Please, Walk by my Side

Note to frequent visitors: During this campaign period, breaking news and the latest developments affecting Enfield, Newfield, and all of Tompkins County, plus my latest commentaries on those issues, will be presented below the campaign-related announcements on this Home Page. Stories are also posted under the Latest News tab. / RL

[The latest from the Enfield Town Board’s April 14th meeting follows this essay:]

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Posted Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Friends; constituents:

Today, I officially announce my candidacy for the Tompkins County Legislature.  I will seek the Democratic nomination to fill the shoes—and the responsibility—left as our District 8 incumbent, Dave McKenna, enters retirement at year’s end.  Dave caps a dozen years of dedicated service to those of us in southern Enfield and the Town of Newfield.   We appreciate his commitment and sacrifice.

To many of you, my candidacy for the County Legislature stands as no surprise.  I began my quest in early-March, preferring a low-key approach during the petitioning phase.  I cautioned myself that plans can always change.  You, the residents I visited, could have urged me to stay put, to remain that “voice of moderation” on the Enfield Town Board and go no further.  You did not.  With your signatures, more than 100 of you in Enfield, plus many in Newfield as well, urged me to run for higher office.  And so I will.

There will be a Democratic Primary, and a Republican will compete in the fall as well.  There’s much to do.  I look forward to debates and an opportunity to sort out this county’s issues on the campaign stump.  I seek to help each of you make a more informed and reasoned choice.

And until the voters have spoken, I remain right where I am; your servant on the Enfield Town Board, shouldering all the responsibility I’ve chosen to accept these past 15 months.  Only should I win in November, would I need to resign.

So join me in my quest.  Lend me your advice, and I would hope, also, your vote—but only if I earn it.

What follows is my official candidacy announcement; the words I’ve chosen to launch this next chapter:

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Where to start?  I might begin 51 years ago, when as a Cornell student and volunteer reporter for WVBR-FM, I covered my first meeting of the Board of Representatives, forerunner to the Tompkins County Legislature.  Later, with WTKO, I followed the Board for nearly a decade.  Issues at the time included building the TC3 campus and planning our new Tompkins County Hospital, now Cayuga Medical Center.  I reported the actions of legends like Harris Dates, Don Culligan, future Congressman Gary Lee, and Enfield/Newfield’s Harry Kerr, succeeded in our district by Jim Ray. 

More relevant, perhaps is a time closer to this moment.   It was September 2017.  The County Legislature was selling the Old Library for little more than the value of the land on which it sat.  I spoke up, telling the Legislature I felt cheated; that the Old Library is too good a building to lose.  Please, repurpose it for government use.  I lost that round.  But afterward, a legislator, now retired, pulled me aside and said, “Good ideas, Bob.  You just should have said them sooner.  Get involved.”  From that moment on, I knew the Tompkins County Legislature was calling me.

Today I’m announcing my candidacy to succeed Dave McKenna in representing our Newfield and Enfield district because I believe I can make a difference.  I can provide this county principled, common sense leadership the same way I’ve led these past 15 months on the Enfield Town Board.  I’ve done so with a belief in Old-Fashioned Representative Democracy; that government springs from the bottom up, not lords from the top down; and that we who represent must humble ourselves as servants, not kings.

I’m an unapologetic centrist.  No, I’m not an activist.  Rather, I’d call myself an “inclusionist.”  I’m equally comfortable walking up a driveway and spotting a Trump banner hanging from a porch as a Bernie-bro sticker adorning a Prius.  National alliances matter little at the local level.  And I believe anyone’s opinion is at least worth a listen.

A constituent recently called me our Town Board’s voice of moderation.   I like that.  On both the Enfield Town Board and before the County Legislature, I’ve advanced initiatives for locally-funded COVID-19 testing and expanded vaccine availability.  And yes, I’ve confronted controversy, like endorsing the public’s desire to keep Enfield offices elected; and as you might have heard, supporting our Pledge to the flag.

