March 2018 Common Council Meeting

Common Council meets 6pm Wednesday, March 7 at Ithaca City Hall. The February meeting was canceled due to heavy snow and thus agenda items from that meeting will be handled this Wednesday. Topics include:

The J. Diann Sams Annual African-American History Month Recognition Award

This recognition is named for J. Diann Sams, a former alderperson who represented the 2nd Ward for 3 consecutive terms and before that served on the Ithaca City School District Board of Education.

This year’s award recipient is “Dean” Janice F. Turner. Former 2nd ward alderperson J.R. Clairborne, himself a former 2nd ward alderperson, writes: “Dean Turner’s mark on this community and higher education stretches back some 40 years. There is a long list of college graduates she advised who are now professionals&em;particularly in the healthcare arena&em;who credit her with their success.

Dean Turner began her tenure locally in 1970 at Ithaca College as Academic Adviser. In 1974 she moved to Cornell University where she ascended the ranks to Assistant Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, Interim Director of The State Programs Office and Pre-Med/Health Careers Adviser. Before her formal retirement in 2009, Dean Turner was the lead adviser for the Black Bio-Medical and Technical Association (BBMTA), and its affiliated projects of the BBMTA learning workshops, youth mentoring, and the annual conference on health, education, and service.

Dean Turner has been a leader on planning committees and organizational boards attached to a variety of regional and national organizations such as the Northeast Association of Advisors for Health Professions, the Student National Medical Association, and the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, Inc. For the latter organization, she remains involved actively in global efforts to promote high-quality professional learning opportunities for interested students and professionals.

Locally, Dean Turner has been a board member of what’s now known as the Women’s Opportunity Center, involved with Ujamaa Residential College and Faculty-in- Residence Program at Cornell University, contributor to The Science and Mathematics Saturday Academy, the Southside Community Center, and the Greater Ithaca Activities Center. She also volunteers at Ithaca Public Schools and the Village at Ithaca.”

Dean Turner will be present at the March meeting along with prior recipients of the award.

Collegetown and Downtown Design Guidelines

The City’s Comprehensive Plan calls for the implementation of design guidelines as a tool to help achieve the plan’s goals of encouraging additional housing and employment opportunities while preserving the character of established neighborhoods. These guidelines will help developers and the Planning and Development Board create the high quality buildings Ithacans expect.

Changes to Ithaca Youth Council

Ithaca Youth Council develops future leaders and provides a way for youth to connect with city government. The Youth Bureau has proposed changes to better accommodate the needs of those who wish to be involve. These include: setting a more flexible membership count, reducing the term to 1 year, changing the way youth council members are appointed, and updating the way they report to council.


There’s a ton more stuff, including many items that will be approved via consent agenda (a package of ostensibly non-controversial items that get voted on together):

  • Personnel changes
  • Corrective action plan on parking structures
  • Award of a bid for fire hose
  • Improvements to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) sustainable energy loan program
  • Declaration of support for an “Urban Environmental Education Center” at the Ithaca Children’s Garden
  • Historic properties survey
  • Resolutions requesting that Spectrum/Charter Communications restore and retain channels WENY and WSKG
  • Appointments to the 4 new city commissions and to various boards and committees (including big changes to the Planning & Development Board)
  • Amendment to Council rules to require us to have local phone numbers

Read the agenda and watch us online at You can also email us at or come see us in Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

December 2017 Common Council Meeting

The last Common Council meeting of 2017 is at 6pm Wednesday, December 5 at Ithaca City Hall​. Topics include:

Pride of Ownership Awards

This will be the 20th Annual Pride of Ownership Awards, which recognizes owners of properties within the City of Ithaca who have developed projects or taken care of their properties in ways that enhance the physical appearance of city neighborhoods and commercial areas. The awards a joint project between the Ithaca Rotary Club and the City of Ithaca.

