’s future, as well as connect and reconnect with so many great people in Syracuse.

Campaigns don’t happen without lots of people coming forward to help with outreach, events, organizing, donations, and the endless questionnaires! I appreciate everyone who demonstrated their support and pitched in to help. You don’t do it for the candidate, you do it because you believe in our city.

I entered the process determined to make the race about Syracuse’s future, fully believing that if we challenged the status quo the future of Syracuse could be as bright as we want it to be.

The relationships built during campaigns are one of the most cherished things in my life, so thank you so much.  And of course, deep gratitude to friends and family who motivate me as much as they keep me grounded.

This message is to share my gratitude for being able to actively participate in the civic life of Syracuse. Not just in this campaign, but over the many years living here. It has always been my view that it is better to take the risk and engage, rather than sit back and wonder what might have happened. I don’t think there is any more rewarding work than trying to make our community a better place. You know I will keep looking for new ways to do that, and I’ll keep encouraging others to do the same.

With gratitude,

Chris Fowler

IDEA of the DAY — End any prohibitions on home-based businesses.

Allow people to use their homes commercially.
Restrictions on home-based businesses have an enormous effect on millions of entrepreneurs chasing the American Dream and struggling to earn an honest living.
Imagine a city where the government reflected this outlook. This can be Syracuse!


IDEA of the DAY — Daily Parking Pass & “Downtown Resident” Parking Pass

My vision for Syracuse is to create a new Syracuse Experience. From start to finish the goal is to make people feel welcomed, valued, respected, and safe. While I maintain that the city of Syracuse has ample parking space for residents, visitors, and people who work in the city we do have an issue with how we approach the parking situation as a city. One of the constant criticism you hear is about the inconvenience of parking. Imagine if instead of purchasing the 2 hours you currently get for on-street parking there was an option to pay one price for the full day. Yes, the Whoosh app has helped ease the burden of having to run to the meter every 2 hours, but for visitors (who don’t have the app), employees (who are working) and even residents, this becomes an additional burden to their experience.

The goal is to create an environment that is welcoming and that means thinking about our city through the lens of customer service. How can we ensure that people have a great experience in our city so they want to come back, bring their friends, and consider being a resident of our city because of their experience? One idea is a full day parking pass with a higher price point (let’s say $8) from the time you buy the ticket until the next morning at 9am when the clock starts again.

Yes, the city gains valuable revenue from the cost of the tickets currently and the fines levied against those that are penalized. But, ask yourself, how much revenue are we losing because people have selected to go where parking is free (parking is never free; see video below) and easy to understand? If we want to grow our population and grow our economy we need everyone to have a world class experience with every interaction they have in the city and small steps like this can go along way.

For Downtown residents, there is the option to purchase a monthly on-street parking pass that allows for residents to park in designated locations around downtown. Many cities have introduced similar programs with success as their urban cores have grown.

Ultimately, my goal is for Syracuse to be the most walkable mid-sized city in America. A step towards that starts with thinking about the full 24-hour experience of the residents, visitors, and employees who spend time in Syracuse and meeting their needs while creating the opportunity for more people to meet their weekly and daily obligations without the need for a car.
Let me know what you think. Thanks and check back in tomorrow for another idea.

IDEA of the DAY — Create a unique insignia for local ownership.

The resiliency of the #Syracuse #economy, the vibrancy of our city, and the growth our population is directly connected to the health of our locally-owned businesses. Small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off.

The purpose is to let people know if a store is locally owned or a product is locally-made.

It is time to build and support a vibrant homegrown business sector in Syracuse, that sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce.

Politics as usual is not working. It’s time for a #NewWay by putting the #CommunityFirst

IDEA of the DAY: A more Dog-Friendly Syracuse.

Pets make our lives happier and healthier, and their presence alone is proven to make communities safer. They play an ever increasingly important role in our lives, now in more than 84 million households. Yet despite the value that pets add to our lives, they aren’t always welcome in public places. There are so many reasons why we should focus on becoming a more dog (pet) friendly cities. Here are a few.