I build my campaign for County Legislature today on four strong pillars of leadership:

  1. Economy:  Every dollar we spend should have a reason behind it.  The Old Library’s brown bricks are now in some landfill.  But if we’re now poised to spend $20 Million or more on a new office complex, we need to make a business case to support it first.
  • Transparency:  I’ve witnessed a half-century of this Legislature’s commitment to Open Government.  But that tradition’s taken a hit lately.  We need fewer executive sessions, less reliance on the party caucus, and an unswerving rededication to straight talk with everyone we serve.  The ornate windows of our 1854 legislative chambers may be old and narrow.  But they can still can let in much sunlight
  • Safety:  To bring sunset to the pandemic, our first goal must be universal, voluntary vaccination.  And when it comes to policing reform, I’ve already put my thoughts on the line.  I support our Sheriff.  We should craft our own Reimagining plan, not bind ourselves to the City’s.  And true toughness demands nothing short of a zero-tolerance policy that confronts police violence and discriminatory enforcement with no-nonsense discipline.
  • Bold Ideas:  Let’s think outside the box.  Has County Administration grown so big we need an elected Executive?  Should we hasten reapportionment’s equitable rewards by using weighted voting these next four years?  Is there a better choice than the current one-rate-fits-all solid waste fee?  Talk costs us nothing but a little of our time.  And I’ve learned that the best solutions can sometimes result from the wildest of ideas.

Dave McKenna says on his legislative page, “My goal is to bring common sense to county government.”  Let’s continue that tradition; continue the fight for the principles that matter.  What began for me with Harry Kerr and Jim Ray long ago, through Dan Winch, Greg Stevenson, and up through today, inspires my journey.   Let’s keep leadership alive for the great Tompkins-Southwest.  I ask that you partner with me.  I seek your vote in the Democratic Primary, June 22nd.  I welcome your support beyond, in November.

It’s your money.  It’s your county.  And now, it’s your choice.  I offer a half-century of local experience—in journalism, in following the issues, and in living as your neighbor.  Now it’s my opportunity to serve you in a new way, in a legislative chamber I’ve long known as a part of home.  Please walk by my side. 

Bob Lynch

Democratic Candidate, Tompkins County Legislature

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Now, the News:

Delay ‘til May: Town Board slow-walks Terms Laws

Posted by Robert Lynch, April 15, 2021

Yes, they kicked the can down the road.  But sometimes that kick is what the public wants, maybe needs.

Back again? Enfield’s 2020 Rallying cry.

With one member excused, another on-the-fence, and a third dead-set in opposition, the Enfield Town Board Wednesday (Apr. 14th) delayed until May any decision on moving ahead with Supervisor Stephanie Redmond’s quickly-advanced Local Laws that would double the length of future terms for her own office, and also for the Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent.

Instead of scheduling a formal Public Hearing on each proposed law right away, the Town Board will opt for a more casual “Town Hall Discussion” on the trio of measures May 12th, inviting public comment, pro and con, before advancing the laws further.

“A Public Hearing puts more pressure on the public and makes them feel, ‘Oh, the Board’s trying to force this down our throat,’” Councilperson Jude Lemke said in support of the go-slow approach.

On April third, with no forewarning to some Board members, Redmond placed onto Wednesday’s monthly agenda adoption of local laws to extend office terms for Supervisor, Clerk and Highway Superintendent from their current two year length to four years, each change subject to mandatory referendum.  Reminded by Councilperson Robert Lynch (this writer) that public hearings must precede Board action, Redmond quickly pulled the proposals, but still scheduled their discussion for Wednesday night’s meeting.

Soon after Wednesday’s discussion began, Redmond moved to set a May Public Hearing.  Councilperson James Ricks seconded her motion.  But after nearly a half-hour of back-and-forth talk, all members agreed to table the motion and travel the informal route toward May instead.

“It’s a bad idea, and the timing is atrocious,” Lynch said of the proposed laws Wednesday.  He noted that party petitioning has already ended.  Candidates are locked-in.  Most contests remain uncontested, though independent candidates could still petition for November ballot slots.

