Listen: Tompkins Legislature Candidate Deborah Dawson on Tax Abatements, Affordable Housing

Categories Housing & Development, Ithaca, Politics

Deborah Dawson, a first-time candidate for the Tompkins County Legislature, sat down with Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers for an interview that first aired on WRFI News on August 1, 2017.

“It seems that one of the real challenges we’re going to be facing in the coming years is making the money stretch, if we don’t get a lot of support from the state and the federal government,” Dawson said, “and it doesn’t really seem too wise to expect we are going to get a lot of support.”

On the subject of housing, Dawson said that while Tompkins County has spent much time looking at the reasons housing is a problem and coming up with a strategy to correct the problem, “unfortunately, I don’t think the county has a lot of weapons in its quiver in order to attack the problem.”

“It seems to me that the only means by which the county can directly impact the cost of building something is through the IDA [Industrial Development Agency], and I know that they don’t like using the IDA for housing projects,” Dawson said, “so I don’t know exactly where that leaves us.”

Dawson said that it’s “clear to any one who’s paying attention that the things we’re building with those abatements are not producing affordable housing or low-income housing. That’s a problem. One of the reasons I think those projects don’t produce affordable housing is they seem to be heavily concentrated on the Commons. Obviously real estate on the Commons is so expensive ,and the underlying cost of real estate is what drives the high cost of housing in Tompkins County.”

Dawson suggested that more development be focused on the identified “nodes” for future development in places like the villages of Lansing and Dryden, places where housing, retail, and transit can be concentrated outside of the city.

On the subject of tax revenues, Dawson suggested that the IDA focus more on commercial development, and finding ways to work with Cornell where the university could contribute to various building projects with in-kind donations for “truly affordable housing.”


Deborah Dawson. Via

Listen to the full interview here at the link at or use the embedded player below:

This 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 Deborah Dawson, 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

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