  1. Better physical health // Dread the Treadmill? Ditch it and Get a Dog.
    Researchers matched 43 older adults with dogs to another 43 without dogs and measured their time spent walking. Compared to those without canine companions, dog owners walked on average 23 minutes more a day—enough to meet U.S. and international exercise recommendations for substantial health benefits, the research found.“It’s very difficult to find any other intervention that produces this size of effect,” said senior author Dr. Daniel Simon Mills, a professor of veterinary behavioral medicine at the University of Lincoln in England.
    “It’s good evidence that dog ownership amongst the elderly increases physical activity in a meaningful and healthy way.”The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults do a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week.
  2. Attract and retain talented people // millennials = pet ownership
    While millennials are delaying adulthood milestones such as purchasing a house or having children, they are surpassing their elders in one very important category — pet ownership. In fact, people between the ages of 18 and 33 are half as likely to be married as they were 50 years ago, according to Pew Research Center. On the other hand, 75 percent of people in their thirties have dogs — compared with half of the total U.S. population.
  3. Neighborhood Stability
    74% of the United States Conference of Mayors agrees that offering pet-friendly amenities will help residential rental communities improve tenant stability, and 81 percent agreeing that the availability of pet-friendly amenities can help increase the value of residential property.
  4.  Dog-friendly cities are Growing cities.
    According to “I Heart” here are the 9 most dog-friendly cities.Portland, OR – The votes for Portland are almost unanimous! A walkable city, Portland has a whopping 32 off-leash dog parks, the 4-mile Powell Butte Trail hiking route, and a dog-friendly farmer’s market, according to Forbes. Like beer-tasting with your bud (but no brews for Fido, please!)? One Green Planet says to check out The Lucky Labrador Brewing Company.
    San Diego, CA – Another popular city for dog lovers, the Huffington Post says that San Diego has a slew of beaches and restaurants that welcome canine companions, while Forbes points out that Lighthouse Ice Cream & Yogurt has a treat just for pups on its menu.
    Seattle, WA – According to the Huffington Post, “Seattle’s dog population has surpassed the number of children living in the city — that says a lot!” We agree. It’s no wonder that this city welcomes furry friends at the outdoor stores and in its many dog parks. Forbes says that the University Village Shopping Center is a doggy destination for retail therapy.
    Austin, TX – In Austin, dogs are welcome at many outdoor establishments including stores, restaurant patios, and even Doga, a dog-centered yoga studio. “Austin has adopted a super pet-welcoming attitude at most shops,” writes One Green Planet.
    San Francisco, CA – Hiking, beaches, and shopping, San Fran has it all for you and your pooch! Forbes explains that Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruises allow leashed pups on board for scenic one-hour cruises. All aboard!
    Albuquerque, NM – This city welcomes dogs in several restaurants, including a local chain called Flying Star Cafe. Livability also tells of Bookworks, a store that provides pages for people and cookies for canines.
    Minneapolis, MN – Is your pooch more of a cold-weather canine? Maybe Minneapolis is the place to be! Snow or sun, “this place is chock full of dog-friendly restaurants, parks and hiking trails,” says Huffington Post. Forbes specifically mentions Minnehaha Park, where you and your pup can enjoy waterfall views.
    Colorado Springs, CO – Colorado is known for its scenic hikes, outdoor adventures and dog-friendly shops. Livability also makes mention of the Broadmoor Hotel, which provides services for both pup and people pampering. And yes, doggy room service is actually a “thing.”
    Chicago, IL – In addition to beaches and parks where canines are welcome, Forbes says that Navy Pier is a top place to visit, featuring merchants and offering some tours that allow your pooch to tag along. One Green Planet says that a special thing to do with your pup is to go to the White Sox game on their annual Dog Day!
    Here are some other cities dog-friendly cities.
    Boston, MA / Bar Harbor, ME / Phoenix, AZ / Asheville, NC / Milwaukee, WI / Orlando, FL / Las Vegas, NV
    Syracuse doesn’t make the list of 100 pet-friendly cities in America.

    We can change that. #NewWay

Syracuse is ready to join the 21st Century as a truly smart city.

What happens to Syracuse’s innovation team under the next mayor?

What a blessing to be among the 55 cities awarded the Bloomberg “What Works Cities” grant. The Innovation Team has provided a glimpse into the future of how city government works. Across the globe governments have been investing resources in modernization and innovation for years it’s time we do the same at home.

Syracuse is ready to join the 21st Century as a truly smart city.

