TruthSayers http://www.truthsayers.org PUNCHING UP SINCE 2016 Mon, 26 Jun 2017 05:18:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 https://i1.wp.com/www.truthsayers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-cropped-IMGP0003.jpg?fit=32%2C32 TruthSayers http://www.truthsayers.org 32 32 Tompkins County Government Happenings: June 26-30 http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/26/tompkins-county-government-happenings-june-26-30/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/26/tompkins-county-government-happenings-june-26-30/#respond Mon, 26 Jun 2017 05:18:44 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1075 Continue Reading "Tompkins County Government Happenings: June 26-30" ]]> Do you want to know what your local government is doing? Here are your opportunities to help TruthSayers cover activity this week by Tompkins County governments.

If you would like to help TruthSayers cover more issues that matter, if you are at a meeting, be a reporter. Send us recordings, photographs, or notes, and TruthSayers will publish them while crediting you. Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with stories and tips.

Let’s put every government action we can on the public record. Hyperlinks go to the meeting agenda for further information, if available. County meetings are at the top, then the city of Ithaca, then towns alphabetical by name, then villages in the same arrangement. We’ll get to school boards, too, but not this week.

Tompkins County

Monday, June 26

The Transportation Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature meets at 10 a.m. in the legislature chambers at 121 E. Court St. On the agenda is a discussion of “transportation network company” operations, including ride-hailing services like Uber.

Wednesday, June 28

The Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Old Jail, 125 E. Court St. On the agenda is a discussion of the living wage, and Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Thursday, June 29

The Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality committee of the Tompkins County legislature meets at 3 p.m. in the legislature chambers. On the agenda are a whole lot of capital allocations to support land purchases for  protection projects.

 

City of Ithaca

Monday, June 26

The Board of Public Works meets at 4:45 p.m. in the third floor Common Council chambers at City Hall. On the agenda are changes to stop signs at intersections in the Northside neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 27

The Board of Fire Commissioners meets at the Central Fire Station at 310 W. Green St. at 4 p.m. On the agenda is discussion of a proposal to dissolve the Board of Fire Commissioners.

Wednesday, June 28

The Community Police Board meets at 3:30 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall. On the agenda is a presentation about Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion.

Town of Ithaca

Monday, June 26

The Ithaca Town Board meets at 4:30 p.m. at the Ithaca Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St. On the agenda is continued discussion of legislation for two-family dwellings and a rental registry.

Town of Lansing

Monday, June 26

The Lansing Planning Board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Lansing Town Hall, 29 Auburn Road.

Town of Newfield

Wednesday, June 28

The Newfield Planning Board meets at 6 p.m. at the Newfield Town Hall, 166 Main St.

Village of Cayuga Heights

The Cayuga Heights planning board meets public hearing at 7 p.m. On the agenda is a sub-division for a property at 620 Cayuga Heights Road.

Village of Lansing

Tuesday, June 27

The Village of Lansing planning board meets at 7 p.m. at 2405 N. Triphammer Rd.


 

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Shopping List: Ithaca Police Adding SWAT Equipment http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/22/shopping-list-ithaca-police-adding-swat-equipment/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/22/shopping-list-ithaca-police-adding-swat-equipment/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:48:23 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1067 Continue Reading "Shopping List: Ithaca Police Adding SWAT Equipment" ]]> By Josh Brokaw

The Ithaca Police Department will again be going shopping for SWAT team tactical equipment with federal funds.

Common Council’s City Administration committee recommended accepting a $100,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security at its Wednesday, June 21 meeting.

“[T]his funding is provided to improve and develop tactical team capabilities through equipment, training, exercise, and planning projects that support counter terrorism missions in your jurisdiction,” reads the letter from John Melville, commissioner of New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services, explaining the uses of money accepted through the State Homeland Security Grant Program.

Alderperson Donna Fleming (D-3rd Ward) asked Pete Tyler, acting chief of the Ithaca Police Department, for an explanation of what IPD will be buying with the funds.

“We want to make sure we answer questions now that prevent the kind of controversy we had a few years ago for a similar grant,” Fleming said. “This room was packed full of people making public comments about the militarization of the police … we need to understand the need for this equipment, the uses for this equipment, and the kind of restraint involved in using the equipment.”

Tyler said that $80,500 of the $100,000 “tactical team grant” will be spent on new equipment, with the remainder earmarked for paying overtime costs for officers’ training to use the new equipment.

 

Ithaca Police Department acting chief Pete Tyler. Photo: cityofithaca.org

One item on the IPD’s shopping list is a “small handheld robot that looks like a kid’s toy we can remotely throw into a building,” Tyler said. “We have a viewport, a handheld screen, we can look at and basically drive it … it’s small, portable eyes and ears we can utilize to explore and look at, for example, on an extended barricade incident.”

A “handheld sensor radar unit” is “fairly new technology,” Tyler said, that “allows us to see through walls given certain conditions.”

“That’s not something we’d use for general everyday policing. It’s something very specific to a high risk situation,” Tyler continued. “If we’re trying to find a probable subject in a building and trying to pinpoint [location].”

Night vision goggles are also on the IPD shopping list.

“That allows us to have advantage in low light or complete darkness,” Tyler said. “For obvious reasons that can sound controversial but it’s something that absolutely keeps our officers safe … if the bad guy can’t see us and we can see him or her then that is a significant advantage.”

Tyler used the stakeout after the Wal-Mart shooting last December as an example of how this equipment could be used.