“I think you’d best let things lie,” Lynch cautioned, gauging constituent sentiment, and adding, “The people in this community, I believe, want a pause in the change that always seems to be occurring.  And it’s initiated by the Town Board, not by the people.” 

Lynch concluded, “And I will oppose tonight putting this on a Public Hearing, and I definitely will oppose putting it on the November ballot.”

“It’s a tough call,” opined Lemke, whose hesitancy Wednesday could have doomed any scheduling vote, had it actually been held.  With only Redmond and Councilperson James Ricks truly eager to proceed, and with Virginia Bryant excused, three affirmative votes might have eluded the Board.

At the discussion’s outset, Redmond waived off any personal political interest underlying her initiative, even though she, currently unopposed in this election cycle, might stand among the most to gain.

“I do not have any personal agenda here, no sinister ulterior motives” the Supervisor insisted.

Redmond also claimed she holds no preference for any voter verdict on the local laws, should they, indeed, come to a vote.  Redmond maintained she only wants to offer voters a choice.  Nonetheless, the Supervisor placed disproportionate weight on a 4-year  term’s advantages for Supervisor, citing leadership continuity, easier budgeting, and the benefits derived from less-frequent campaigning.

“It takes a lot of time and energy to campaign and go through the voting process,” said Redmond, “and it seems like a waste of time to do it every two years when…”—then pivoting to her job—“It’s a big lift; there’s a lot of other work to do.”

Councilperson James Ricks went a step further than the Supervisor, voicing solid support for four-year terms.  A longer span between elections would make the process, he said, “a lot smoother.”  A two-year turnover, Ricks observed, is “kind of chaotic to me.”

Republican Highway Superintendent Barry (Buddy) Rollins, like Redmond, currently unopposed, also urged longer terms.  “I have asked for this for the Highway Superintendent post for the last several years,” Rollins reminded the Board.

Left at the debate’s midpoint, Lemke sought ways to bring the public in tow, suggesting at one point the Board author an informative “White Paper.”  

“Rather than just throw it out there with no context,” said Lemke, “if we’re going to put it before the town, it feels we ought to blow out the pros and the cons in more detail and put some sort of White Paper together… to put some framework around the discussion”

But Redmond brushed off Lemke’s idea:  “I don’t really feel comfortable influencing resident opinion,” the Supervisor said.  “I don’t want to be seen as weighing in one way or another, and I don’t think that’s really our job.” 

In advancing her latest initiatives, Redmond sought to anchor them in Enfield’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan.  Under its “Municipal Services” chapter and in a purported attempt to decrease “risk to management of Town Resources,” the Plan proposes the Town “Explore a proposal for an increase in length of term” for the three offices.  Lynch has countered that a “political statement” of that sort deserves no place in what’s supposed to be a land-use document.

The Supervisor’s latest proposal marks the third straight year Enfield officials have eyed possible changes in elective offices.  In 2019, former Supervisor Beth McGee briefly advanced, but then shelved, an extended term initiative much similar to Redmond’s.  Then last year, the Board put on the ballot proposed laws to make the positions of Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent appointive, rather than elective.  Amid the rallying cry of “Keep Enfield Elected,” both measures lost by margins of better than four-to-one.

“Enfield voters love their Democracy,” Lynch told his colleagues as Wednesday’s debate wound down.  “And when they see something going not right, they want to change it,” the Councilperson adding, “and they don’t want to wait four years to change it.”

Similarly, observed Lemke, that with New York lacking a recall law for politicians, when someone you don’t like holds a longer term, “you’re sort of stuck with that person for four years.”

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Here’s What I Told the Board

The following are my comments as a member of the Enfield Town Board, Wednesday night, April 14th, voicing my objections to the Supervisor’s proposal to place onto November’s ballot three Local Laws that would lengthen the terms of office for Town Supervisor, Town Clerk, and Highway Superintendent.