Restore New York Funding Application

The Restore New York’s Communities Initiative appropriates funding for projects that revitalize urban areas and stabilize neighborhoods. We’ll be voting to put forward two applications:

  • “100s West”, which seeks to rehabilitate 121 W. Martin Luther King Jr. St (where the Watershed now lives), 123 W. MLK Jr. St. (Ithaca Journal), and 108-114 W. Green Street (former McNeil Music)
  • Renovation of 310 W. MLK Jr. Street, the beautiful but dilapidated house to the right of Southern Tier AIDS Program

Authorizing Cornell University to close off Ezra’s Tunnel

This was recently covered in the New York Times by Cornell Sun reporter and Cornell University student Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. Cornell University is offering to construct a barrier to the tunnel and hand over ownership to the city.

Mid-block crossing on West State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street

The Board of Public Works and Common Council have approved a major redesign of the West State/Martin Luther King Jr. Street corridor in the West End. One component of the project still requires Council approval, however: a mid-block crossing with traffic signal in the middle of the stretch between Floral Avenue and W. Seneca Street.

Adoption of “Rules of Procedure for City of Ithaca Advisory Commissions”

Voters in the City of Ithaca chose to support restructuring most of the City’s volunteer advisory boards and committees into 4 commissions. This month we be considering rules to define how the commissions conduct their business. Read the proposed rules starting on page 80 of the agenda.

Public Art

One is a continuation of the popular electrical box artwork project with the box at the intersection of E. State/MLK Street and Stewart Avenue. Another project under consideration is a rotating mural installation on the rear façade of a workshop at the Water & Sewer facilities on First Street. The artist will work with other artists to install new murals on a regular basis.

Finally, creative bike rack designs chosen via a contest are proposed for installation throughout the city. Many of them are relevant to their location, such as references to food by Restaurant Row or comedy and drama masks near Community School of Music and Arts

Appointment of Pete Tyler as Chief of Police

Mayor Svante Myrick has nominated Former Deputy Chief of Police and current Acting Chief of Police Pete Tyler to be the Ithaca Police Department’s next Chief of Police. Here’s a profile of Pete Tyler from earlier in the year and the mayor’s announcement of his decision.

Much more!

As always, there’s a lot more. Read the agenda and watch us online at You can also email us at or come see us in Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

Election Info

It’s almost election day! I thought I would provide some election-related information that people might find useful. This year the general election will be on Tuesday, November 7th. If you’re not sure of your polling place, you can locate it here.

In the 2nd ward, I’m up for reelection to Common Council, and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Rich John are up for reelection to the County Legislature. All three of us are uncontested. Rich did have an opponent, Reed Sterberger, who has withdrawn from the race. However, Reed’s name will still appear on the ballot.

(Quick note: in the 2nd ward, the city and county legislative boundaries are slightly different. Here’s a map of the election districts. If you live in election districts 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 your county legislator is Leslyn and your ballot will look like this. If you live in election district 2-4, your county legislator is Rich and your ballot will look like this. Confusing, I know. I hope this can be addressed during the next round of redistricting).

In addition to the local elections, there are three statewide proposals on the ballot this fall. Here is a guide from the League of Women Voters that explains each proposal in detail. If you’re looking for additional resources on the Constitutional Convention, the Rockefeller Institute has a wealth of information.

In the City of Ithaca there is also a fourth proposal on the ballot, on the restructuring of the city’s volunteer boards and committees. You can find more information on this proposal here. This Ithaca Voice article also summarizes the changes.

Finally, make sure to head to Coltivare on Tuesday for election day pancake breakfast! A great tradition. Hope to see you there!

November 2017 Common Council Meeting

Common Council meets 6pm Wednesday, November 1 at Ithaca City Hall​. Topics will include:

The Budget

Common Council’s proposed budget increases the tax rate from $12.04 to $12.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up 0.83%. The median homeowner will pay $21 more next year. Residents already suffer under a heavy burden of property taxes, but very frequently demand higher levels of service. So what did we add to the mayor’s budget?

