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 Rich did have an opponent, Reed Sterberger, who has withdrawn from the race.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!

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!


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

2nd ward news – August 2016


I have a dream
to fill the golden sheath
of a remembered day….
heavy and massed and blue
as the vapor of opium…
fired in sulphorous mist…
quiescent as a gray seal…
and the emerging sun
spurting up gold
over Sydney, smoke-pale, rising out of the bay….)
But the day is an up-turned cup
and its sun a junk of red iron
guttering in sluggish-green water
where shall I pour my dream?

– Lola Ridge, “The Dream”

Hello Second Warders. I’ll be honest, I picked this poem because of the reference to sluggish-green water. Seemed appropriate….


As I’m sure you’re aware, we’ve been having some water issues this summer. First the drought, which drew down our water supply to critical levels, and second, discolored water. Thankfully, both problems seem to be improving. We’ve gotten some rain that has helped refill the reservoir, and the city has been making progress on the discolored water issue.

The City recently released a statement explaining what went wrong and how we’ve been responding, which I’m copying below. As you’ll see, the City has violated two NYS drinking water standards – one for the mineral manganese, and one for cloudiness – and we’re required by law to notify the public. It’s worth noting that these are the lowest levels of violation. The County Health Department has been involved in all of these conversations from the beginning and there is no health threat reported at this time, nor from limited exposure to the higher levels of manganese.

I want to thank everyone for your patience this summer while we dealt with this problem. I had the brown water myself, and it was really nasty. Just as with any complex system, it took time to diagnose the problem and come up with an effective solution, but the problem does seem to be fixed. Here’s the City’s statement:

“Beginning sometime in late-June of this year, customers of the City of Ithaca drinking water supply system started reporting that their water was discolored. After suggesting several possible reasons for the discolored water and trying several solutions, the City has determined that the cause of the discoloration was high levels of manganese, and the problem is successfully being addressed.

Manganese is present in high concentrations in the earth and in sediments in the reservoir. It dissolves into the water, especially when it gets warm or when there is little rain. Dissolved manganese has no color, but when chlorine is added to water with high levels of manganese, the manganese solidifies and the water turns color, at first yellow and eventually brown.

It takes time for this to occur, so even though the water was clear or mostly clear at the water plant, it turned brown while it was in the water mains that carry water throughout the city. The manganese can solidify so much that it forms flakes that look like rust.

The City’s water treatment plant cannot remove manganese when it is dissolved, so the City started adding a chemical oxidant to the intake pipe at the reservoir to make the manganese solidify before it reaches the water plant. At first not enough of the oxidant was added and most of the dissolved manganese was still getting through. But by early August the right amount of oxidant was being added, and most of the manganese was solidifying early and being removed by the treatment plant. At that point, the reports of brown water almost completely stopped.

Since early July, the City has taken weekly samples from several locations throughout the water system. These samples are tested for several things, including the concentration of manganese and turbidity (cloudiness) of the water. The tests for manganese have to be sent to a private lab, and because the lab is very busy, it has taken four or more weeks to get back some of the results.

On July 11 the manganese concentration at the water plant was 0.59 milligrams per liter, and on July 19 it was 0.98 milligrams per liter. Both readings are above the maximum concentration limit for New York of 0.3 milligrams per liter. This is classified as a “Tier 3” violation, which is the least serious and requires that the public be notified within 12 months, typically as part of the annual water quality report.

Other samples taken on those same days at other locations in the water system all showed concentrations below 0.3 milligrams per liter. This indicates that the concentration that most water users were getting at their taps was lower than what was recorded at the water plant.

The City received results from more recent samples taken on August 16 (after reports of brown water had subsided), which showed so little manganese leaving the water plant that it was below detectable limits, and the levels of manganese throughout the water system met state water quality standards. The most recent results were expedited, but the City is still awaiting the results of additional tests taken before August 16. The City expects that those tests may also show elevated levels of manganese, because they were taken before the manganese was effectively being removed at the water plant.

Tests for turbidity (cloudiness) of the water showed that for the month of July the average turbidity at the water plant holding tanks was above the water quality limit. This was not unexpected given the discoloration that was being reported. However, it is considered a “Tier 2” water quality standard violation, one that requires water users be notified within 30 days.

Turbidity is regulated because it can be associated with bacteria and other microbes. However, the City monitors bacteria levels closely, and none of the 30 tests taken each month by the water department has shown any microbial contamination of the water supply.

The City worked with the County Health Department to develop a combined official notice of both violations. That notice is now available on the City’s website.