Bob Lynch, Councilperson

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“My position on it is:  It’s a bad idea, and the timing is atrocious.  The timing comes after Republicans and Democrats have petitioned for the Town offices.  If they knew beforehand that these were going to be 4-year terms for Supervisor, 4-year terms for Highway Superintendent, for Clerk, then they might have gone ahead and petitioned.  Now the petitioning for party nominations is too late.  That’s already closed….

We went through this two years ago in exactly the same timing.  We never brought it to a vote.  The then-Supervisor decided to abandon the idea.  As a private citizen—I wasn’t on the Board yet—I spoke out against it, and I’ll speak out against it now.  I think you’d best let things lie.  We had a divisive tearing apart of this town last year when it was proposed against the public’s will at a hearing to have the positions of Superintendent of Highways and Town Clerk made appointive.  It went down 4-1 in the elections that fall.  It was a waste of effort.  It was a waste of time.  And the people got mad because they came out at a hearing, and they petitioned, and we still on the Board put it on the ballot, and they voted it down.  And I think they’re going to do it again. 

They want a pause.  The people in this community, I believe, want a pause in the change that always seems to be occurring.  And it’s initiated by the Town Board, not by the people.  And I will oppose tonight putting this on a Public Hearing, and I definitely will oppose putting it on the November ballot.

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Also This:

Cemeteries to get on-time Spring Haircut

by Robert Lynch, April 15, 2021

For the first time in three years, Enfield’s four Town-owned cemeteries will not likely be overgrown as Memorial Day approaches.

Budd Cemetery; One of our four

Two years ago, the Town’s switch from in-house to contract mowing delayed the first cutting of cemetery grass until just before Memorial Day.  History repeated itself last year when the Town Board forced itself to meet the Saturday morning before that Monday holiday to renew the same contractor’s agreement.  Nonetheless, to placate Memorial Day visitors, community volunteers performed most of the initial mowing.

This year, however, pre-planning won out.  Wednesday night (Apr. 14th), well in advance of any crisis, the Town Board unanimously (with Councilperson Virginia Bryant excused) renewed contractor Matt Lincoln’s one year agreement to manicure the Town’s four graveyards.  Lincoln also serves as Enfield’s Burial Coordinator, his contract for that service similarly renewed by the Town Board Wednesday.  As was the case last year, Lincoln will charge the Town $900 for each monthly mowing of all four cemeteries.  Lincoln’s contract requires the first mow take place before Memorial Day.

The 2019 absence of maintenance drew the loudest complaints.  Residents, appalled by the absence of maintenance and sensing the neglect as an eyesore, vented their frustrations upon the Town Board and Supervisor.  Only the stepping-up of volunteers last year prevented a similar uproar.

Coincidental with the inking of the maintenance agreement, the Town Board Wednesday appointed Cassandra Hinkle, currently a candidate for Town Councilperson, as the new Chair of the Town’s Cemetery Committee.  Hinkle fills a position left open since Sue Thompson’s resignation last August.

“Cassandra Hinkle has demonstrated her support for this community and has already volunteered her time and efforts in numerous ways toward this Town’s betterment,” stated Councilperson Robert Lynch (this writer) in proudly moving Hinkle’s appointment as Chair.

As her first challenge, Hinkle will get her hands dirty, along with other volunteers, in joining in the annual springtime cleanup of brush that’s fallen on cemetery grounds over the winter.  “We’ll rally a crowd of people,” Supervisor Stephanie Redmond told Hinkle and Board meeting attendees Wednesday.  One or more April clean-up dates has yet to be set.

