Closed doors for 81 discussion: Matt's Memo

Route 81 under construction through downtown Syracuse.

The great public debate of this decade is over the future of the elevated section of I-81 through downtown Syracuse. It captures the essence of the direction our community wishes to take for the next generation or two. Do we remain content with holding on to a one mile stretch of highway that cuts the center city in half, yet effectively transports drivers past downtown to the northern suburbs? Or, do we creatively find a way to end a half century divide and breathe new life into a simmering city and region in need of a significant jump start?

That public debate took an unfortunate private turn at a brain storming discussion session on Wednesday. Acclaimed Post-Standard columnist Sean Kirst documented how journalists were excluded from a Leadership Greater Syracuse forum. Sean planned to cover the session where it seemed most of the relevant viewpoints were well represented. Community decision makers were all at the same table. Yet reporters were kept out. By extension, organizers excluded the public. That was a poor decision. That was an opportunity lost.

Certainly, many of these forums lack spark, energy and interesting subject matter. That's hard to believe that is how this one went down. There are passionate opinions in our community divided in essence between the "leave the highway up" versus the "take the highway down" groups. Many of the political and business leaders who have spoken about 81 seem unyielding when it comes to their view. That's why this forum was so important and needed to be covered by a news person or two.

It's not clear to me that the best answer to this grand question has been discovered as yet. The one big idea that inspires a community to come together in consensus has yet to surface. That may be wishful thinking or maybe that idea started to percolate at the not so public meeting of decisions makers today. We don't know because the journalists were kept out of covering the great public debate of this decade.

Any questions or comment please forward them to I may even use some of your thoughts on NBC 3 News at 5:00, the 10:00 News on CW6 or on

The opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the author and are not reflective of the views or opinions of Barrington Broadcasting, WSTM-NBC3, its management or employees.