To prevent similar problems in the future, the City will maintain and operate a permanent system for adding the chemical oxidant at the reservoir. The City will monitor water temperature and stream flow and will use these to signal the right time to take manganese samples from the raw water and to begin adding the oxidant to help remove the manganese.

Cloudy and discolored water can also be caused by events such as water main breaks, like the one on August 17 when a large water main broke near Wegmans and caused brown water throughout the City system. Much of the brown color was likely the manganese that had settled to the bottom of the pipes over the previous month.

The water main has been repaired and most of the system has been flushed. However, pockets of discolored water can sometimes linger in the system. If you experience discolored water at your tap, please notify the water and sewer department at 272-1717 during business hours or 273-4680 after hours, and someone will come to flush the hydrants near your address.

If you have questions about the information contained in this summary, please contact Chief of Staff Dan Cogan at 607-274-6512 or at dcogan@cityofithaca.org.”


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 that area. Developers must submit an application that is reviewed by Council before they can proceed with a project.

Maguire, the local car company, is going through that process right now. They’ve submitted an application for a Ford Lincoln Nissan car dealership to be located at Carpenter Business Park (off 3rd Street near the Farmer’s Market, Community Gardens, and Wastewater Treatment Plant. You can find that application here (72 MB download): http://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/4937

In accordance with the application process, the project team will present information about the project and answer questions from the public at a public information session on Wednesday, August 31, 2016, at 6:00 PM in Common Council Chambers, Third Floor, City Hall, 108 E. Green Street, Ithaca.

Following that, a public hearing will be held at the September 14, 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, also at 6:00 PM in Common Council Chambers.

This is a big project, and we’d really like to hear from the community on this one. So I hope to see you at one or both meetings.


Yikes, those piles. I realize this is not a fun time to be living in the vicinity of 210 Hancock Street. INHS is working to complete this portion of the work as quickly as possible to limit the impact on neighbors. They expect the work to be complete by September 1st barring unforeseen issues.

Noise has been an issue, but also vibration in the ground and in people’s homes. INHS notes that vibration can be felt at levels that are much lower than would cause even cosmetic building damage. INHS has seismometers for monitoring vibration in place, and they are checking them regularly. These monitors will notify their engineer if construction activity causes vibration to rise to a level of concern. If issues arise, you can contact either Joe Bowes at 277-4500×204 or Scott Reynolds at 277-4500×217. Also, please continue to check the www.210Hancock.org website for construction updates.


Simeon’s is back, and it’s gorgeous. If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and take a look inside, you should. It’s two floors, with a really nice new bar, and an open, roomy feel. The Ithaca Journal took some photos. Congrats to the owners for bouncing back from such a tragic, devastating accident. They did an amazing job on the rebuild. 


Southside Community Center has announced new leadership: director Leon Lawrence and deputy director Thia Harriett. The Ithaca Journal has a great article about their vision for Southside. You might recall that a proposal was floated earlier this year to merge Southside Community Center with the City of Ithaca. Ultimately, the Southside board decided against that proposal. Here’s wishing the new leaders the best of luck in their new roles!


Here are some upcoming events that might be of interest to 2nd ward folks. If I’ve missed anything, I do apologize!

*CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap – a screening that Ducson is helping to organize, Tuesday 8/30 from 6:30-8:30pm at Cinemapolis. The documentary CODE exposes the dearth of female and minority software engineers and explores the reasons for this gender gap and digital divide. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion of local women in tech, including Singlebrook Technology co-founder (and 2nd ward resident) Elisa Miller-Out to discuss their experiences in a very male-dominated industry. The event is generously co-sponsored by Quinn Energy and theMulticultural Resource Center, two women-led organizations right in downtown Ithaca. You can reserve tickets here or buy them at Cinemapolis the day of the event: https://www.tugg.com/events/117374

*Labor Day Picnic – The Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Midstate Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, will hold the 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, September 5th, in Ithaca’s Stewart Park. This year’s picnic theme is “Labor Rights Are Civil Rights”. This year’s program will include the music of Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Sammus, an Ithaca-based rap artist and producer; along with Featured Guest Speaker, and Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Professor Russell Rickford, speaking on the links between economic justice and the Movement for Black Lives, as well as local activist folk singer, Colleen Kattau (Gringa Grooves from the Heart). The picnic is free and everyone is invited. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share and to enjoy the free burgers (meat and veggie), hot dogs, ice cream and beverages. For more information, contact the Workers’ Center at TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org, 607-269-0409, or via the website, www.TCWorkersCenter.org

*Porchfest – one of my favorite Ithaca festivals: for one day, you can wander around and listen to musical performances on porches throughout the Fall Creek and Northside neighborhoods. The tenth Porchfest (yes tenth, believe it or not) will be held on Sunday, September 18th, 2016. Save the date! More info here.