In other Town Board business Wednesday:

  • Without controversy or dissent, the Town Board awarded Enfield Highway Department employees three per cent pay raises for the remainder of this year.  Former Supervisor Beth McGee had denied those workers raises in her 2021 Town Budget adopted last September, and the Board refused to entertain Councilperson Lynch’s request then to award them a raise of two per cent.  Given that the newly-approved three per cent raises are not retroactive, their overall impact becomes about the same as Lynch had proposed.
  • A shaky truce of sorts appears to have been struck between the Town and Norbut Solar over lingering issues unresolved when the Town’s Planning Board granted the Rochester developer conditional site plan approval for its new Applegate Road solar farm April 7th.  The company and some Town Board members had stood at odds over procedures for resolving neighborhood complaints over potential nuisance impacts, such as glare or noise.  Following a lengthy discussion Wednesday between a Norbut representative, a company attorney, and the Board, the parties found common ground in tentatively accepting Councilperson Lynch’s suggestion that Norbut allow the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer expanded powers to investigate any future complaints

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Previously Posted:

An “Arranged Marriage” on the Rocks

The Reimagining Report’s Failures

Posted March 30, 2021

[See update on Tuesday’s County Legislature and Wednesday’s Ithaca Common Council votes following this post.]

To my Readers and Constituents:

What follows is the full written text of my comments to the Tompkins County Legislature on March 30, 2021 regarding the Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report, a document outlining a proposed Tompkins County-City of Ithaca Collaborative approach to redefining and reforming law enforcement in our county and its central city.    My comments were circulated to legislators prior to their March 30th meeting at which the Legislature scheduled acceptance of the Reimagining Report’s recommendations.  Pending subsequent action by the City of Ithaca’s Common Council on March 31st, the Legislature would then forward its list of intended actions to the State in answer to a gubernatorial executive order.  Many of you know the background to this procedural necessity.

The 98-Page Reimagining Report

The County-City Reimagining Public Safety Report was released February 22nd.  It has generated much controversy since.  Many people, including many in Enfield with whom I’ve spoken, don’t like it.  I’ve followed the Report’s progression through meetings of the County Legislature and its legislative committees.  I’ve reported some of those meetings on these pages.  I’ve attempted to keep an open mind.  But I also have opinions, and I feel obligated to share them with both the County Legislature and with you, especially since I have petitioned to join the Legislature in the upcoming election cycle.

For the past month, I have withheld public comment on the Reimagining Report, but I have thought much about it.  I’ve talked with many of you about it.  My thoughts here often incorporate your opinions.

This is a tough one; a controversial call.  Like so many other issues I confront, I find value in each side of the argument.  We need and deserve effective law enforcement, all the while protecting the lives and dignity of every one of our residents and demanding equal justice for all.  But most important, while protecting everyone’s freedoms, we deserve self-determination and majoritarian democracy.  We need to decide our own fate.

Bob Lynch

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Comments before the Tompkins County Legislature’s meeting of March 30, 2021

Legislators:

George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis; Breonna Taylor in Louisville; Shawn Greenwood a decade earlier in Ithaca’s West End.  I mention this for a reason.  I say it because each of these communities is its own place.  Each faces distinct problems with persons of color dying at the hands of police.  And each distinct problem demands a particularized solution.  Governor Cuomo’s orders notwithstanding, what’s broken in one place is not necessarily broken everyplace.  We must think for ourselves.  We must act for ourselves, independently and in our community’s own best interests.

Those are the words that should have begun your Collaborative’s Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report.  They did not.  The Collaborative’s 98-page narrative took a different turn.  It struck a different tone.  I’m sorry it did.

Based on the same principle I’ve now stated, what serves best the residents of the City of Ithaca does not necessarily address the policing concerns in Tompkins County’s rural communities.  Nor does our County’s larger population necessarily endorse our central city’s preferred prescription.  In my opinion and in the opinion of many, the City-County “Collaborative” is an arranged marriage that should never have occurred.  At every stress-point, the relationship strains.  The general public did not create it.  Voters did not endorse it.  Many people in many parts of our county now feel they’ve been forced to accept it.  They’d prefer a divorce.

It’s petitioning time.  I’ve talked with scores of Enfield and Newfield residents at their doorsteps, in their kitchens and on their front porches these recent weeks, often discussing policing policy while the Reimagining Report stood percolating before this Legislature.  Many are scared.  They believe their safety has been sold out only to placate a politically-privileged constituency.  They feel City politicians and interest groups have driven this debate.  They sense the tail is wagging the dog.  Many want no part of the Reimagining Plan.  What plays so well so far away to the writers and readers of GQ Magazine fails so miserably in the minds of those living in the shadow of Connecticut Hill.

