You may be missing a water bill

We’ve learned that a printing error prevented hundreds of city water bills from being mailed to residents in the first quarter of the year. The next time you receive a bill the city chamberlain will accept payment without penalty if you explain that you did not receive your last bill. Or call the city chamberlain at 607-274-6580 to check for outstanding bills.

March 2016 Common Council Meeting

Apologies for this meeting preview’s late arrival. Common Council has its regular monthly meeting this Wednesday, March 2, 6pm in Council Chambers (3rd floor) at City Hall (108 E. Green Street). You can see the full agenda here. A guide to that agenda is below. Come out and tell us what you think about the agenda items or any other, say, national headline-making issue facing the city.

  • Public Art Commission – request that the requirement that 5 of its 7 members be city residents be reduced to 4 in order to help fill long-standing vacancies (p. 10)
  • 2016 Youth Bureau budget – Amendment in order to meet unexpected needs in the Big Brother Big Sister Program (pp. 11-12)
  • Community Arts Partnership – accept a grant to complete third round of electrical box murals (pp. 13-14)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program Grant – money from the new York State Department of Labor grant for various safety training (pp. 15-17)
  • Creating a waterfront “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development” – Basically this would create a special “planned unit development” zone that would give Common Council more oversight on any potential development that happens on the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a critical area, and we want to make sure that future development fits with our comprehensive plan. See the agenda for more info. (pp.18-42)
  • Street Level Active Uses – a zoning change that would mandate “active uses” in ground-level storefronts on the Commons. Based on a similar requirement in Collegetown, the goal of this update is to maintain a vibrant downtown with retail, restaurants, and other publicly accessible uses. It came before Council in January, but was sent back to the Planning and Economic Development Committee in February for more clarification on just what we mean when we say “active use.” (pp. 43-45)
  • Add a Professional Standards Lieutenant to Police Department roster – “oversight of all Internal Affairs investigations and will oversee the Records Division, administrative sergeants, and associated civilian and administrative positions” (pp. 46-53)
  • Authorization to use City parkland for non-motorized watercraft rentals and boat storage racks – The goal here is to improve public access to water-based activities in the City. Proposed locations: Cass and Stewart Parks, the golf course (pp. 54-67)
  • City-County law enforcement consolidation study – First stage of application for grant funding to study the viability of consolidating City of Ithaca and Tompkins County law enforcement. The state is encouraging consolidation of services to save local taxpayers money. (pp. 68-69)
  • Unused trust funds – A move of miscellaneous funds that haven’t seen use in 10 or more years, originally earmarked for specific projects, into the City’s Operating Fund. The money would still be targeted toward its original intent, but consolidating them may ensure they get used appropriately. (pp. 70-72)
  • Security and Emergency Services Grant – Amend Police Department budget to spend New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services grant on overtime, staff development, and equipment: night vision helmets, spotting scopes, Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, portable mass notification system, personal protection equipment, throw phone and training (pp. 73-79)
  • Appointment of new City Chamberlain Current City Chamberlain Debbie Parsons is retiring. Deborah Whitney will be taking over the position. (pp. 80-81)
  • Fringe benefits for managerial staff – an update and clarification of benefits for City managerial employees(pp.82-88)
  • Appointment of GIAC director – County Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne has served as Interim Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center since May of last year, following Marcia Fort’s retirement. The mayor is appointing her as the permanent director. (p. 89)

February 2016 City Administration Committee Meeting

5th Ward Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff chairs the City Administration Committee meeting this Wednesday, February 17th at 6pm in Council Chambers. Read the full agenda here. It’s not the most thrilling, I admit, but there’s still interesting goings-on with the police and a plan to allow boat rentals at city parks. A guide to the agenda follows:

  • Add a Professional Standards Lieutenant to Police Department roster: “oversight of all Internal Affairs investigations and will oversee the Records Division, administrative sergeants, and associated civilian and administrative positions” (pp. 2-8)
  • Public Art Commission request that the requirement that 5 of its 7 members be city residents be reduced to 4 in order to help fill long-standing vacancies (pp. 9-10)
  • Authorization to use City parkland for non-motorized watercraft rentals and boat storage racks to improve public access to water-based activities in the City. Proposed locations: Cass and Stewart Parks, golf course (pp. 11-24)
  • First stage of application for grant funding to study City-County law enforcement consolidation (pp. 25-26)
  • Unused money to City’s Operating Fund (p. 27)
  • Amend the 2016 Youth Bureau budget in order to meet unexpected needs in the Big Brother Big Sister Program (pp. 28-29)
  • Accept Community Arts Partnership grant to complete third round of electrical box murals (pp. 30-31)
  • Park Foundation funding for Sustainability Coordinator position (pp. 32-34)
  • Amend Police Department budget to spend New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services grant on overtime, staff development, and equipment: night vision helmets, spotting scopes, Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, portable mass notification system, personal protection equipment, throw phone and training (pp. 35-37)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program Grant from the new York State Department of Labor grant for various safety training (pp. 38-40)
  • Appointment of new City Chamberlain (pp. 41-42)