*New Jim Crow Community Read Kickoff – a group of local organizations (including the City of Ithaca) are sponsoring a community read of the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This is the definitive academic/legal account of the contemporary system of mass incarceration. The kickoff for the community read will be taking place on Monday, September 19th from 5:30-8pm at the Space @ Greenstar, 700 West Buffalo Street. Refreshments and childcare will be provided. Books will be distributed. There will also be an announcement of upcoming events. More info here.

*Streets Alive Southside – Streets Alive is coming back to Southside on Sunday, September 25th, 1-5pm. South Plain and West Clinton Streets will be open to people and closed to cars for another fun Sunday afternoon in September. Anticipated new highlights include grooving through the streets with the Fall Creek Brass Band, jumping with internationally renowned jump-ropers, connecting to the Ithaca ReUse Center, and rolling on a newly paved Plain Street. Plus there’ll be the regular and wonderful bike rodeo and bike mechanics, great neighbors to meet, street art, and more.

That’s about it for August folks. Until next month,



August 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting

I’ll be chairing the August 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, August 10th, at 6pm in Council Chambers. Here’s the agenda. A quick rundown:

Announcements, Updates, Reports

  • We’ll be getting three updates: 1) Collegetown construction, 2) design guidelines for Collegetown and Downtown, and 3) water issues.

Voting to send on to September Council meeting (Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • 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 Ithaca Housing Authority for costs related to two National Night Out events that were held in Northside and South of the Creek recently. This is approved at the committee level, so it won’t go on to Council.
  • Community Investment Incentive Tax Abatement Program (CIITAP) – Diversity Requirements – this is part of our continuing effort to reform the City’s tax abatement policy. With input from the city’s Workforce Diversity Advisory Committee, we are working to reform the city’s tax abatement policy to include requirements for the hiring of a more diverse workforce. See agenda packet for more info.

Voting to “circulate” (basically this means that we send a proposal out to the public for feedback; the proposal will come back to the committee next month for further consideration):

  • 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. This is our first discussion of the Maguire project. If the committee approves, we will circulate the proposal for more feedback and it will come back to the committee next month for a public hearing and further discussion. See the agenda packet for more info.

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

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

2nd Ward News – April 2016

2nd WARD NEWS – APRIL 2016

This I saw on an April day:
Warm rain spilt from a sun-lined cloud,
A sky-flung wave of gold at evening,
And a cock pheasant treading a dusty path
Shy and proud.

And this I found in an April field:
A new white calf in the sun at noon,
A flash of blue in a cool moss bank,
And tips of tulips promising flowers
To a blue-winged loon.

And this I tried to understand
As I scrubbed the rust from my brightening plow:
The movement of seed in furrowed earth,
And a blackbird whistling sweet and clear
From a green-sprayed bough.

— “In April,” by James Hearst

We made it! Welcome to spring, Ithaca. Things have been busy lately on Common Council. We have a packed agenda for May. As always, if you have questions about anything, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Here’s some news from the month that might be of interest to 2nd ward folks:


We had a really interesting presentation from Catholic Charities at our April Council meeting about a plan to resettle refugees in Tompkins County. This got a lot of attention last fall after the Mayor made a statement on his Facebook page pledging to welcome Syrian refugees to Ithaca. Since then, Catholic Charities have been working on a plan to resettle refugees from war-torn countries in our community. Here’s a nice Ithaca Journal article on their efforts. 


The City of Ithaca has a new Chief of Staff, and he’s a familiar face to many. Dan Cogan served on the Common Council for ten years, and he is a partner at Taitem Engineering. We had an impressive selection of candidates to choose from for this position, and Dan definitely stood out. I think he’s an excellent choice, and I’m confident he’ll do a great job managing the day-to-day operations at City Hall. Please join me in welcoming him aboard!


As we all know, the transition to the new parking machines has been, ahem, a bit rough. In particular, seniors have really struggled with the new technology, and it’s causing some people to avoid coming downtown, which obviously is not great for local businesses. So we’re making some changes.

For starters, this spring we’ll be in installing more meters. That will help prevent people from having to walk long distances or cross the street to use them. We’re also launching a public education campaign to better inform people about the new technology (something, honestly, we should have done from the beginning).