Scripted always in the most turgid prose of the detached academic, the Reimagining Report’s monster of a manuscript trades in aspirational abstraction, preferring process over performance; admirable intentions over predictable results.  It seeks systemic change first and foremost, but true punishment hardly at all.  Better to rid the community of an allegedly traumatizing SWAT Truck than the poorly-disciplined, racially-biased officers who might spill from it.  Easier to “repurpose” some inanimate object than to fire a wayward sergeant who might turn around and sue.

The Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report lards its pages with wandering words and lofty pronouncements; grandiloquent sentences of sponge.  When its authors do assign blame, they do so with the bite of bitterness, asserting that they know best and you do not.  The report’s incessant tone of societal condemnation does not help heal the wounds than divide us.  I wish only that the many anonymous authors who constructed this report had stepped forward more boldly to identify themselves and accept responsibility for their opinions.  We need to speak their names.

All too often, maybe by design, the Report’s construction defies comprehension by the common person.  Take this gem from the Executive Summary (page 14):

“This report recommends that both the County and the City reallocate resources to newly-established priority areas and alternative response models outlined in this report.  Other agencies that are a part of the public safety ecosystem will be looked at through an equity-based lens, and funded appropriately relative to their work in public safety and implementing these recommendations.”

What did you just say?  Before the Report’s release, someone should have visited the nearest high school, buttonholed the first English teacher one could find and asked her to edit this clunky contraption.

In laying the foundation for Reimagining’s conclusions, special populations were granted heightened access.  Despite their utility, we should acknowledge that these privileged contributors do not provide this community its only valuable voices.  While marginalized subsets of society deserve opportunities to animate the report’s narrative, even disproportionately so, they hold no license to control the final outcome.  Democracy still dictates majorities prevail.  Everyone decides.

Tackling every one of the Report’s 19 often-indecisive policing prescriptions can leave one lost.  So let’s focus.  Let’s take this one first; an important one: The IPD SWAT Truck’s future:

Much is made of Professor Belisa Gonzalez’s comments, aired at the Legislature’s recent Public Safety Committee meeting, that “targeted focus groups” have found the SWAT-Mobile’s mere presence to be traumatizing.   “Physical monuments can produce trauma,” the professor said, reasoning that, “What’s real in our minds is real in its consequences.”  But context matters. Those in search of a desired result can steer a crowd to their preferred conclusion.  Leading questions will answer themselves and corrupt the research.  The focus groups Dr. Gonzalez facilitated were never recorded, never transcribed.  “Scribes” took notes.  Then academics and researchers analyzed those notes and drew inferences.  The final product became third-hand hearsay.  Judge accordingly.  Bias remains poised to infect the process at every turn.  

The infamous beast; IPD’s SWAT Mobile Command Vehicle (photo courtesy truthsayers.org)

And when we’re told one participant advised his or her focus group to convert the City’s upper Six Figure, high-tech command vehicle into a “food truck,” I shake my head.  With such illogic, this report’s findings quickly shed their credibility and tumble into silliness.  They cause me to question the facilitators’ guidance as well as the practical world view of focus group members.

I, by contrast, look at trauma differently.  I think most others do as well.  You know what traumatizes me?  Dead bodies, needlessly lost lives, whether black, brown, white or Asian.  Come on, Collaborative contributors; get a grip.  Don’t let feelings grab hold of your better judgment.  Evanescent imagination counts far less than does real-world, palpable fear. 

What if Boulder someday visits Ithaca?  What if there’s a live shooter inside Wegmans?   Who do you think knows what’s best at that moment to protect this community, the Sheriff or the social scientist?