-Duc

February 2016 Common Council Meeting

Common Council’s February meeting will be on Wednesday, February 3rd at 6pm in Common Council Chambers on City Hall’s 3rd floor. The major items on the agenda are:

  • Resolution for the J. Diann Sams Annual African-American History Month Recognition Award. I’ll let the Ithaca Times summarize: “In 2004, the City of Ithaca established a tradition of honoring a leader whose accomplishments highlight the positive impacts African American residents have in the Ithaca community. The first recipient was Alderperson J. Diann Sams in 2004, the first African American woman to serve on Council. The award was renamed after her passing in 2007 to honor and celebrate her service to the city.” Read about the award’s winners in 2015, 2014, and 2013.
  • Items from the January City Administration Committee meeting:
    • The “Officer Next Door Program” – This would allow property owners to give a discount of 50% or more on rent to eligible police officers (eligibility factors might include “relevant experience and community policing ability” among other things) who are interested in living in certain areas of the city. The program areas currently include West Village and Chestnut Hill Apartments but may be expanded. The thinking behind this is that encouraging police officers to live in the neighborhood would help reduce crime and increase community policing.
    • Funding for affordable housing – Authorizing expenditures of $80,000 to a Habitat for Humanity project on Morris Ave (a small street between 3rd and 4th Streets) and $85,000 to Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for-sale housing at 210 Hancock St. and 304 Hector Street.
  • Items from the January Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting (copying and pasting some items from Seph’s earlier post):
    • Changes to Commons Ordinance – we’re making some non-substantive tweaks to the Commons rules that we passed last year. See agenda for more info.
    • Changes to Exterior Property Maintenance Ordinance – The Exterior Property Maintenance Ordinance (or “EPMO” in City Hall parlance) requires that city properties meet certain standards: no overgrown lawns, no discarded trash in the front yard, no snow-impeded sidewalks, no bags of garbage left on porches, etc. We’re proposing to reduce the fines and improve the notification system. Details here.
    • Changes to Taxicab Ordinance – another one that’s been in the works for a while. Our current rate structure for taxicab fares is complicated and confusing. This legislation would establish a standard fare within city limits and also provide set fares for destinations outside city limits, like the hospital and the airport. See the agenda for more info.
    • Local labor reporting requirement for Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP) – At the January 13th meeting of the committee we decided we will need to continue discussion regarding extracting more community benefit from developers that get tax abatements. In the meantime, we have passed on to the full Council an amendment to the basic CIITAP (all abatement levels) to require soliciting bids from local sub-contractors and reporting where workers live. This is by no means the end of CIITAP reform. But as we spend months getting it right, this can ensure that we don’t miss out on collecting vital data.
    • Discontinuation of Lake Ave and Adams Street – we’re discontinuing a public street. INHS is going to maintain it as a public thoroughfare as part of their 210 Hancock project. Requires Council action.

The full agenda can be found here. You can view a live video stream of the meeting here.

CIITAP Update

The Planning and Economic Development Committee has been looking at a set of proposed amendments to the city’s tax abatement program for incentivizing downtown development with the goal of increasing the amount of community benefit delivered by these projects.

Discussions have primarily focused on local labor, environmental and energy standards, diversity, and providing a living wage. The options have expanded to include contributions to public transit, providing scholarships for child care, including affordable units, incentivizing certain types of development (say, owner-occupied housing), and more.

