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Inaugural Gala at OnCenter celebrates achievements of local politicians, president

Stacie Fanelli | Staff Photographer

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Union hosted an inaugural ball at the OnCenter Monday night. The gala recognized the achievements of local politicians such as U.S representative Dan Maffei and Assemblyman Al Stripe, in addition to those of President Barack Obama.

While most inaugural festivities took place on Monday in Washington, D.C., Syracuse community members filled the Oncenter Complex to celebrate their hard work and success in the recent election season.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a union of health care workers, hosted the Inaugural Ball, which began at 6 p.m. and lasted until midnight.

Allison Krause, communications coordinator for the union and planning committee member, said it was the first time the union has held an inaugural gala to celebrate the victories of President Barack Obama and local candidates such as Rep. Dan Maffei and state assemblyman Al Stirpe.

Krause said the event was organized to recognize the effort members of the United Healthcare Workers East and other organizations have put into the recent campaigning season through activities like phone banks, fundraisers and door-to-door canvassing.

“Some of our members here were given complimentary tickets tonight to thank them for their hard work,” she said.

The Syracuse-based Brownskin Band filled the large, elegantly decorated Oncenter ballroom area with classic rhythm and blues hits from artists like Marvin Gaye.

The event cost $10 for union members and $20 for non-members. It offered hors d’oeuvres, desserts and a cash bar.

Although there were similar inaugural galas in Rochester and Buffalo, also hosted by United Healthcare Workers East, Krause said the gala at the Oncenter had the highest attendance. She said more than 450 tickets were sold to members and non-members.

“I would say it is a really good mix of 1199 members and community members,” she said.

She also said many local politicians, like Mayor Stephanie Miner, assemblyman Samuel Roberts and Stirpe, the assemblyman, showed their support and attended the event.

“It gives people like me an opportunity to thank a lot of the labor who helped a lot in this campaign,” Stirpe said.

Marty Liquori, chairman for the maintenance and clerical division of the union at Crouse Hospital, said he thinks the event is a very effective way to make the community more aware of Obama’s inaugural address in Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s a good way to bring a national election home to the community,” he said.

He also said he thinks having a local celebration for the inauguration allows friends to celebrate together.

Syracuse University basketball player Michael Carter-Williams was also in attendance. He said he thought the event was significant because it allowed students to see different faces in the community and learn more about events beyond the SU campus.

“I feel that it is all a part of history,” Carter-Williams said. “I just wanted to be involved and have a good time.”

Daniel Anyaegbunam, an SU football player, attended the event with other members of the team.

By attending the gala, Anyaegbunam said, he realized that students can implement change by becoming more aware of the community and voting.

“It’s important because we are the next-coming generation,” Anyaegbunam said. “So we should get out there.”

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