Kevin Bott Will Be Green Party Candidate for Mayor of Syracuse

On Sunday, July 14, 2013, the Green Party of Onondaga County voted to give Kevin Bott the Green Party's designation as candidatefor mayor of Syracuse. Official paperwork substituting Kevin Bott for Howie Hawkins in the mayoral campaign will be filed at the Onondaga County Board of Elections on Monday July 15, giving the Green Party a three person slate going into the 2013 local campaign season: Kevin Bott for Mayor, Barbara Humphrey for Commissioner of Education and Howie Hawkins for 4th District Councilor. 

Here is the text of a statement Bott presented the following statement to the Green Party of Onondaga County Special Convention:

My name is Kevin Bott and I am running as the Green Party candidate to become the next mayor of Syracuse, New York.

I am in this race to give the people of Syracuse a real and viable alternative to the status quo. Despite having lived in Syracuse for only 3 years, the people who know me know that from the moment I arrived here, I have felt called to celebrate and to serve this city.

This is an unlikely candidacy and, to many, I will appear at first glance to be a quite unlikely candidate. I have never run for or held public office, and yet I will spend the next three months asking the citizens of Syracuse to consider the possibility that the kind of leadership and the kind of thinking that’s required to lead this city beyond the pessimistic narrative of lowered expectations and narrowed horizons is very different from the kind of leadership and thinking that brought us to this point.

After receiving my PhD from New York University I moved to Syracuse in 2010, with my family, to take a senior administrative position at Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (, a national consortium of over 100 colleges and universities committed to asserting the important role that higher education must play in a thriving and robust democracy.

I myself am an artist and a scholar. My engagement to civic and political life has been primarily through my work as a grassroots theater maker. From 2006-2008, I was the educational director of the downstate prison arts non-profit, Rehabilitation Through the Arts and then wrote a dissertation about the process of co-creating an original rite-of-passage with formerly incarcerated men returning to their communities from New York State prisons. But it was the city of Syracuse, and the legacy of freedom that Syracuse and Central New York can claim that inspired me to create the work that best expresses my understanding of democracy, The D.R.E.A.M. Freedom Revival (

I cherish democracy’s promise, the promise that ordinary, thoughtful individuals can cultivate and bring forth their own unique talents to shape their own lives and the life of their community. I believe that the most dynamic and robust democracy is one in which all voices are welcomed to the conversation. I believe that a primary function of this government should be to articulate a vision of our city that inspires our fellow citizens to believe that a different future is possible and that excites them to contribute meaningfully to the shaping of their own fates and futures.

I am an ordinary, thoughtful individual. I’m a happily married father of two wonderful and energetic young boys. My father served in the United States Marine Corps and then made his living out of Boilermakers Union Local #28 in Bayonne, New Jersey. For the last 25 years, my mother has worked at city hall, in the Department of Parks and Recreation, in my hometown of Manahawkin, New Jersey.

Like many of my friends, colleagues, and neighbors, I often feel fear and despair about the state of the world. On so many fronts – economic, political, and certainly environmental –we seem to be standing on the brink. The Dream Freedom Revival (DFR) emerged from that sense of fear and despair, along with a belief that it was my responsibility, as a father and as a citizen, to try, in whatever small way, to be part of the solution rather than another voice in the chorus of hopelessness. My role in the DFR for the past two and half years has been to implore my fellow citizens of Syracuse to recognize that democracy is driven by those who participate in it, and that to create a just and peaceful world in which the humanity of all people is honored and supported, we must participate in ways that take us far beyond the voting booth.

I see the opportunity to run for mayor of the city of Syracuse as a challenge to walk my talk and to live my beliefs. I am running because I sincerely believe that the ideas and the practices of the past are no longer adequate to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. We need leaders with a new vision for the future of this city and for the future of our democracy. I do not fit the mold of your typical politician, but I will argue that the skills of the typical politician are inadequate to the task before us. My life as an artist and as a scholar has been about envisioning worlds and possibilities where others saw nothing, and then inviting others to share in that vision, to refine it and reshape that vision until it was no longer “mine” but “ours.” That is my work. I will spend from now until November 5th making the case that, as unlikely as it may seem, I am uniquely qualified in this historical moment to articulate a vision for this city and to bring all the people of this city together to imagine and manifest a vibrant, resilient, and hopeful future.

While this statement is intended primarily to provide an overview of my personal history and of my broader vision, I do want to name four areas that are of primary concern to me in this race:

  • Jobs and Poverty. We need to take bold action to create jobs in Syracuse, and to ensure that city-funded jobs go to city residents. If city residents cannot have decent, meaningful, dignified work, there is little hope of solving the other crises we face.

  • Education. We must support and empower teachers to teach.  As an educator myself, I am eager to build the argument against high-stakes testing and the increasing privatization of public education, for their effects on our children, on our teachers, and on our schools. I will speak passionately about the role of art, of music, and of play as being foundational to children’s learning.

  • Ex-Offender Re-entry Of particular personal interest to me is the dismantling of the criminal justice system as we know it, both in terms of incarceration and reentry/parole. As a nation, we lack any coherent or effective policy on incarceration beyond punishment, which only damages lives and destroys communities. I will be very interested in working with highly impacted communities on these issues.

  • Collective Leadership Finally, and perhaps more important than anything, I will emphasize a very different model of leadership with regard to our city employees and our city council. My strengths are in collaboration, cooperation, co-learning, and facilitating processes that bring the best ideas to the top, regardless of who or where they came from. I want to distribute power and leadership so that all of our public employees can claim ownership of a shared vision for the future of our great city.

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