“One of the bigger challenges for our department, in cooperation with the sheriff’s department, was trying to figure out where this person was,” Tyler said. “Once we determine where somebody is that dictates and determines what our tactics would be.”

New, lighter helmets; an “air purifying respirator” and self-contained breathing apparatuses; and cameras on poles, fill out the list of equipment IPD wants to purchase with the Homeland Security funding.

Alderperson Graham Kerslick (D-4th) asked what the burden was on IPD related to the sentence in Melville’s letter stating that “all capabilities” added through the grant should be “deployable regionally and nationally per the Federal guidelines.”

Tyler said he was unsure, exactly, what that language meant.

“I would hope we would be informed if the guidelines will impact us in any way,” Kerslick noted.

This grant is the third from Homeland Security for tactical equipment upgrades that IPD has received in the last three years. In September 2014, there was public dissent and a petition signed by more than 100 people telling Common Council not to accept the Homeland Security funding, a few weeks after an off-duty IPD officer apprehended city teenagers who were riding their bikes.

IPD used that grant to buy, among other things, a $41,000 tactical robot. Tyler said on June 21 that robot was still in use.

A second $100,000 grant from Homeland Security was received by IPD in early 2016.

That round of purchases included a $13,000 night vision helmet unit, $13,500 worth of SCUBA equipment, a $14,000 portable mass notification system, and a $22,600 throw phone for hostage negotiations.


 Help Support TruthSaying Reporting

This report took your sometimes humble, very independent, non-salaried, non-endowed correspondent about two (2) hours to put together, including watching the meeting and writing – if you value this kind of watchdog reporting, please donate to TruthSayerswork with a donation at the link.We’d be thrilled if 2 people contributed the New York State minimum hourly wage of $9.70 for this story.

TruthSayers is always looking for more correspondents putting more government actions on the record – check our weekly agenda posts to see what meetings are happening in your area, and if you go, send us a report!

Here’s the full letter from John Melville:

Featured photo: Via ‘Ithaca Police Department SWAT’ page on Facebook

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Listen: Tompkins County Legislature Candidate Reed Steberger http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/20/listen-tompkins-county-legislature-candidate-reed-steberger/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/20/listen-tompkins-county-legislature-candidate-reed-steberger/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 03:45:16 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1054 Continue Reading "Listen: Tompkins County Legislature Candidate Reed Steberger" ]]> Reed Steberger, Democratic candidate for the 4th district of the Tompkins County legislature, representing portions of downtown Ithaca and Collegetown, joined Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers on WRFI News on June 20 for a 14-minute interview.

Steberger is challenging Rich John, the incumbent in District 4, in the Democratic primary.

On the question of affordable housing, Steberger offered up an idea recently put forward by the county Office of Human Rights:

“One of the biggest things we can do right away, is pursue a local law to prevent source of income discrimination. What that means is that landlords can currently refuse to rent to someone if they’re using housing assistance. There was a survey done of about 90 or so landlords and over half of them said they don’t rent to folks who use housing vouchers, because the reputation that they perceive the folks who are using those have. And if you look in Tompkins County alone, who’s using housing vouchers, it’s majority people of color, it’s majority mothers with children, and it’s people with disabilities.”

[Steberger emailed TruthSayers after we spoke to add this correction: “I said the majority of housing assistance recipients are people of color, mothers, and people with disabilities. That’s incorrect. People of color, mothers (female headed household), and people with disabilities are disproportionately the recipients of housing assistance, relative to the proportion of the general population they make up.”]

The interview continued to cover issues of countywide living wage legislation, using tax abatements to encourage affordable housing, and the potential of a Tompkins County jail expansion, to which Steberger is opposed.

Listen to the whole interview, about 14 minutes and 35 seconds, at this link or use the embedded player below:

Next week 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 josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org.

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


Help Support TruthSaying Reporting

If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too, at the link. Funds go toward keeping this start-up, worker-“owned” reporting project fed & fighting.

 

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TruthSayers Watchdog: Government Happenings in Tompkins County This Week http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/18/truthsayers-watchdog-government-happenings-in-tompkins-county-this-week/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/18/truthsayers-watchdog-government-happenings-in-tompkins-county-this-week/#respond Sun, 18 Jun 2017 20:25:15 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1045 Continue Reading "TruthSayers Watchdog: Government Happenings in Tompkins County This Week" ]]> Do you want to know what your local government is doing? Here are your opportunities to help TruthSayers cover activity this week by Tompkins County governments.

If you would like to help TruthSayers cover more issues that matter, if you are at a meeting, be a reporter. Send us recordings, photographs, or notes, and TruthSayers will publish them while crediting you. Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with stories and tips.

Let’s put every government action we can on the public record. Hyperlinks go to the meeting agenda for further information, if available. County meetings are at the top, then the city of Ithaca, then towns alphabetical by name, then villages in the same arrangement. We’ll get to school boards, too, but not this week.

Special Meeting – Department of Environmental Conservation

Tuesday, June 20
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed a “no further action” remedy for the brownfield site at Ithaca Falls, for contamination caused by the Ithaca Gun factory.

A meeting to gather public comment will be held at City Hall, 108 E. Green St., at 6:30 p.m. The DEC will be collecting public comments through July 17. Here’s the sheet telling you how to comment. For a deep dive story by TruthSayers‘ Josh Brokaw on this topic, see  this feature in the Ithaca Times from October 2015.