  • Communications equipment for the fire department to replace decade old radios under a grant that requires we pay 20% of the cost
  • Water hose for the fire department to replace hose reaching its end of life
  • Building and Grounds supervisor for the Department of Public Works to oversee increasing demand for maintenance on aging facilities
  • Motor equipment mechanic helper for the Department of Public Works to absorb knowledge before staff retires and address increased workload
  • Two additional housing inspectors to handle the major backlog in housing inspections and prepare for upcoming retirements
  • Employee health and safety coordinator to address safety and risk management
  • Gorge ranger program in conjunction with the Town of Ithaca and Tompkins County to protect our natural areas
  • Enabling City Hall to accept credit card payments, flexibility and modernization that’s long overdue

See the Cornell Sun’s coverage of the budget here.

Moratorium on Infill Development on South Hill

The proposed South Hill Overlay District would restrict residential lots to one primary structure (say, a house or duplex). This was drafted in response to concerns from residents of South Hill that recent infill development is unattractive and tips the balance of a traditionally owner-occupied neighborhood towards too much student housing. Concerns with enacting the overlay district include restricting income potential for those who need a small rental to afford living in their primary residence and losing the benefits of infill development, which can increase density while preserving much of a neighborhood’s character.

You can find recent coverage of this issue at The Ithaca Voice.

Designation of the “Chacona Block” as a local landmark

Chacona Block is the name given to 411-415 College Avenue, two buildings with a common façade up in Collegetown that most residents recognize as the homes of Collegetown Bagels and Ruloff’s. It’s an iconic spot in large part due to the large patio adjacent to CTB. Student Agencies, the owner of the building and a non-profit organization that has provided entrepreneurial experience to Cornell students for over a century, asserts it can’t afford to bring the building up to modern safety and efficiency standards. They also feel they could better serve their students if they constructed a new building that rises to the maximum height allowed by zoning (6 stories compared to the existing 4). Historic Ithaca, a local preservation advocacy organization, asserts that the building has important history involving an immigrant business and was designed by a notable architect with significant work around the city.

The Ithaca Times has a nice writeup on this debate.

There is, of course, much more. Read the full agenda here and watch us online at You can also email us at or come see us in Council Chambers at City Hall on Wednesday at 6pm.

September 2017 Common Council Meeting

Common Council meets 6pm Wednesday, September 6 at Ithaca City Hall​! Topics will include:

  • A public hearing on the 2018 sidewalk work plan
  • An ordinance to recognize the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”
    An update to fire code for addressing food truck safety
  • Reallocation of federal HOME funds from Lakeview to other projects
  • A statement in response to the events in Charlottesville
  • Public street art in intersections during Porchfest
  • Addressing the procedures for handling Council vacancies (Alderperson Martell resigned August 24 and will be sorely missed)

…and plenty more.

The full agenda is here. Watch the meeting here.

Open houses for major roadway improvements

A reminder that this Tuesday and Wednesday the city will be holding open houses for major roadway improvements: University Avenue and W. Martin Luther King Jr. (State) St.

University Avenue

The City of Ithaca will be hosting an open house regarding planned 2018 roadway improvements along University Avenue from Linn Street to Lake Street. All are invited to the Second Floor Conference Room at City Hall (108 E Green Street) on Tuesday, April 11, from 4 PM to 6 PM to provide feedback on several preliminary design alternatives being considered. The 3 design options from the consultant are below.

If you are not able to attend the open house or have questions regarding the project, you may contact the City Engineering office at 607-274-6545 or

West Martin Luther King Jr. St

The City of Ithaca Engineering Office is soliciting public comment on a draft design report for the West Martin Luther King Jr. Street Corridor Enhancements project. The draft design report is posted below.  Written comments can be submitted to Tim Logue at or mailed or hand delivered to the Engineering Office in City Hall, 108 East Green Street.  Comments will be accepted until April 30, 2017.