Finally, we’re also rolling out a new hang-tag system as a supplement to the pay stations and Parkmobile. You’ll be able to purchase pre-paid tags in locations around the city and hang them from your mirror. Merchants will also be able to purchase tags and give them to loyal customers to encourage repeat business. Here’s an Ithaca Journal article about the new system.


Not in the 2nd ward, but an issue that’s drawn some public attention. We’re trying to figure out what to do with a little vacant house next to Ithaca Falls. The City acquired the property through tax foreclosure last year. We kept it out of the public auction because there were differing opinions about what to do with it. It’s in bad shape, but still salvageable. It’s also adjacent to the Ithaca Falls Natural Area, leading some – including the City’s own Natural Areas Commission – to conclude that we should demolish the house and fold the parcel into the Natural Area.

There are good arguments on both sides. The selling camp argues that we need housing, and of course, we never want to forgo tax revenue if we can help it. The demolish camp, on the other hand, argues that the gorge is an environmentally sensitive site, and the falls are an icon and tourist destination. A private residence might not be the most appropriate use here.

We were supposed to vote on this May, but we’ve pushed it to our June Council meeting because we’ll be missing two Council members in May and we want this to be a full discussion. So we have the next month to gather public input. If you have opinions about this, please do get in touch!


Last minute reminder about Streets Alive: it’s Sunday, May 1st, from 1-5 pm. Come on out to walk, bike, roll, dance, play and shmooze in the streets, North Cayuga & West Court. There’s also “Beats Alive” in front of GIAC, so don’t miss that! See you all there!

Until next month,


April 2016 Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting

I’ll be chairing the April 2016 meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee this Wednesday, April 13, at 6pm in Council Chambers. Here’s the agenda. A quick run down of the meeting:

Special Business:

  • We’re holding two public hearings, the first on Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing, the second on the Cherry Street Art Space. See below for more information on both of these topics. If you’d like to speak during these public hearings, I would arrive at 6pm sharp.

Announcements, Updates, Reports:


  • Incentive Zoning for Affordable Housing – We’re considering a new tool to encourage more affordable housing in the city, called ‘incentive zoning.” Under this proposal, developers who are building new housing in the city could take advantage of certain incentives – such as an additional floor of height, elimination of minimum parking requirements, or an expedited site plan review process – in exchange for including a certain percentage of affordable housing units in their project or making a contribution to a fund that could support affordable housing projects throughout the city. See here for more info.

Voting to send on to May Council meeting (Wednesday, May 4th, 2016 at 6pm in Council Chambers):

  • Public Art Commission Mural – we’re approving a new mural for the Water and Sewer building on First Street. See agenda packet for more info.
  • (TM)PUD Application: Cherry Street Arts Space  – Earlier this year the Common Council created a “Temporary Mandatory Planned Unit Development,” a special 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. First project up for review? A proposal for an “Artspace” on Cherry Street. See agenda for more details.
  • Resolution to New York State concerning property taxes on resale restricted homes – When determining the assessed value of a property, New York State does not take into account the resale restrictions of property participating in community land trusts. The community land trust model keeps home prices low, but owners of those homes bear a high property tax burden. We are considering a resolution urging New York State to change the tax law.
  • 401 Lake Street: consideration of NAC recommendation – The City of Ithaca acquired this property near Ithaca Falls through tax foreclosure proceedings in 2015, and now we have to figure out what to do with it. The Natural Areas Commission has recommended demolishing the building, rezoning the parcel, and including it in the Ithaca Falls Natural Area. We’ll be considering this recommendation.
  • Proposal to Reduce Cell Tower Fall Zone – the city has received a request to reduce our cell tower fall zone to make room for a development on South Hill. Currently, the fall zone is twice the height of the tower. It appears this might be higher than is standard practice in other cities. The question is whether we want to reduce it. See the agenda for more info.
  • Waterfowl Ordinance – As part of an overall geese management strategy, we are proposing to pass an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of waterfowl on city property. See agenda for more info.

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




2nd ward news – March 2016

2nd WARD NEWS – MARCH 2016

Blue through the window burns the twilight;
Heavy, through the trees, blows the warm south wind.
Glistening, against the chill, gray sky light,
Wet, black branches are barred and entwined.

Sodden and spongy, the scarce-green grass plot
Dents into pools where a foot has been.
Puddles lie spilt in the road a mass, not
Of water, but steel, with its cold, hard sheen.