Tompkins County

Monday, June 19

The Health and Human Services committee of the Tompkins County legislature is meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the legislature chambers at 121 E. Court St.

On the agenda is a report from the Continuum of Care on its work with the homeless, and a discussion of a potential law to outlaw “income discrimination” by landlords – that is, to require landlords to take Section 8 housing choice vouchers from potential tenants.

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has announced it will be attending this meeting to kick off its push for a countywide living wage law with a rally at 4 p.m. and then speakers talking to committee members inside about their proposed legislation.

Tuesday, June 20

The Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality committee of the Tompkins County legislature is meeting at 4 p.m. in the county legislature chambers at 121 E. Court St.

The agenda is entirely dedicated to reviewing and approving the draft Tompkins County Housing Strategy. Read more about the housing strategy here.

Read More: Tompkins County Housing Strategy, For Your Review

What is a Housing Strategy?

At 5:30 p.m. on June 20, the Tompkins County legislature will hold its regular bi-monthly meeting. A public hearing will begin the meeting on the proposed 2017-18 Tompkins Cortland Community College budget. Scheduled votes include on a bridge reconstruction over Cascadilla Creek on Game Farm Road.

Wednesday, June 21

The Tompkins County Shared Services Panel will hold a meeting for public input at 5:30 p.m. in the county legislature chambers at 121 E. Court St.

Here’s an explanation of what the shared services panel is doing, from a release sent out by Marcia Lynch, county public information officer:

The June 21st session is the first of at least three such public hearings that will be held to seek ideas from the public regarding the County’s Shared Services Plan.  The Tompkins County Shared Services Panel, chaired by County Administrator Joe Mareane, is made up of all town supervisors, and city and village mayors within Tompkins County.  Representatives of school districts within the county also have been invited to participate.

This year’s New York State Budget enacted the County-wide Shared Services Property Tax Savings Plan Law, which requires the chief executive officer of each of the 57 counties outside of New York City to convene a panel of public officials to develop, publicly deliberate, and vote upon county-wide shared services property tax savings plans.  The initiative seeks to save property taxpayers money by implementing shared services and other cooperative arrangements among governments.  A Shared Services Plan is to contain actions that, when implemented, will result in new property tax savings.

One idea under study is consolidating police departments in Tompkins County – you can read a TruthSayers story on that topic here.

Thursday, June 22

The Tompkins County Council of Governments will hold a meeting at 3 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. On the agenda is a report from TC-COG’s “EMS Task Force.”

City of Ithaca

Tuesday, June 20

At 8:30 a..m., the Project Review Committee of the Planning & Development Board will be meeting in the second floor conference room at City Hall. Here’s the agenda, which includes updates to plans of the DeWitt House project at the Old Library and the Harold’s Square project.

At 12 p.m., the Housing Board of Review is scheduled to have a public meeting on the fourth floor of City Hall, 108 E. Green St. No agenda was available.

At 4 p.m., the Building Code Board of Appeals is scheduled to have a regular meeting on the fourth floor of City Hall, 108 E. Green St. No agenda was available.

Wednesday, June 21

The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency board is holding a re-scheduled board meeting at 10 a.m. in City Hall’s third floor Common Council chambers, 108 E. Green St.

The Rental Housing Advisory Committee is scheduled to have its regular monthly meeting at 5:15 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall.

The City Administration Committee will have its monthly meeting in City Hall’s third floor Common Council chambers at 6 p.m. On the agenda is an authorization to amend the Ithaca Police Department budget and a vote on a new law to establish new city advisory commissions. 

Thursday, June 22

The Workforce Diversity Advisory Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the second floor conference room at City Hall. The agenda includes a report on “strategies for advancing the city’s workforce diversity & inclusion culture.”

The Public Art Commission meets at 12 p.m. in the second floor conference room at City Hall.

Town of Caroline

Tuesday, June 20

The Town of Caroline Watershed Committee is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at the Caroline Town Hall, 2670 Slaterville Springs Rd.

Town of Danby

Monday, June 19

The Danby Conservation Advisory Council meets at 7 p.m. at the Danby Town Hall, 1830 Danby Road.

 

Town of Dryden

Thursday, June 22

The Town of Dryden planning board meets at 7 p.m. at the Dryden Town Hall, 93 E. Main St.

Town of Enfield

Thursday, June 22

There will be a meeting at 7 p.m. at the Enfield Community Building, 182 Enfield Main Road, to learn how to participate in the completion of the town’s comprehensive plan. You can read new draft sections of the proposed comprehensive plan here and share comments and concerns with Beth McGee at beth-mcgee@townofenfield.org.

Town of Groton

Wednesday, June 28

The Town of Groton Board of Zoning Appeals has a scheduled meeting at 7 p.m., at the Groton Town Hall, 101 Conger Boulevard – unless no appeals are received.

Town of Ithaca

Monday, June 19

There will be a special Ithaca Town Board meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St. The purpose of the meeting, from a town release, “is to take public comments and discuss ideas for the creation of new regulations concerning short term rentals such as Air B&B and Vacation Rental By Owner.”

Tuesday, June 20

The Town of Ithaca Public Works Committee meets at 9 a.m. at the Public Works facility, 106 Seven Mile Drive.

Town of Lansing

Wednesday, June 21

The Lansing Town Board meets at 7 p.m. at the Lansing Town Hall, 29 Auburn Road.

Town of Newfield

Thursday, June 22

The Newfield Town Board will meet at 7 p.m. at the Newfield Town Hall, 166 Main St.