City staff and consulting engineers will also host a public open house style meeting for the project on Wednesday, April 12, 2016 from 4pm to 6pm in the second floor conference room of City Hall.  This open house will showcase two alternatives for the corridor that were developed based on the City’s grant application, a business group focus meeting held in December 2015 and a public meeting held in February 2016. A public questionnaire was also circulated that winter.

The study area covers the portion of West Martin Luther King Jr. Street (also known as West State Street or Route 79), from Floral Avenue (Rt 13A) to Taughannock Boulevard.  The proposed goals are to improve pedestrian conditions along the street, to improve options for pedestrians to cross the street, to enhance conditions for bicyclists, and to improve safety along the corridor.

For more information, please contact Tim Logue, Director of Engineering at or (607) 274-6535.

There are several documents here, but the two alternatives are summarized here

The major differences are (thanks to Fernando de Aragón of Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council for the summary):

  • Alternative 1: Westbound on-street bike lane from Pete’s Grocery to Floral Ave, eastbound concrete-barriered multi-use path (pedestrian and cyclist) from Floral Ave to Mama Teresa’s.
  • Alternative 2: Westbound on-street bike lane from Taughannock Blvd to Floral Ave, eastbound on-street bike lane with expanded sidewalk space from Floral Ave to Mama Teresa’s

Main similarities:

  • One east-bound traffic lane will be removed
  • Landscaping and curb changes will make this dangerous intersection more accessible to everyone

City Boards/Committees Restructuring

Last year Common Council approved the formation of the Boards and Committees Restructuring Working Group, known more colloquially as the “Committee of Committees”, to propose a new structure for the various volunteer boards and committees that advise city staff and Common Council. These boards and committees include the Bicycle / Pedestrian Advisory Council, the Parks Commission, the Rental Housing Advisory Commission, and many others covering a wide range of topics.

The working group was tasked with reducing overlap, addressing issues not covered by existing boards/committees, improving the process, utilizing city resources more efficiently, better flow of ideas to Common Council, and other improvements.

The proposal is public now and you can find it here.

In short, the proposal redistributes 12 boards and committees to four “umbrella” commissions:

  • Mobility and Transportation
  • Community and Quality of Life
  • Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources
  • Public Safety and Information

Each commission has 7 voting members and a number of non-voting members serving as subject matter experts. Two Common Council liaisons will be appointed to each commission as non-voting members. Each commission will have permanently assigned city administrative and staff support.

There’s a lot more information in the proposal (again, right here). It’s a big change and we expect the public to have strong opinions on the matter. The proposal will be presented to Council on Wednesday, March 29, 2017, at 6:00 p.m. in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall, but there will not be a public comment period during this meeting. You can share your thoughts with us at, speak during public comment at the April 5 Common Council meeting, or speak at the April 19 City Administration Committee meeting. All meetings are at 6pm at City Hall.

November 2016 Common Council Meeting

Apologies for the late and rather brief agenda review. And I hope you’ll forgive me for not putting out an agenda summary at all last month.

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, November 2 at 6pm in Council Chambers at City Hall (108 E. Green Street). Go here to find the full agenda. You can watch us online live here (note the new site) or visit us in person and speak during the public comment period.

A summary of the agenda follows.

Consent Agenda
A consent agenda packages routine and non-controversial items not requiring discussion or independent action as one agenda item. On this list are:

  • acceptance of funds from Park Foundation for lighting at Wood Street Skate Park
  • update the Ithaca Youth Bureau budget to reflect grants received
  • funds for litigation and legal fees
  • Civil Service agreement with Ithaca City School District

City Administration Committee
This committee reviews financial and administrative issues pertaining to the city, including workforce environment, inter-governmental relations, and human resources. Items coming out of last month’s CA meeting include:

  • Budget – Read all about the proposed 2017 budget here. It’s fairly free of drama, reflecting steady city finances.
  • Tax rate – This provides the revenue to be spent in the aforementioned budget.
  • Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant budget
  • Sidewalk Improvement District budget and work plan