There are so many options that at the January 13th meeting of the committee we decided we will need to continue discussion next month. In the meantime, we have passed on to the full Council an amendment to the basic CIITAP (all abatement levels) to require soliciting bids from local sub-contractors and reporting where workers live. The text is below:

Local Construction Labor – Applicants are encouraged to hire locally wherever possible. For the purposes of this application, local is defined as anyone residing in Tompkins County, or any of the 6 contiguous counties of Cayuga, Seneca, Schuyler, Chemung, Tioga, and Cortland Counties. In order to be eligible for a tax abatement an applicant must commit to the City in writing that they will meet the minimum local labor requirements described below, and will submit to the IDA the following information:

  • Proof that the General Contractor has solicited bids from local sub-contractors for all major trades required for the construction project, including electric, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, and HVAC
  • Monthly payroll reporting of all workers on site during construction with a summary of how many employees are “local.” The reporting should include the address, zip-code, and total payroll amount per employee.

Again, this is by no means the end of CIITAP reform. But as we spend months getting it right, this can ensure that we don’t miss out on collecting vital data. It’s an item that arguably should have been included years ago.

Update from “Ithacating”

Items 2 and 4 in the latest post from “Ithacating in Cornell Heights” do a great job of covering a couple of the things we discussed at Wednesday’s Planning and Economic Development meeting. And the rest, as always, is a great and informative read.

When I first moved to the area “Ithacating” quickly became my favorite blog because of Brian Crandall’s deep dive into planning and development issues in the city. And now he contributes to The Ithaca Voice and a wider audience gets to benefit from his diligence.

Common Council January 2016 tl;dr Overview

I had my first council meeting on Wednesday and the relatively light agenda was a nice introduction to the duties of this governing body. Highlights of the meeting include (agenda here):

  • Many council members (including myself) expressed support for the basic premise of encouraging or requiring ground-level active use on the Commons, but were concerned about some of the language. A revised proposal will be sent back to the Planning & Economic Development Committee
  • We renewed an agreement between the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Ithaca Police Department to jointly staff and cooperate on the SWAT team
  • We approved $4.6 million of bonds for capital improvements (street construction/repair, more parking pay stations, Cass Park Ice Rink, and many other items; see the agenda)
  • I will be serving on the TCAT board

The main event, though, was the mayor’s State of the City address. The Ithaca Voice has already done a great job of summarizing his speech.

– Duc

P.S. Why do I keep signing my name on posts when WordPress clearly shows a byline? Seph and I share this page and for his sake I want to make it abundantly clear at the beginning and end when it’s me posting. Just in case I write something dumb.

Hello

A few days ago I was sworn in to office as your new 2nd ward alderperson (i.e., representative on Common Council). I’m taking the seat that J.R. Clairborne occupied for 10 years.

Duc and JR

His devotion to serving the most vulnerable segments of our community is something I admire greatly, and while I can’t hope to fill his shoes, I aim to honor his service by continuing his fight for affordable housing and community benefit in all city affairs.

A huge part of that mission is improving communication between city government and residents. There are many approaches we can take on this and I want to try as many of them as possible, online and off. But to start I’ll be active on social media, where many discussions about the direction of the city are already taking place. I’ve also created this website, where I hope to make issues easier to digest and track. It shouldn’t be hard for anyone interested in an issue to find out when the next opportunity to speak publicly is, or to get up to speed on the process that lead up to a decision.

This is a work in progress. As I write this only CIITAP is listed in the Issues section. I’ve found that digging into the past of these topics is more time-consuming than I anticipated. More will be added as issues come before Council and as constituents ask me for more information on a subject. I will need your help to identify information that’s incomplete or out of date.

I’ve indulged in extracting data about the ward from the Tompkins County Board of Elections and US Census Bureau. I find it fun and interesting, but more importantly I think it’s vital to understand exactly who it is we’re representing. This is also time-consuming, however, and I’ll be adding new statistics at a trickle.

Finally, at the lowest priority is improving the aesthetic of the website. I’m a programmer, but not a web guy at all. Maybe someone who is skilled in such things can help out.

I’m looking forward to Seph Murtagh contributing to the site. As evidenced by his monthly newsletter (which we will now cross-post here) he’s a better writer than I am. He’s also an exemplary public servant and I hope to learn much from him in the coming years.

-Duc

January 2016 Common Council Meeting

Common Council’s January meeting will be on the 6th at 6pm in Common Council Chambers on City Hall’s 3rd floor. On the agenda are:

  • Zoning change to require active use (retail, restaurants, etc.) at ground level on the Commons
  • Issuing $4.6 million of bonds for capital improvements (street construction/repair, more parking pay stations, Cass Park Ice Rink, and many other items)
  • Mayor Svante Myrick’s State of the City address

The full agenda can be found here. You can view a live video stream of the meeting here.

This will be my first Council meeting. Get informed, come make a public comment, or just say hello!

-Duc