Town of Ulysses

Tuesday, June 20

The Town of Ulysses Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. at 10 Elm St., Trumansburg. On the agenda is consideration of a site plan for a single family residence on Dubois Road.

Wednesday, June 21

The Town of Ulysses Board of Zoning appeals meets at 7 p.m. at 10 Elm St., Trumansburg. The agenda includes public hearings on applications from the Inn at Taughannock’s owners for new signs and for a new “gatehouse” building, reported on by Brian Crandall here.

Thursday, June 22

The Town of Ulysses steering committee for zoning updates meets at 7 p.m. at 10 Elm St. The agenda includes a discussion on new draft zoning for agricultural and rural areas.

Village of Cayuga Heights

Monday, June 19

The Cayuga Heights board of trustees is scheduled to have its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. at Marcham Hall, 836 Hanshaw Road.

Village of Dryden

No meetings scheduled this week.

Village of Freeville

Tuesday, June 20

The Freeville planning board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at the Freeville Village Hall, 5 Factory St.

Village of Groton

Monday, June 19

The Groton board of trustees meets at 7 p.m. at 143 E. Cortland St.

Village of Lansing

Monday, June 19

The Lansing board of trustees meets at 7:30 p.m. at the Village of Lansing office, 2405 N. Triphammer Road. On the agenda is a discussion of changes to the zoning law’s definition of “household.”

Village of Trumansburg

No meetings scheduled.

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Tompkins County Housing Strategy, For Your Review http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/15/tompkins-county-housing-strategy-for-your-review/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/15/tompkins-county-housing-strategy-for-your-review/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:48:36 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1040 Continue Reading "Tompkins County Housing Strategy, For Your Review" ]]> The Tompkins County planning department released a draft version of the proposed county Housing Strategy this afternoon, June 15.

The county legislature’s committee on planning, development and environmental quality will review the draft strategy at a public meeting on June 20 at 4 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. The idea is to make a recommendation on the final strategy for a vote by the full legislature by sometime in July.

Read this TruthSayers story if you’re interested in some of the background of this housing strategy. Read the whole draft housing strategy, embedded below or at this link, and then share your thoughts with your county legislator.

TruthSayers is gearing up to do a whole bunch of work on how to improve the housing situation. If you have ideas on how to make places to live in Tompkins County and Upstate New York better and more affordable, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org.

HousingStrategy_draft_6-14-17

Do, Make, Support TruthSaying Reporting

If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too, at the link. Funds go toward keeping this start-up, worker-“owned” reporting project fed & fighting.

Featured photo: 210 Hancock Street project under construction earlier this spring. Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

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Harold’s Square On Its Way: Tax Break Granted Over Vocal Opposition http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/14/harolds-square-on-its-way-tax-break-granted-over-vocal-opposition/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/14/harolds-square-on-its-way-tax-break-granted-over-vocal-opposition/#comments Wed, 14 Jun 2017 21:59:43 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1028 Continue Reading "Harold’s Square On Its Way: Tax Break Granted Over Vocal Opposition" ]]> By Josh Brokaw

Construction on the Harold’s Square building is finally close to starting on the south side of the Ithaca Commons, so it seems, after four-plus years of public starts and stops.

Developer David Lubin, of Horseheads’ “L Properties,” and the “Harold’s Holdings LLC” entity set up to build the 12-story building, received a 10-year tax abatement from the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency on June 8, one of the final hurdles to the project. Lubin appeared at the May city planning board meeting, where project engineer Jamie Gensel told the board that they plan on starting demolition this summer. Harold’s Square received most of its final building approvals at that meeting, pending a few approvals yet to be made on specific materials this June 27.

David Lubin, center, developer of Harold’s Square at Industrial Development Agency meeting, June 8, 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

The IDA granting the abatement, by a 6-0 vote with Jennifer Tavares excused, was not without its share of controversy. Ten people spoke at the June 8 meeting who questioned or outright opposed the project receiving a tax abatement – an “abatement” meaning that a project pays less taxes than it otherwise would, if taxed at its full assessment value. Property owners typically still have to pay taxes on what the property was worth at the time of improvement, but are given a break on the value of the improvements.

For downtown projects, the developer first has to go through the city’s Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program [CIITAP], which requires the property owner add at least $500,000 to the property’s value, build at least three stories, and that the return on investment annually is below the 20 percent annual profit, to demonstrate financial need.

The Harold’s Square project is estimated to cost about $43 million, with 108 beds planned in 40 studios, 31 one-bedrooms, and 37 two-bedrooms. In application documents, Harold’s Square says it will have residential rental rates “slightly above” others downtown, like the Carey building and the Gateway Commons – a two-bedroom in the Carey Building is between $2,450 and $2,677 per month, with no studios or one-bedrooms listed for rent, to give you an idea of what that market rate looks like right now. No affordable, rent-controlled apartments are planned for Harold’s Square.

The value of the abatement over 10 years was estimated to be about $5 million, not including an abatement on sales tax for construction materials that the IDA offers to many of its projects. Harold’s Square ended up receiving an “enhanced” abatement for energy efficiency measures, so the total estimated value is as yet unclear – more on that later.

The arguments made on both sides for and against granting the property tax abatement followed lines often drawn in debates over tax breaks for high-profile, downtown projects. Those opposing the abatements want the IDA, and the city, to require more of developers to achieve the abatements. Those arguing for the breaks point out that construction is very expensive downtown and that the tax break is on property value that wouldn’t occur without the construction. Let’s break these arguments out by topic, with voices both against and behind the IDA’s decision to grant the abatement from the June 8 meeting.

