Innovative Ways to Spend $1 Billion

Do you have a billion-dollar idea for Syracuse?

Some Christmas this is shaping up to be. We’ve got Governor Corrupto half-promising to give us a billion dollars and Mayor Stephanie Miner proposing we spend the windfall on the municipal equivalent of socks and underwear.

Can’t they just give us a Marshalls gift card, and call it even?

Yeah, we get it. A water system that springs more geysers than Iceland needs to be replaced. Community broadband would be – yawn – empowering. And there’s nothing wrong with state-of-the-art air conditioning for city buildings.

Except it’s B-O-R-I-N-G.

Where’s the vision? Where’s the plan that elevates Syracuse from a Rust Belt has-been to a thriving, modern city with the resources to upgrade its own stupid water system?

Where’s the paradigm change?

Not that anyone asked me, but here are my ideas for the billion dollars. Most were developed without the assistance of Schedule 1 hallucinogens:

Getting in and out of Syracuse is vexing. Trains, planes and automobiles all have their respective hassles, which fuels a sense of regional isolation. The late Caz Limo had some success with an express bus to Manhattan, but even a nice bus is still a bus. And forget high-speed rail. A billion dollars won’t even get us to Cortland. Nor does it solve the biggest problem with mass transit: You have to be around other people, and other people are gross.

Enter a fleet of on-demand limos that will whisk you and your hand-picked traveling pals to major destinations at highly competitive rates subsidized by Albany’s largess. Use the time to work, read, have sex or drain your sinuses with a neti pot. You’ll arrive relaxed and refreshed in one of our prison-jumpsuit-orange limos that feature “The ‘Cuse” painted on both sides in stylish Home Boy Roman. Snooty New Yorkers and Bostonians will be forced to take note: Syracuse rolls with class.


I’ve long lobbied for an Olympic-sized ski jump on Salina Street to draw people downtown and promote Syracuse as cutting edge, despite all evidence that we’re not. Everyone ignores me, and it hurts my feelings. But this has never been about me. With a billion dollars in play, we should expand the concept: Add a downtown luge run and snowboard half-pipe, plus a youth biathlon course that wends through nearby neighborhoods, promoting safe firearms use. These venues can use artificial snow and ice made with water captured from — you got it — water main breaks. As a nod to our rich history of innovation, the ski jump should be designed to resemble a giant Brannock foot-measuring device.


Who doesn’t love polar bears? (Oh, shut up, seals.) They drink Coca-Cola and they’re adorable unless they’re mauling a walrus or eating their own cubs. So let’s take the lead in polar bear preservation. As global warming melts the poles, the U.S. snow belt will emerge as a logical habitat for these wondrous reptiles. Space in town is limited, so acquiring a large bear-friendly tract on the outskirts is critical. (Skaneateles makes the most sense.) A sprawling eco-attraction brimming with bears, arctic foxes and wolves would pair perfectly with an expanded Finger Lakes Beer Trail. Visitors could reach the park via a high-speed tram just like the one they built at Destiny US … OK, this one still needs work, but you get the idea.


Not everyone can afford a tropical vacation. But what if the tropics were here? First, build a fake beach, a wave machine and a mega luxury hotel — all inside a huge fabric dome. Flood the place with artificial sunlight and heat to 88 degrees. Sell killer pina coladas for $14 a pop. Add non-poisonous lizards, some palm trees and a few irritating peddlers hawking yarn art and hair braiding. What’s this? The greedy developer wants a 30-year tax break to build this monstrosity? Not a problem: This time the greedy developer is us — and it feels good.


There are strings attached: You have to live in Syracuse for a year with other winners and submit to a reality TV series in a Real World-style home. America will be transfixed as the geniuses collaborate on brilliant ideas to save Syracuse.

Do you have a billion-dollar idea for Syracuse? Send it. If it’s any good, I’ll claim it’s mine.

Email Jeff Kramer at [email protected]


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