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 ithacany.viebit.com. You can also email us at council@cityofithaca.org 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 ithacany.viebit.com. You can also email us at council@cityofithaca.org 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 ehathaway@cityofithaca.org.

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 TLogue@cityofithaca.org 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 tlogue@cityofithaca.org 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 council@cityofithaca.org, 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!

Seph

September 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee Meeting

I’ll be chairing the September 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee of Common Council this Wednesday, September 14th, at 6pm in Council Chambers. The big thing on the agenda is the Maguire proposal. Here’s a link to the agenda. A quick run down of the meeting:

Voting to send on to October Council meeting (Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • Art in Glow mural – Ithaca loves public art. This is a proposal for a glow in the dark mural featuring a dandelion and the Ithaca festival slogan, to be installed on the surface of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail. Groovy stuff!
  • Fall Creek Block Party, Neighborhood Improvement Incentive Fund -Neighborhood groups around the city can get reimbursed for community events, like block parties. In this case, we’ll be refunding the costs for a block party in Fall Creek. This is approved at the committee level, so it won’t go on to Council.
  • Restore NY Grant Resolution – New York State has a grant program aimed at revitalizing urban centers. We have to choose between two proposals recommended to us by the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency. See the agenda for more info.

Special Order of Business:

  • Public Hearing: Maguire TMPUD Application – public hearing on the Maguire project (see below).

Discussion (with possible action):

  • Maguire TMPUD Application – Maguire, the local car company, has submitted a plan to the city to build an auto dealership on Carpenter Business Park, next to the community gardens on Route 13. The plan requires Common Council approval, however. Earlier this year, the Council passed a “temporary mandatory planned unit development” district for the Waterfront area that basically requires any development happening in the Waterfront area to come to Common Council for approval. We did this because we are in the midst of a comprehensive planning process for the Waterfront and we want future development there to fit with our land-use goals. We are continuing our discussion of the Maguire project. The committee could decide to vote to send a recommendation to Common Council, or we could decide that we need more deliberation. See the agenda packet for more info. You can also view Maguire’s application at this link.

Again, here’s the link to the agenda. You can watch a live stream of the meeting here. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Thanks! – Seph

September 2016 Common Council

Ithaca’s Common Council meets Wednesday, September 7 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 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 and Smart Growth and Livable Communities for a project entitled “Building for Energy Efficiency: Developing New Construction Standards for Ithaca,” to conduct a comprehensive, collaborative examination of policy tools that Ithaca can use to incentivize or mandate green building standards for new construction
  • giving Housing Inspector Gary Checksfield the new title of Housing Code Supervisor
  • giving Code Inspector Mary Brenner the new title of Senior Code Inspector
  • approving the City of Ithaca Cable Access Oversight Committee’s budget recommendation for upgrading the PEGASYS (public access channels) studio to high definition

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:

  • approval of a capital project to resurface a portion of Route 13 and replacing two traffic lights on that road
  • approval of a capital project to repair or replace the retaining wall in the 400 block of East State (Martin Luther King, Jr.) Street; this is the wall by Gateway Commons, where The History Center is located
  • approval of a capital project to expand the Alex Haley Municipal Wading Pool (near GIAC)

Committee of the Whole
A committee of the whole, as you may have guessed, is a committee of Common Council comprising all members of Council. A Committee of the Whole was convened to use funds from an existing capital project to evaluate:

  • the feasibility, costs, and benefits of consolidating City Hall, Fire Station #9, Central Fire Station, and the Police Department, into one central campus to be located at the current location of the Central Fire Station
  • the possible consolidation of Water & Sewer and Streets & Facilities to one central facility

You can read more about this at The Ithaca Voice.

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.

There’s just one item from the Planning and Economic Development committee this month: Adding diversity requirements for beneficiaries of the Community Investment Incentive Abatement Program (CIITAP) program. This would require that developers receiving a tax abatement join the Diversity Consortium of Tompkins County, establish strategies for improving diversity, report on progress and demographics, and more. You can read more about this at The Ithaca Voice.

Individual Member-Filed Resolutions
Members of Common Council can file their own resolutions. These two are the first we’ve seen this year:

  • Alderperson Brock – Resolution in support of the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Woman Act, which would ensure that every woman who receives care or insurance through the federal government will have coverage for abortion services and prohibits political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.
  • Alderperson Gearhart – Resolution to select artwork for a painted intersection at Auburn, W. Lewis, and Adams Streets:
    Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.13.35 PM