2nd ward news – June 2016

2nd WARD NEWS – JUNE 2016

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

— “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith

This poem went viral after the tragic shooting in Orlando, and I thought I would share it in this month’s newsletter. Needless to say, this has been a very sad month, and I know a lot of people locally are still reeling from what happened in Orlando. At the Mayor’s request, the flags on City Hall were lowered to half mast, and the Mayor put out statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community, which I thought that was a very good gesture.

Also, there will be an event tomorrow (6/30) at 4pm on the Commons (sorry, this is kind of short notice) in support of Orlando. This is the inaugural event of the “Ithaca is Love” group, which came together in the wake of the shooting. Beginning at 4pm, an aerial community photo will be taken to show Ithaca’s support. T-shirts in various colors of the rainbow will be available for purchase. You don’t have to buy a t-shirt, but organizers are asking everyone to wear a color of the rainbow to recreate the rainbow flag for the photo. There will be a tent with LGBTQ+ related information, a free hug station, and several other exciting tables. A big shout out to Acting Mayor Deb Mohlenhoff for her work in helping to pull this event together. Hope to see you there.

So it’s been a little bit touch and go with the fireworks this year, but it looks like they are moving forward. Ithaca’s annual fireworks celebration will be held at Stewart Park on Sunday, July 3rd from 6-10pm. The rain date is Tuesday, July 5th from 6-10pm. You can head over to the GiveGab website to make a financial contribution, if you’re so inclined. Thanks to all who have contributed to make this year’s fireworks a reality!


We had a brief update on the city’s comprehensive plan earlier this month from Megan Wilson, senior planner for the City of Ithaca. The comprehensive plan is a blueprint that will guide future development in Ithaca. It’s divided into two phases, an overall conceptual plan for the whole city (which Common Council adopted last fall) and a more targeted plan focused on individual neighborhoods (which we are currently working on).

For phase II, we are focusing on 1) the Southside neighborhood, 2) the Waterfront/West End, and 3) a housing strategy. Common Council felt these areas to be the most critical and therefore best for a staring point. Here’s a good summary of our discussion. I’ll have more to report on the comprehensive plan in the months ahead!

Representatives from the Southside Community Center board gave a presentation at our Council meeting earlier this month on a proposal to merge Southside Community Center with the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC). Currently, GIAC is a city department, whereas Southside Community Center is a private non-profit (although the city owns the physical building).

Why is this being proposed? Southside Community Center has experienced some ups and downs over the years, and not all of its employees receive a living wage or benefits, thus leading to a high rate of turnover. City support would mean more sustainability and less instability for the organization in the long run.

Here’s a good summary of the proposal. The plan is still conceptual and there are a lot of details that need to be worked out. And of course, whether the plan moves forward is up to the board of Southside Community Center. If Southside doesn’t approve, it won’t happen. I’ll have more to say on this topic in the months ahead.


The Common Council unanimously passed a resolution this month in support of making our community welcoming for refugees. More here. Local organizations like Catholic Charities and Ithaca Welcomes Refugees are working hard to resettle refugees locally – especially refugees from war-torn Syria – and I was glad that the City could lend its support to this important cause.


It took seven resolutions, more amendments than I can count, and an hour of debate, but we finally made a decision on that little vacant house next to Ithaca Falls. The house will be demolished and the parcel designated as part of the Ithaca Falls Natural Area. This was a tough decision, with compelling arguments on both sides. In the end, though, I think we made the right decision. If we had sold the parcel, we would have lost control of an environmentally sensitive site next to an iconic attraction, and the risks outweighed the benefits.


Some reports of brown tap water have been popping up recently in the Northside neighborhood. It’s kind of scary looking, but it’s harmless. It happens because the velocity of the flow in the city’s water mains has increased, producing a scouring effect on the mineral deposits – iron, calcium, and manganese – that have built up in the pipes over the years.

The only concern with rusty water is that it might stain whites in the laundry, and it can also be an issue for folks with dietary restrictions. While not a health risk, it’s good to report it to the city’s Water and Sewer Division because it’s often the city’s first indication of high flows related to a water main break or unauthorized large draws of water. You can call Water and Sewer directly at 607-272-1717.


The Great Ithaca Chicken Debate is over. Well for now, anyways. Common Council passed an ordinance endorsing a backyard chicken pilot program that became effective on Wednesday, June 8th. The new pilot program will allow 20 households, on a first come, first serve basis, to keep up to 4 hens on a 3,000 square foot lot within the City. You can read more here.

Until next month – Seph

June 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee

I’ll be chairing the June 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, June 8th, at 6pm in Council Chambers. It’s actually a fairly light agenda this month; 2016 has been a busy year so far, so it’s nice to get a breather.

Special Business:

  • The City of Ithaca’s Sustainability Coordinator, Nick Goldsmith, will be giving a presentation on the Residential Energy Score Project. The idea behind his project is to develop an energy rating for homes that can be listed at the time of a property’s sale, with the goal of reducing energy-related costs and greenhouse gas emissions. More info in the packet.

Announcements, updates, reports:

  • We’ll also be getting an update about next steps in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Phase 1 of the comprehensive plan was adopted last fall by the Common Council, and now we’re embarking on phase II, which will involve more targeted studies of neighborhoods, as well as an overall housing strategy for the city.

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

  • Amendment to City‐IURA Professional Services Agreement – this is an administrative change to the city’s agreement with the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency that will free up some time for IURA staff to develop a housing strategy for the City of Ithaca. More info in the packet.


  • Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP), Diversity Requirements – our continuing work on reform of the city’s tax abatement policy. Here’s a brief history.

Again, here’s a 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! Thanks!
– Seph