Looking to the next 50 years we must be thinking about ways to be more connected, welcoming, and sustainable. Data and the effective use of data plays a central role to ensure greater quality of life and opportunity for our residents, businesses, institutions, and visitors. Data can reveal patterns, suggest potential solutions, and validate the experiences of people often overlooked. That is why my administration will continue to focus resources on the data-driven work of the Innovation Team.

But it doesn’t stop there.

My administration will be reorganizing our current structure and create the new Department of Transformation which will house the Innovation Team, Design, Placemaking, and Complete Streets Team. This department will work across all departments to better develop programs, policies and goals, break down old silos by using data to deliver services and experiences that exceed expectations.

How do we become a smart city?

  1. Create a vision that includes community input.
  2. Establish targets.
  3. Be efficient with resources.

My objective is to make Syracuse more livable, more sustainable, and a place where people want to be. My commitment to you is to make Syracuse a cleaner, safer, vibrant place to live.

Read original article

Letter to the editor

In the News

A few weeks ago wrote an article that mischaracterized my campaign. Shortly after I wrote a letter to the editor in response. I wanted to give them the opportunity to publish the letter before sending it out. Unfortunately, I did not get a response and the letter did not get published. It’s clear that we are doing something to challenge the status quo, and that is exactly what we need to do. This campaign is about building a healthy, diverse, and vibrant Syracuse. It is about you. Don’t settle for improving the game; let’s change it.

Here is my letter to the editor.

To the editor:
7/27/17 and The Post-Standard play a crucial role in our community, especially during election season as you help educate voters about the candidates. For generations, the paper and its reporters have performed this role with distinction, and I thank you for it.

But your July 20th article — “’Buy local’ candidate for Syracuse mayor spent most of his campaign money out of town” — is not up to your normally high standards. It is incomplete, unnecessarily mean-spirited, and creates an impression that is, frankly, flat-out wrong.

The article is incomplete because it fails to examine the other candidates’ spending. If it had, it would have found similar or higher amounts of money spent outside of Syracuse by those candidates. I know this because I have only spent money outside of the area on items that are standard for campaigns such as Eventbrite and NGP that are not available from local vendors.

The article is mean-spirited because it is structured to shock — buy local candidate spends money out of town! — instead of being informative. Spending is important. But where the money comes from tells us to whom the candidate is beholden and is therefore far more important.

So why wasn’t the article about the buy local candidate who is, indeed, raising his money locally so that he can focus on serving Syracuse and not outside interests? Is this a case of not wanting the facts to get in the way of a good story? I hope not.

Lastly, the story is altogether misleading. I have spent the last decade of my life dedicated exclusively to revitalizing the Syracuse economy. My efforts through SyracuseFirst, an organization I started without public funding, grants, or connected family members, has resulted in tangible progress. Thousands of community members have joined me choosing locally owned and independent businesses unless there is no local equivalent. It is a philosophy I live by, that I am running my campaign by, and that I will bring to City Hall if elected. There simply is no candidate more passionate or knowledgeable about the power of buying local than myself, and I will gladly put my record side by side with any other candidate.

Exacerbating these flaws in the story is the fact that I was never given the opportunity to comment. I was out of town, and the story was rushed into print without my input or perspective. If I had been given the opportunity to comment, I would have stated that I stand behind my decision to invest my campaign funds with vendors who provide services that I could not source locally. I believe that is a reasonable choice and that the majority of your readers would agree.

One of my primary goals in running for mayor is to better ensure that Syracuse can become a city that can provide local goods and services to our citizens at every level of the economy. I am extraordinarily proud of our local merchants for their innovative and tenacious efforts every day to ensure that the concept of buying local is becoming a burgeoning reality. I would love to see the day when a candidate running for office could source everything he or she needs from local vendors. Today, unfortunately, that is simply not the case. A fair and thorough examination of all the candidates’ spending and fundraising would make that clear.

I welcome the opportunity to continue engaging with our citizens (including our local journalists) so that they can gain a better understanding of the true progress we have made to ensure that “Buy Local” is much more than a slogan.


Chris Fowler
SyracuseFirst Founder
Candidate for Mayor

We need a New Way.

I am a community insider, not a political insider… and we need you.

Chris Fowler, mayoral candidate, plans to reinvigorate Syracuse (Daily Orange)

By Delaney Van Wey

Chris Fowler had been living in Austin, Texas, for only three days when a stranger stopped him on the street in the middle of the day.