Rendering of Harold’s Square. The brick building at left is the current Sage Block – all other construction will be new. Source: City of Ithaca Planning Board

Why No Affordable Housing?

Theresa Alt, Collegetown resident, restated an argument she made, according to meeting minutes, about the City Centre abatement granted in April 2017 and in a previous, May 30, hearing on Harold’s Square held at the Ithaca Town Hall. [At that meeting, all eight of the citizen commenters spoke out against the project receiving an abatement.]

“If the IDA must abandon its mission to create jobs and intead give abatements for housing, it should do this ONLY for affordable housing,” Alt said at the May 30 meeting.

“It’s good to have green energy, good to have density at center of city,” Alt said on June 8. “But you are working against yourself when you put these residential buildings in that have no affordable apartments in them because you are driving the working population out of the city, far away, and they will simply have to be buying cars that they can’t afford, driving into the city, filling parking spaces. And those low income cars won’t be electric ones.”

“What good does it do anybody in a low income job if they can’t afford to walk to it,” Amanda Kirchgessner, a restaurant server by trade, told the IDA board last week. “Putting market rate housing on the Commons is great for wealthy people. But when I walk around this community I don’t see lots of wealthy people. I see lots of working people.”

Kirchgessner suggested that if the IDA is now in the business of housing – its charter is focused on economic development through industry – the IDA might consider bailing out 11 potential foreclosed homes that owe $150,000 in back taxes.

Amanda Kirchgessner speaks at an Industrial Development Agency meeting, June 8, 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Aislyn Culgar, once of the Bay Area, California, warned Ithaca not to go “right down that trap” of gentrification, so that “all people that makes this a funky and fun palce to live can’t live here anymore.”

“It’s not something the market will stop,” Culgar said. “The market pushes for an increasing wealth divide. Just to say the market will provide an increased number of units and take the pressure off, I really think that’s a flawed logic. If we don’t do something to stop that fall into the pit of gentrification, that massive wealth divide, it’s just going to happen.”

Questions about the validity of “trickle-down” housing economics were on several lips. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, an IDA member, took about 15 minutes to make the argument he has frequently made in recent years that building more market-rate housing, no matter how expensive, will lead to more availability in affordable units those far too poor to live in a new downtown high-rise.

Responding to comments from a couple of people who mentioned Myrick’s mother, the mayor said “she would not be able to afford to live at Harold’s Square, and I would not be able to afford the rent.”

“I thought at first like those I heard in this room,” Myrick said, of his early thinking in public office on housing policy. “My thinking has changed … there’s a resistance to the logic that increasing supply with demand constant won’t lower prices.”

Myrick took on the example of the Bay Area: “Good paying jobs, which everybody here wants, have come to the Bay Area. Housing has not increased. Great resistance to housing projects like this dominate the thinking in the Bay Area.

“Go to the science,” Myrick continued. “There is established science around housing prices. Around the policies that deliver the lower housing prices and policies that deliver higher housing prices … In the ‘50s, there was a diversity of socioeconomic classes in the city of Ithaca. Right now, people are being pushed further and further out.”

Myrick said that in the 1950s, there were about 30,000 housing units in the city. Now, there are about 32,000, he said. He said that from 2000 to 2012, there was a “net zero” in the number of units within the city, and rents went from $500 per month to $980 per month. [TruthSayers will be requesting a source for these numbers.]

People who will potentially live at Harold’s Square won’t go away, Myrick said.

“They’re going to live out in the sticks,” Myrick said. “They’ll move to Cayuga Heights – or they’ll move to the Northside or Southside where they’ll buy homes that used to be owned by African-Americans and poor people of color.”

Heather McDaniel, administrative director of the IDA, said in response to comments about the IDA being outside of its mission scope that “historically, not every project meets every requirement … there are certain other benefits that are legally in our mission,” including diversifying the tax base and quality of life considerations.


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Philly DiSarno speaks at Industrial Development Agency meeting, June 8, 2017. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Where’s the Local Labor, Where’s the Jobs?

Several commenters at the June 8 meeting asked why Harold’s Square should receive an abatement when it has put “N/A,” i.e. “not applicable,” in the places where an applicant is supposed to answer questions about job creation. With an outside building manager and no control over what the potential retailers might pay, Lubin won’t be employing anyone directly once the project is finished. [There is a 12,780 square foot retail space planned on the ground floor, along with one other smaller space – that large space is more than double the size of the 5,700 square foot West End Green Star store, for comparison.] McGuire Development, of Buffalo, is the contractor on the project, and citizens brought up a long-standing request to require local labor on this and any project that receives abatements.

McDaniel’s response to that ask is that there are “no contractors in adjacent counties that can handle a $5 million job or above – and we don’t have all that many subcontractors willing to bid on those projects.”

Since the IDA put in a policy to collect data about who is working on its projects in late 2015 – after finding that numbers about local labor were simply a “wild ass guess” – no projects have started, McDaniel said. The City Centre project will be the first to collect labor data.

Site of Harold’s Square on Commons. To left is Sage Block, which will be preserved – the following three storefronts will be demolished. Photo: Josh Brokaw/TruthSayers

Sympathy for the Developer and the Merchant

During comment at the June 8 meeting, three people spoke in favor of granting the abatement to Harold’s Square.