Faint fades the fire on the hearth, its embers
Scattering wide at a stronger gust.
Above, the weathercock groans, but remembers
Creaking, to turn, in its centuried rust.

Dying, forlorn, in dreary sorrow,
Wrapping the mists round her withering form,
Day sinks down; and in darkness to-morrow
Travails to birth in the womb of the storm.

— Amy Lowell, “March Evening”

Hello 2nd warders – hope your March went well! Spring is here at last. Not a huge amount to report this month. The Planning and Economic Development committee of Common Council, where Ducson and I both serve, had a pretty busy agenda in March. You’ll find a summary of those issues below, as well as some news about a few community projects. If you have any feedback, don’t hesitate to get in touch!


As we all know, housing affordability is a really serious issue in Ithaca. It affects all income levels, but it is particularly bad for workers who earn less than median income. In order to combat the shortage of affordable housing, we’re proposing the creation of a new tool called “incentive zoning” to try to encourage the inclusion of affordable housing units in new residential and mixed-use developments in the city.

Under this proposal, developers who are building new housing in the city could take advantage of certain incentives, such as an additional floor of height, elimination of minimum parking requirements, or an expedited site plan review process, in exchange for including a certain number of affordable housing units in their project. Developers could also take advantage of the incentives by providing affordable units off-site, converting existing market-rate housing into affordable units, or paying a cash-in-lieu fee to fund affordable housing development. You can read the circulation memo and draft ordinance here.


To put it plainly, we have a lot of goose poop in our parks. A working group chaired by Alderperson Josephine Martell and involving many stakeholders proposed a geese management plan that includes egg oiling, hazing, and implementing a no-feeding ordinance. It’s the prohibition against feeding geese that’s being circulated. The ordinance points out that feeding encourages geese to congregate in areas where people use parks and decreases fear of humans. Some bird enthusiasts consider human interaction a positive way to increase interest in protecting wildlife. You can read the circulation memo and the proposed ordinance.


If you’ve followed this newsletter, you know that we’re considering a two-year pilot program that would allow backyard chickens to be kept at 20 residences within the city. You’ve seen this ordinance before, but there are a few notable changes from the last time it was circulated:

  • A building permit is no longer required, lessening the administrative burden on city staff
  • Permit fee reduced to $35 from $70
  • No prohibition on slaughtering

For more background you can refer to extensive media coverage over the past year. Then read the circulation memo and proposed ordinance.


Interesting in learning about pruning trees and shrubs? If so, Cooperative Extension and the City of Ithaca have a volunteer program that will help you develop pruning skills. The Citizen Pruner volunteer program has been operating in the city since 1990. Classroom training takes place over 3 sessions in April followed by hands-on experience that volunteers gain weekly work sessions throughout the summer. Volunteers are free to come each week or as time permits. Staff from CCE and the City are always on hand during work sessions to help guide volunteers in making pruning decisions.

To register for the classes and learn more about the Citizen Pruner program, call Cooperative Extension at 607-272-2292 or email Monika Roth at mr55@cornell.edu. Classes are open to the public regardless of whether you choose to volunteer.


The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is looking to liven up the banners hanging on the Commons. They’re seeking proposals from artists for new banner designs. If you’re an artist, or you know an artist, you might want to check this out.


Ithaca Police Department will be hosting a Citizens Police Academy from April 6th, 2016 through May 25th, 2016. The goal of the eight-week long IPD Citizens Police Academy is to create a better understanding of the daily activities of police officers who serve in the Ithaca community, to strengthen the relationships with the community and the officers, and to enhance the police services that are provided to the Ithaca community.

The course is a combination of lecture and interactive activities which will give a firsthand look at the department’s functions, resources, and programs. Some topics that will be included are: SWAT and Critical Incident Negotiations Team operations, K9 Team, interactive reality-based scenarios, bicycle patrols, traffic enforcement, officer safety and defensive tactics, police and patrol operations, and narcotics identification. Most of the Citizens Police Academy classes will be held at the Ithaca Police Department. The program will be limited to 20 attendees and preference will be given to those who live or work in Tompkins County. Participation in the program is FREE, and graduates will be issued a graduation certificate. Acceptance into the program is subject to a check of the applicant’s background and references. Applications are due by 3:00 pm Friday, March 25, 2016. Applications can be mailed to or dropped off at the Ithaca Police Department, 120 East Clinton Street, Ithaca, NY 14850. Applications as well as additional information on the IPD Citizens Police Academy can be found here.

That’s about it for March, folks. As always don’t hesitate to get in touch with questions, comments, concerns. Until next month,