Fowler said he had no idea what the man could have wanted until the individual spoke up and said, “Hey, man, aren’t we lucky to be living here?”

Now, after spending years in Syracuse, Fowler, who was raised in nearby DeWitt, said he wants to get people that excited about living in his hometown. As part of those efforts, he is running for mayor, recently becoming the eighth official candidate for the office.

As the founder of SyracuseFirst, a group that encourages people to buy from local businesses in the city, Fowler said he is ready to make the economy and the city’s welfare a priority. He is one of six Democrats who is seeking party endorsement. While the field is crowded, Fowler said it echoes his enthusiasm for creating a new future for the city.

“We want people to see Syracuse as a place where there’s an opportunity for them to create a life for themselves that’s meaningful and healthy, and they see themselves as part of what this community could look like,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he has four main goals that he is campaigning on: growing the entrepreneurial community, improving transportation access, supporting arts and culture and creating a culture of customer service within the government. He said these would be key in attracting people settling in Syracuse, rather than other popular metropolitan areas.

Fowler founded SyracuseFirst, which connects local businesses together for networking and business opportunities, in 2009. One of his goals is for Syracuse to have the most new businesses per capita in the country by 2025.

Fowler said that local businesses return more income into the local economy compared than chain retailers. On average, chain retailers recirculate about 13 percent of their revenue into the community, while local businesses return 48 percent, according to research from Civic Economics.

As mayor, Fowler said he would try to craft a policy that would incentivize businesses, particularly large institutions such as Syracuse University, to purchase supplies and services locally – similar to policies he said have been particularly successful in other cities, like Cleveland.

Cleaning up the appearance of Syracuse is also a top priority for Fowler. He said he wants to bring more public art projects downtown, similar to the pieces along the Connective Corridor. He also wants to beautify some of the dull features of Syracuse, like garbage cans, which could, in turn, deter littering, he added.

“Why are we limiting ourselves to one stretch of land? If people really enjoy that, let’s do more of it,” Fowler said.

Fowler said he has become frustrated about the city and previous leaders because of what he called missed opportunities to improve transportation. Fowler said he wants to improve walkability and bike-ability, as well as general access to transportation. In turn, this would improve access to businesses, he said.

An important issue that will face the next mayor is the state’s planned replacement of Interstate 81. Fowler said the city needs to choose the community grid option for replacing the major highway to open communities back up and make it easier for people to walk downtown.

“We need to create a comprehensive plan that focuses on people, not cars,” Fowler said.

While Fowler, like many other candidates, has never held elected office, he has worked closely with politicians. He worked on the staffs of U.S. Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Baltimore) and New York state Assemblywoman Joan Christensen (D-Syracuse) and ran for Syracuse Common Council in 2015. Fowler said this gives him the familiarity with policy and government that would be necessary as mayor.

He said that what the city really needs, though, is change. The city hasn’t changed much in the last couple of decades, he said, which is partly because leadership has been averse to risk.

“I think we need to do things differently. I don’t come from the political machinery and mechanism,” Fowler said. “This campaign is saying we can do better in Syracuse and we have to do it differently, and part of that is changing the leadership.” #NewWay

Originally Published in the Daily Orange 

Read the original story here

We must get Route 81 right!

We can’t afford to make the same mistake twice

The fact that we’re seriously having this discussion in 2017 is disturbing, given the disgraceful and well-documented history of the original project that forced an ill-conceived freeway through neighborhoods populated largely by people of color. The original project destroyed and displaced a whole community, devastated the tax base of the city, while subsidizing suburban commuters, and created high-speed traffic and polluted air that ruined the urban fabric of our city neighborhoods for generations.

Transportation is the linchpin that allows us to function in our daily lives. Literally, everything we do outside of our home depends on it. Whether we walk, drive, bike, bus, skateboard, or wheelchair, we all need to travel to meet our everyday needs. We use transportation to buy food, get home, get to school and work, access recreational opportunities, visit friends and family, obtain health care and government services. We spend vast amounts of public money on road networks and yet that shared public resource can’t be utilized by a growing amount of the population because of physical or economic means.

For more on Chris’ plan for a modern transportation concept for a 21st Century Syracuse read more here… 

You're in control, help shape Syracuse's future