Planning and Economic Development Committee
This committee addresses city planning, housing, land use, zoning, historic preservation, and items pertaining to economic development in the city. Coming from this committee are:

  • Acceptance of grant funds to support Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services (INHS) renovations and improvements to 98 units in 44 buildings in the City of Ithaca
  • Maguire. Most everyone I’ve talked to has been following this. From Seph’s latest newsletter:
    As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, Maguire, the local car company, wants to build a car dealership at Carpenter Business Park (off 3rd street near the Farmer’s Market, Community Gardens, and Wastewater Treatment plant.)
    Earlier this year the Common Council passed legislation that would require any proposed development in the waterfront to get approval from Common Council for a period of 18 months while the City works on new zoning for the area. Developers must submit an application that is reviewed by Council before they can proceed with the project.
    Maguire is going through that process right now. (You can find their application here). Earlier this month, they came to the Planning Committee of Common Council, which voted to reject their current proposal.
  • Redefine “mezzanine” and “story” in the City’s Zoning and Housing Standards Code to eliminate ambiguities
  • An endorsement of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s proposal for a carbon fee and dividend


2nd ward news – October 2016

2nd ward news – October 2016

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

  • Carl Sandburg, “Theme in Yellow”


Happy Halloween! If you were in downtown Ithaca over the weekend, you might have noticed some, err, odd things happening. Wizard duels, quidditch matches, and lots of creative costumes. We take our festivals pretty seriously here in Ithaca, and Wizarding Weekend is one of the best. Hope everyone had a great time. Now on to non-Harry Potter news:

Election 2016

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that November 8th cannot come fast enough. The Presidential race is getting most of the attention, but there are some critical local races to watch out for too. Here’s a great overview of all the races you can vote for in the general election in Tompkins County. You can check the Board of Elections website for polling times and locations. Don’t forget to vote!

The Budget

October is always a busy time for Common Council because it’s the month we review the city budget for the following year. Compared to a few years ago, the 2017 budget is relatively drama-free, a sign that the city’s overall financial health is improving. You can find information about the Mayor’s proposed 2017 budget on this webpage, including a reader-friendly overview of the highlights. If you have any questions about the budget, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Maguire TMPUD application

As I’m sure everyone is aware by now, Maguire, the local car company, wants to build a car dealership at Carpenter Business Park (off 3rd street near the Farmer’s Market, Community Gardens, and Wastewater Treatment plant.)

Earlier this year the Common Council passed legislation that would require any proposed development in the waterfront to get approval from Common Council for a period of 18 months while the City works on new zoning for the area. Developers must submit an application that is reviewed by Council before they can proceed with the project.

Maguire is going through that process right now. (You can find their application here). Earlier this month, they came to the Planning Committee of Common Council, which voted to reject their current proposal. Now that recommendation advances to the full Common Council: our next Council meeting is on Wednesday, November 2nd at 6pm in Common Council chambers. Here’s the agenda. If you have any thoughts on the Maguire project, please get in touch!

Water Bills

Several people have asked me whether they can be reimbursed for increases in their water bills due to excessive flushing that happened as a result of discolored water situation over the summer. Good news: the Board of Public Works has developed a reimbursement plan for eligible customers. More here.

Odd/Even Parking

Heads up Ithaca! It’s that time of year again. Odd/even parking regulations go into effect November 1st. More info here.

New Jim Crow Community Read

The Multicultural Resource Center is hosting a community read of Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book the New Jim Crow. So far, community events have been really well attended. Here’s more info about upcoming events and book clubs.

Old Library Project

This has been a process, to put it mildly. The County has selected their preferred developer for the Old Library site, Travis/Hyde, and the developers are proposing a new building that would include market-rate housing for seniors and professional office space. The project is in the Dewitt Park historic district, so it needs to get approval from the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission. The ILPC’s review has been quite lengthy and they have pushed to make the building smaller. Here’s a write up from the Ithaca Times. This project will be coming back to the ILPC in the next month or two.

That’s about it for October folks. See you next month!