Exit Interview: Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan

Monica Sandreczki
December 3, 2013

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan is known as a bit of a maverick. From installing a cost of war clock on City Hall to carrying the torch against hydrofracking – he tries to get his point across in a big way. Just a few weeks before his time is up, WSKG’s Monica Sandreczki caught up with Mayor Ryan at his office at City Hall. She started by asking him about one of his big achievements.


INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On the shooting at the American Civic Association:

“Whenever I really think about it, and what I saw that day and what I experienced for the next two weeks in sharing the mourning with people all over the world – I had chest pains. It was the worst two weeks of my life and I can’t imagine what the people who had victims went through. One of the things we decided – me Donna Lupardo and other leaders around – was ‘this is not Binghamton. This is an abhorration and we are not going to be defined by this tragedy.’ If you think about it, we are not uttered in the same breath as some of those tragedies because of the way we talked about our immigrant population, talked about how it was a strength of our area. The actions of one very deranged man should not define our community.”

On his cost of war clock project:

“I don’t know why people would be afraid of information. At that time, we were full blown into two wars and spending a lot of money meanwhile infrastructure was in horrible shape across the country. Those dollars are from the federal government. They’re not coming anymore. All the things we should be doing as a country, we can’t afford to do anymore because of two wars on a credit card... city council got mad that I decided to do it on my own. And they might have had a few points, but I was trying to make a point. It wasn’t for me. I don’t care about me, but it seemed to me, at the time, nobody is facing the fact that we’re spending all this money on wars. It takes those bold statements to make people think about it.

On his firm stance against hydrofracking:

“I don’t want to be a guinea pig for this industry. The gas isn’t going any place. If other states want to do this, let them be the guinea pigs. But, we need a comprehensive healthcare and enviornmental impact assessment of this industry. It’s never been done. We don’t know the consequences of this industry. And until we do, I’m going to continue to fight it.”

On his approach to the struggling economy:

“It’s been about bringing people in, improving infrastructure. One of the things I’ve embraced from the beginning was trying to bring more people downtown. We’d like it to be a little more mixed – right now it’s mostly students, but we don’t control the marketplace. Our theory was if we can strengthen our urban core, then it will spill over into other neighborhoods, which it has. We have a bunch of new businesses on the south side. It’s becoming a more livable, walkable community. There’s still some pieces missing, we’d like to see a grocery store.”

On the key to prosperity for Binghamton:

“The real hope for our future is in clean energy technology and we’re being bypassed by the rest of the world whose doing all this research. And we should be doing much more of that and that would create a lot of jobs. That’s why, I wish the governor would embrace, if he wants New York to be the most progressive state in the Union, he should bring all the great minds from the country together and say you come and prove that we can have a clean energy economy, prove it in New York state, then let’s take it to the rest of the country and the rest of the world. If the governor ever embraced that, a lot of research at BU is in clean-energy technology. I really think One of the big things we need to be looking at is becoming communities that reinstitute creating prodcuts for themselves that will bring jobs back to the community, that will be invested in the community. We’ve become a community of high-tech and service industry jobs and no manufacturing jobs. We don’t make anything anmore. That’s the component we have to bring back.

On how Rich David will fare in the mayor’s office:

“Based on rhetoric of the campaign, I’d be afraid. Based on the transition, I’m more hopeful. I hope he takes a good look at everything we’re doing, realizes we can do it with the size workforce we have, but if he starts cutting too much more out to fund more police officers, you’ll either have to raise taxes or you won’t get the kinds of things done that we’ve been doing. He seems to define basics as police, fire and roads. Those are the basics, but if you don’t do things to improve your neighborhoods, if you don’t look for every way to clean up as much blight as possible, if you don’t get your community members involved and keep your youth engaged – he talked about cutting the Youth Bureau. That would be a big mistake in my mind. I think Rich is a smart guy, but a vision that isn’t just about basics because basics will leave you at a standstill."

On his feelings about leaving office:

“I didn’t have $700 million like Mayor Bloomberg to get myself another term. But, you know, I knew it was coming. I wish I could’ve run for another term, but I can’t. Because of all the stuff we went through with the recession, now we’re finally coming out of it. We finally have some stability to our finances, it would be fun to be mayor for another four years and see through a lot of the projects we’ve started and keep the momentum going."