Philly DiSarno, deputy director of economic development with the city, Vicki Taylor Brous, a consultant and co-owner of Ithaca Bakery/Collegetown Bagels, and Mike Cannon, a vice president of Tompkins Trust Company.

“This type of construction needs to be subsidized,” Taylor Brous said, “it’s difficult with a big crane. They’re staging it on a postage stamp sized property and they want to do it in an 18-month window.”

Myrick and other IDA board members echoed the difficulty of development: the mayor said that no project that’s failed to get tax abatement approval has gone forward in 40 years. And Harold’s Square, besides providing housing, is needed to fill in the newly renovated Commons.

“The empty storefronts that remain in the assembled properties for this project are a deterrent,” DiSarno said. “The clients and customers [of merchants] are saying it looks bad. We put so much time and effort into the Commons, why would you allow this project to wait so long and hold up to keep these storefronts empty?”

Green Building

The area of most agreement between what developers can do and active citizens want seems to be that of environmentally friendly, energy-efficient construction. Harold’s Square was awarded an “enhanced” abatement for “green” building practices that came out of a study done by Taitem Engineering. Harold’s Square is the third project, behind City Centre and the Computing Center, in Lansing, to receive the abatement. Heat pumps and about 60 kW of solar generation are included in the project.

Instead of taxes increasing by 10 percent every year for 10 years, 100 percent of taxes will be abated for the first three years, then 90 percent of taxes will be abated for the next three years, until no abatement after the 10th year.

The debate over the role of the IDA and how it should use its power will be ongoing. It is worthwhile to note here that the IDA does not have zoning power, so while it could, in theory, decide to require affordable housing in a project, that’s not in its mission and it could not make it a zoning requirement.

Hopefully, if you have read this far, in this meeting wrap-up story that spiraled far out of control, you have some more understanding of these complex issues – your correspondent has spent numerous hours on this story, refreshing himself on this debate, and is still not sure of all the moving pieces.

If we must simply characterize the two sides of the debate, there is one which asks for more pie, and the other that asks the pie be sliced more evenly.

In favor of more pie, Myrick noted that city tax rates have fallen in recent years, with more development on the tax rolls. McDaniel used the new Marriott as an example – worth $4,500 annually undeveloped, it brought in (she said) about $100,000 in property tax last year.

In favor of a more evenly split pie, there are the active citizens questioning this, and other, abatement decisions.

“You don’t have to wait for the county, the state, or a sign from God,” Stephanie Heslop said to the IDA board. “You could carry out your primary mission of promoting good jobs and walkability and sustainability by enabling more people to afford to live and shop where they work. You could do those things, but you won’t because that would require you to be progressive and inclusive.”


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Listening Pleasure: Tompkins County Legislature Candidate Mike Koplinka-Loehr http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/13/listening-pleasure-tompkins-county-legislature-candidate-mike-koplinka-loehr/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/13/listening-pleasure-tompkins-county-legislature-candidate-mike-koplinka-loehr/#respond Wed, 14 Jun 2017 03:00:48 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1024 Continue Reading "Listening Pleasure: Tompkins County Legislature Candidate Mike Koplinka-Loehr" ]]> Mike Koplinka-Loehr, Democratic candidate for the 6th district of the Tompkins County legislature, joined Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers on WRFI News on June 13 for a 14-minute sitdown interview.

“It’s fascinating, some of the biggest issues, county-wide, most of them are in Lansing,” Koplinka-Loehr said. “The power plant, the airport may be expanding, the salt mine  be putting in a shaft, we have some of the hardest challenges and pressures regarding economic development in rural areas. Most of the assets Tompkins County is looking for is moving in the Lansing direction.”

On the question of affordable housing, Koplinka-Loehr talked about a recent incentive passed by the county legislature to give a three-year break toward infrastructure improvements, until the development is finished, while acknowledging the limitations of county government — the legislature has no power to zone, for example.

“What Tompkins County can do is incentivize, partner, lobby state and federal government. we’ve done all that of course and we can re-double our efforts,” Koplinka-Loehr said. “How can we assist to get over those stumbling blocks, so we have more affordable housing, closer in, don’t have as many in-commuters and maintaining our quality of life.”

We then moved the conversation to the more general question of how working people in Tompkins County can get by.

“I’ve worked for non-profits and was astounded when I walked into the door. People are getting $12 an hour, they’re professionals, they’ve got their degrees and it’s really stunning, and I’ve worked really hard at every agency I’ve worked at to get the wage well beyond living wage so people felt good about it and they stayed,” Koplinka-Loehr said “…. Things the legislature can do and has done, is pass a living wage for all county employees, and also those who contract with the county. We can expand that, and that seems to be the logical next step, but we have to consider the impact on the taxpayer.”

Mike Koplinka-Loehr, on steps, at campaign announcement on May 1, 2017. Photo: koplinka-loehr.com

The conversation also touched on the question of the potential jail expansion and the role of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency [IDA] in developing new businesses and housing.

Give the full interview a listen at the link or at the embedded player below. Runs about 14 minutes and 25 seconds.

Next week on WRFI News (6 p.m. at 88.1 FM Ithaca and 91.9 FM Watkins Glen) Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers News will interview Reed Steberger, challenger to incumbent Rich John in Tompkins County District 4. Candidates who haven’t yet scheduled an interview should email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org.

