By Walt Shepperd Published on October 14th, 2015 www.syracusenewtimes.com
Perennial Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins recalls being asked, at a Thursday Morning Roundtable mayoral debate with Joanie Mahoney and Matt Driscoll, what would be the hardest thing for him if he was elected. “I gave them an honest answer,” he says now. “Putting on a jacket and tie every day.”
But at an Oct. 9 press conference on the City Hall steps announcing his campaign for city auditor in the Nov. 3 election, he admitted to being resigned to dressing the part: tie, jacket, press pants, brogans — a businesslike look for talking about accounting for the way the city does its business. Current incumbent Democrat Marty Masterpole, Hawkins charged, is just not taking care of that business.
In the next block of East Washington Street, Masterpole stood watching until the press conference’s conclusion before walking over to hand out a release to reporters. His release posed answers to some of Hawkins’ charges and listed what he considers accomplishments of his tenure. To Hawkins’ charge that he “pushed out” an 11-year supervisory civil service auditor, getting around civil service protocol, Masterpole responded that the supervisor had no one to supervise, adding that the CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) had supported the move and was endorsing his candidacy.
Hawkins noted that the auditor’s office had not been audited since the late 1990s. “My office doesn’t audit itself,” Masterpole responded, noting that the Common Council can hire an outside firm for that task, but has not chosen to do so.
Before the press conference had been announced, however, the grapevine buzzed of significance for the auditor’s race well beyond the casting of November ballots. Word on the street had Masterpole very interested in running for mayor in 2016, and that a faction of the Democratic Party could use the auditor’s race to pile up enough nasty on him to deny him the nod.
Of note among Hawkins’ supporters on the City Hall steps was Pat Hogan, who had waged an unsuccessful Democratic primary battle to deny Mayor Stephanie Miner a second term. “Pat Hogan was one of the first people who started dropping hints to me,” Hawkins observed, “then finally said straight out for me to run for city auditor.”
“I’m not turning Green,” Hogan maintained of his appearance at the press conference. “I am more concerned about the city than the party. The auditor is supposed to be a watchdog on the city budgets and Marty isn’t doing any watching. There’s a dearth of independence in city government. People in office are worried about the next one they’re going to run for, and won’t be critical of anyone who could support them.
“(Former City Auditor) Phil LaTessa did 14 audits a year,” Hogan continued. “Marty does four, and he shouldn’t be working in collaboration with the mayor. He should be focused on infrastructure and poverty instead of golf courses, ice rinks and Clinton Square festivals.”
Hogan insists he has no political aspirations at this time in terms of positioning for the next mayoral race, adding, “I never considered Marty a viable candidate for mayor.”
On that subject, Masterpole reflected, “The short answer is ‘I don’t know.’ The long answer is I have young children and I don’t know if I can be a good father and a good mayor.”
Meanwhile, with no Republican in the race, Hawkins and Masterpole will be slugging it out, the incumbent pointing with pride at his monitoring of take-home police vehicles and reviews of spending on asphalt for street paving, the challenger leveling charges of bid rigging, cronyism and the pitfalls of single-party rule.