Syracuse City Councilor offers clarification/views on ban the box legislation

Love it or hate it, reality television is one of the most popular and lucrative forms of entertainment being broadcast because it does something so few other mediums are able to do; it appeals to the humanity of the viewer.

The weight-loss and personal retribution shows are popular, and mirror what the â??ban the boxâ?? legislation would hope to accomplish in the City of Syracuse for those who, just like the contestants on the shows, have fallen on some hard times, or are dealing with past mistakes.

In response to Jim Kenyonâ??s story on February 6, and stories in other publications, about â??ban the box,â?? Khalid Bey, Syracuse City Councilor and Chairman of the Committee for Economic Development, offered his interpretation of the proposed legislation that would remove the question on criminal background on a job application.

Bey says that this proposed law would not stop an employer from asking an applicant if they have been convicted of a crime. It is designed to get the applicant through the initial interview process unhindered, essentially affording the applicant the opportunity to â??wowâ?? the employer up to the stage of being offered a job.

This is the step that â??ban the boxâ?? allows the criminal background question to be asked.

Bey says that by allowing an applicant to have his or her talents shine through before being hindered by a past crime conviction, it puts them in a better position to get a job.

After all, this is one of the reasons reality television is so successful. It tells you an individualsâ?? story; their background, motivations and previous failures, which makes someone with glaring flaws, even if they are only skin deep, acceptable to the viewer.

It reminds you that, regardless of the current situation, the person is still a person.

Bey also reminds us that this is proposed legislation, and is in no way a â??done deal,â?? but he believes that, given the opportunity, just like the people that overcome great personal obstacles to the delight of the viewer on those reality shows, the applicant now has had the opportunity to win the employer over throughout the interview process.

In an age when both sides of the political spectrum will agree that spending is out of control on all levels, it makes good fiscal sense for a city to harness what Bey says is its most vibrant resource: people.

Bey says that this proposed law would increase the tax-payer base, easing the tax burden that about 44% of the Syracuse population currently shoulders. Bey calls this a â??win/winâ?? situation for all. More people at work, more people paying taxes. It's that simple.

Bey sums his description and plea with these words: â??Our choices are equally simple: we either find ways to empower our greatest asset, namely our people, and therefore our City, or we continue to remain forever a pauper, incapable of the type of financial independence and prestige towards which we aspire.â??