Listen: Tompkins County Legislator Rich John on Jail Study, Housing, More

Categories Ithaca, Politics

Rich John, who’s running for re-election to the Tompkins County legislature in District 4, joined Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers News for an interview originally aired on WRFI News on July 11. John is being challenged by Reed Steberger, whose interview with TruthSayers you can hear here.

On the topic of housing, John called the county’s housing strategy, which TruthSayers covered here and here a “very ambitious document,” but noted that while it “outlines what we need to do” it doesn’t “tell us how to get there.”

John said he doesn’t “fully understand the criticism of what the [Industrial Development Agency] has been doing recently. There has been support for market-rate housing such as Harold’s Square and City Center. But those projects are going to put lots of people in our urban core, downtown,  where they should be, in walking distance of the Commons with all the local businesses that are there. Both of those developments are highly energy efficient, they’re really doing some innovative and neat things to run both of those buildings at a very small footprint for energy use. They’re adding new housing. They’re going up in the air. They’re not displacing any other housing. I see those as net positives.”

Read More: Harold’s Square on its Way: Tax Break Granted Over Vocal Opposition

On the living wage, John said he wants “a very clear answer from an economist, or economists, who understand this thoroughly, on what impact it’s going to have on local  prices.”

John also addressed the study of Tompkins County’s jail population; the jail has been double-bunking inmates and boarding them out in other places, and the state is threatening to remove the “waiver” that allows it to double-bunk.

John chairs the “Jail Study” committee, which will be soon receiving a report from a consultant on what Tompkins County is currently doing and what it might have to do to further reduce or otherwise manage its jail population, with a meeting on July 20.

“This has been a good thing for us, it’s really forced us to look at our jail, and how we’re operating it,” John said. “There’s a lot of really good ideas coming out of it … We’re going to have some real discussion about what more we can do. It’s possible the consultant would come back and say ‘You’ve done everything you can, in terms of alternatives to incarceration. You’re really going to have to need to look at adding beds to the jail.’ I hope that’s not the case, but that’s a possible outcome of this first step. We would then need to figure out what to do as a second phase. But the jail study committee has never been authorized to look at jail expansion, at adding beds to the jail.”


Photo via

You can listen to the interview, about 13 minutes and 30 seconds long, at this link or at the embedded player below:

Next Tuesday on WRFI News (6 p.m. at 88.1 FM Ithaca and 91.9 FM Watkins Glen) Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers News will interview another candidate in this year’s Tompkins County legislature election. Candidates who haven’t yet scheduled an interview should email

Featured graphic by Caleb Thomas, via Carolina Osorio Gil’s campaign website.

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Josh Brokaw is an independent reporter based in Ithaca, N.Y.

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