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


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All of Your Tompkins County Government Happenings This Week http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/12/all-of-your-tompkins-county-government-happenings-this-week/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/12/all-of-your-tompkins-county-government-happenings-this-week/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 18:32:07 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1017 Continue Reading "All of Your Tompkins County Government Happenings This Week" ]]> Do you want to know what your local government is doing? Here are your opportunities in Tompkins County this week.

If you would like to help TruthSayers cover more issues that matter, if you are at a meeting, be a reporter. Send us recordings, photographs, or notes, and TruthSayers will publish them while crediting you. Email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org with stories and tips.

Let’s put every government action we can on the public record. Hyperlinks go to the meeting agenda for further information, if available. County meetings are at the top, then the city of Ithaca, then towns alphabetical by name, then villages in the same arrangement. We’ll get to school boards, too, but not this week.

Tompkins County

Monday, June 12

The Tompkins County budget, capital and personnel committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. On the agenda is authorizing a public hearing to override the state’s tax levy limit in 2018.

Tuesday, June 13

The Tompkins County facilities and infrastructure committee will meet at 3 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. On the agenda is awarding a  $977,090 bid for reconstructing the bridge on Game Farm Road over Cascadilla Creek to Economy Paving Company, Cortland.

Thursday, June 15

The Tompkins County public safety committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. The agenda includes the sheriff’s monthly public safety report, recent jail statistics, and continued discussion of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program.

Thursday, June 15

The Tompkins County jail study committee meets at 5 p.m. in the legislature chambers, 121 E. Court St. Discussion will include “understanding a harm reduction approach to drug use intervention” and a report on education services provided at the jail.

City of Ithaca

Monday, June 12

The Board of Public Works, which oversees water, sewers, parking, streets, and all engineering projects in the city, will have its bi-monthly meeting at 4:45 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall. The agenda includes a proposed resolution to allow the Ithaca Reggae Festival to re-route the Cayuga Waterfront Trail on June 24; a vote to select the design of West State Street/Martin Luther King Jr. around Pete’s Grocery; and early talk on what to do with University Avenue when the city redoes that street.

Tuesday, June 13

The Board of Fire Commissioners meets at 2 p.m. at Central Fire Station #1, 310 W. Green St. These are the people to go to for issues with fire protection in places where the Ithaca Fire Department provides coverage.

The Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency economic development committee meets at 3:30 p.m. in the Common Council room on the third floor of City Hall. The committee will vote on a resolution to offer a $200,000 loan to Urban Core LLC for a renovation of the former McNeil Music and current DP Dough building, as reported by Brian Crandall here.

The Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. in the third floor Common Council room at City Hall. The agenda includes hearings on proposed changes to properties on University Avenue, South Geneva Street, East Avenue, and Fall Creek Drive. The ILPC, which oversees changes to properties with historic designations, will also have the opportunity to approve the materials to be used on the DeWitt House at the Old Library site.

Wednesday, June 14

The Civil Service Commission meets at 11:30 a.m. on the second floor of City Hall. This commission oversees job descriptions and qualifications for city positions. On the agenda is a new job description for the “Ithaca Commons Maintenance Supervisor.”

The Disability Advisory Council meets at 12:15 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall. This is the group that gives Common Council and city staff advice on disability issues. On the agenda is a discussion of recommendations from the city’s “committee on committees” regarding disability issues.

The Planning and Economic Development Committee will meet at 6 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall. There is a public hearing scheduled on zoning changes to allow microbreweries. There are votes scheduled changes in requirements for downtown buildings to have “street-level active uses” – i.e. retail instead of apartments – and new waterfront district zoning rules.

Town of Caroline

Wednesday, June 14

The Caroline Town Board business meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Caroline Town Hall, 2670 Slaterville Springs Rd. On the agenda is a presentation about NYSERDA’s Clean Energy communities program and a vote to adopt NYSERDA’s “Unified Solar Permit” legislation to govern solar installments in the future.

Town of Danby

Monday, June 12

The Danby Town Board meets at 7 p.m. at the Danby Town Hall, 1830 Danby Road. Estimates and plan review for improvements to the Town Hall are on the agenda.

Thursday, June 15

The Danby planning board meets at 7 p.m. at the Danby Town Hall, 1830 Danby Road. Re-zoning the “Summit Enterprise Center,” the former Angelheart Design facility at 279-303 Gunderman Road for a mixed-use business incubator from David Hall, owner of National Book Auctions, is on the agenda.

Town of Dryden

Thursday, June 15

The Dryden town board meets at 7 p.m. at the Dryden Town Hall, 93 E. Main St. No agenda is up yet, but Cortland Road Sewer District rates will be under discussion. Talk about proposed solar installments and the compressor station in Ellis Hollow will also almost certainly be in discussion.

UPDATE: Date is now correct, and here’s the agenda.

Town of Enfield

Wednesday, June 14

The Enfield Town Board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Enfield Community Building, 182 Enfield Main Road. No agenda was yet available.

Town of Groton

Tuesday, June 13

The Groton Town Board meets at 7:30 p.m. at the Groton Town Hall, 101 Conger Blvd. No agenda available yet.

The Town of Groton planning board meets at 7:30 p.m. at the Groton Town Hall, 101 Conger Blvd. No agenda available yet.

Town of Ithaca

Monday, June 12

The Ithaca Town Board meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Ithaca Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St. On the agenda are public hearings on zoning laws regarding signs; a law adding art murals to the zoning code; and discussion on deer management and the moratorium on two-family dwelling construction.