I trust our Sheriff.  I believe he enforces the law effectively; equitably.  When Derek Osborne says he needs the high-tech mobile command center the City may gleefully cast off, that he needs it to keep us safe, I trust his word.  He needs its keys in his hand; its guns at the ready, firmly strapped on board, not stuffed in some trailer to be separately dragged to the scene, dragged there by somebody.

And by the way, what does Ithaca’s Asian community, our moment’s most vulnerable population, think of local policing?  Asians were among the baker’s dozen of “targeted focus groups” the Collaborative surveyed.  I’d like to know their opinions.

Please, if possible, send the offloaded SWAT-Mobile to the Sheriff, not the Department of Emergency Response.  “I care about who maintains control over that vehicle,” Sheriff Osborne told your Public Safety Committee March 23rd.  “When we need it, we need it,” he added.  To rephrase my point:  Who knows more about local law enforcement, the Sheriff, or the Ithaca Mayor or County Administrator?

Wisely, this County Legislature has steered clear of the Reimagining Report’s most hot-button recommendation; that of replacing the Ithaca Police Department (IPD) with a partially-unarmed “Community Relations and Public Safety Department.”  Fair enough.  In my opinion, the City of Ithaca remains free to go its own way, providing, of course, that I do not choose to live there, and that I remember always to walk down the Commons with one hand firmly gripping my back pocket.  But please, just remember this all-important fact:  When persons of color find their lives most in danger is during those chance encounters when “unarmed Community Solution Workers” just won’t cut it.

Early in my radio career, I had to fire a newsman.  Through carelessness, not malice, he let slip onto air that common four-letter bathroom obscenity.  But our station had a zero-tolerance policy for those kinds of words.  That other “Bob” had to go.  No excuses.  No apologies. He learned from it.  Perhaps I did as well.  We need that zero-tolerance policy here today, but in a different context, with that of our police.

Please, legislators, listen—listen carefully— to the critical pushback our marginalized populations are giving this report.  Their critiques underscore Reimaging’s core weakness, one that they see, one that I see, but maybe you do not.  It’s the absence of true accountability, the courage to impose tough, tough rules upon those who wear the badge.  Cast aside the arbitrators, the union contracts, and all the other options for excuse than can encourage timidity.  Learn to say two little words in the face of police violence or racial bias in blue:  You’re fired!

When a tattle-tale body cam, left on by accident, captures a sergeant boasting about roughing up a black defendant—even if he didn’t really do it—no, don’t stop with just a bust in rank and an order to get lost for 30 days, only for the demoted cop to come back on patrol.  No, show spine:  “You’re fired!”  Or maybe he suggested to a subordinate wouldn’t it be fun to plant some evidence against this guy?  Again, tough love:  “You’re fired!”  Let the only “law” this ex-cop can enforce be the masking rule at the door of Walmart (assuming, that is, that they’d hire him; Sam’s kids have standards, too).

Might he then sue?  Perhaps.  Then let our discharged braggart eat the words that cost him his profession and do it before a judge.  I, for one, think it would be worth City Hall’s legal bill.  And if the court lets him off, then hold the judge accountable too.

The lack of true toughness:  That’s what’s most wrong with the Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report.  And that’s why what you’re considering tonight so pitifully falls short.  No sane dispatcher would have ever sent a car of unarmed Community Solution Workers to Pete’s Grocery that February night eleven years ago to serve a potentially violent drug suspect his search warrant.  Just as happened, armed officers would have been there; guns drawn.  Irrespective of anything you’ll consider tonight, Shawn Greenwood would still have died. 

And by that standard, the Reimagining Public Safety Draft Report fails in its mission despite all the bloated verbiage, all the working group “deliverables,” and all those admirable intentions by everyone, your members included.  Too bad.  Best we know sooner rather than later.

The Street knows it.  My rural constituents know it.  But do you?  I hope.  Please, act wisely.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert A. Lynch; Councilperson, Town of Enfield (submitted here as a private citizen)

[The subsequent actions by the Tompkins County Legislature and the Ithaca Common Council may now be viewed under the Latest News tab.]

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