Thursday, June 15

The Town of Ithaca Planning Committee meets at 4 p.m. at the Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St. No agenda is available yet.

Town of Lansing

Monday, June 12

The Town of Lansing planning board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Lansing Town Hall, 29 Auburn Road. The planning board will make a recommendation to the Lansing Town Board on the “planned development area” for the Village Solars project, reported on by Brian Crandall here. The planning board will also make a recommendation on Lansing’s new comprehensive plan.

Town of Newfield

No meetings scheduled.

Town of Ulysses

Tuesday, June 13

The Ulysses Town Board will meet at 7 p.m. at the Ulysses Town Hall, 10 Elm St., Trumansburg. Preceding the meeting, at 6:30 p.m., will be a hearing on issuing $977,000 in bonds to improve Water District No. 3.

The Ulysses planning board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m., also on June 13, to continue comments on variances for the Inn at Taughannock.

Thursday, June 15

The Ulysses Sustainability & Conservation Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m., 10 Elm St., Trumansburg. The Ag Committee meets at 7:30 p.m., same building.

Village of Cayuga Heights

No meetings scheduled this week.

Village of Dryden

Thursday, June 15

The Village Trustees are regularly scheduled to meet the third Thursday of every month at the Dryden Village Hall, 2nd floor, 16 South St. No agenda yet available.

Village of Freeville

No meetings scheduled this week.

Village of Lansing

No meetings scheduled this week.

Village of Trumansburg

Monday, June 12

The Trumansburg board of trustees meets at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall, 56 E. Main St. No agenda available yet.

Thursday, June 15

The Trumansburg planning board meets at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall, 56 E. Main St. No agenda available yet.


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If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too, at the link. Funds go toward keeping this start-up, worker-“owned” reporting project fed & fighting.

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Type Your Truth Results: Ithaca Festival Edition http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/08/type-your-truth-results-ithaca-festival-edition/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/08/type-your-truth-results-ithaca-festival-edition/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 18:54:34 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1009 Continue Reading "Type Your Truth Results: Ithaca Festival Edition" ]]> Over Ithaca Festival weekend, TruthSayers hosted an Interactive Mobile Newsroom experience. This interactive mobile newsroom could also be called a “table covered in typewriters,” with the TruthSayers staff – that is, everyone who wants to tell truth about the world around us- filling up 30-plus pages with thoughts and varied typewritten experiments throughout the weekend.

Many of our staff had not used a typewriter before; others hadn’t pecked at a mechanical writing machine for many moons.

TruthSayers staffers pecking away at typewriters at Ithaca Festival. June 3, 2017.

The results begin with a call that “raine or shine we have to make sure that we love each other,” and end with a story of a middle schooler doing “secret agent stuff.” Poems from Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Robert Frost, and Sister Catherine Tuberty made it into these pages, along with the lyrics from Smash Mouth’s 1999 hit “All Star.” There were also expressions  of one’s own self’s awesomeness, along with the awesomeness of typewriters, several esoteric short stories, and a few moments of heartbreaking truth, like this one:

These pages are not entered exactly in order, of course; one of the fun things about a newsroom is the management of chaos, with many fingers typing all at once.

You can see the scanned pages below. This “Type Your Truth” experiment will be continuing this summer. Join TruthSayers on Saturday, June 10, at Paleophonic Festival II in the town of Spencer at Fools Hill Farm. On Sunday, June 11, join TruthSayers at the Wounded Warriors In Action/New Park Ithaca first annual car show from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

TruthSayersTyping_IthacaFestival

Help Support TruthSaying Reporting

If you ever have photos, video, or reporting from an event you’d like to share on TruthSayers, email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org. Be a reporter! You can support TruthSayerswork with a donation, too, at the link. Funds go toward keeping this start-up, worker-“owned” reporting project fed & fighting.

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A Tompkins County Elections Preview, For Your Listening Pleasure http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/07/a-tompkins-county-elections-preview-for-your-listening-pleasure/ http://www.truthsayers.org/2017/06/07/a-tompkins-county-elections-preview-for-your-listening-pleasure/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 22:31:21 +0000 http://www.truthsayers.org/?p=1004 Continue Reading "A Tompkins County Elections Preview, For Your Listening Pleasure" ]]> Next Tuesday, June 13, in collaboration with WRFI News, TruthSayers News will premiere a series of radio interviews with candidates running for the Tompkins County legislature.

On June 6, Josh Brokaw of TruthSayers News talked to Nick Reynolds, managing editor of the Ithaca Times, about the issues that are sure to be Hot Button points of discussion in the campaign ahead.

You can listen to the 14-minute conversation with the embedded audio player below or at the link on archive.org.

Issues we discuss include housing, the possible county jail expansion, the question of how tax abatements should be applied to local development, and the countywide living wage campaign that’s going to start in earnest soon.

The first candidate to sit down for an interview with WRFI News will be Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Democrat of Lansing, who is challenging Mike Sigler, a Republican, in the 6th district. The interview will air on WRFI News, 88.1 FM, during the 6 p.m. broadcast on Tuesday, June 13.

The handy map below of current legislators and districts is taken from the website for Carolina Osorio Gil’s campaign in the third district. No endorsement is implied, of course, except of Caleb Thomas’s design acumen.

If you are a candidate for Tompkins County legislature or you know someone who is and you have not signed up for an interview time, please email josh.brokaw@truthsayers.org at your earliest convenience.

 

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