My Take on the Tompkins County Budget
Posted November 9, 2021
Back last June, when I suspended my campaign for the Tompkins County Legislature, I made you a promise: to stay active in County government regardless of whether I sat at the legislative table or looked toward that table from the visitors’ gallery. Based on the election results, I must do the latter. But honor that promise I will.
Tuesday night, November 9th, I testified at the County Legislature’s Public Hearing into a proposed 2022 County Budget totaling some $194 Million. I was the only member of the public to speak at the Budget Hearing. That, my friends, is a sad commentary on local Democracy. No one ever changed the course of history through disinterest.
But apathy aside, you deserve to read what I said. The audio from the evening’s testimony was choppy. So I submitted my written remarks for legislators to read. I also share them with you here:
Good Evening. Robert Lynch, 175 Gray Road, Town of Enfield, a member of the Enfield Town Board.
I’ll try to make every second of these three minutes count. I want to make two major points.
First, your Capital Plan calls for spending $1.8 Million next year on design of a new Downtown Office Building, a project now expected to cost $30.6 Million.
I ask you to delete that expenditure. And before you spend one more dime on the Downtown Center of Government, I ask that you first sell this project to your constituents. They know next to nothing about it.
This is “a pretty big deal,” Rich John told a committee yesterday about the building’s site purchase. “It commits us to things for years and years to come.” Yes it does.
You kept negotiations for that $3 Million land purchase cloaked in secrecy for two years. You shouldn’t have. Now you’re moving full speed ahead toward the building, but without the public walking beside you. There should be a referendum on this project. There won’t be.
Most of you on this Legislature didn’t face an opponent in the election of just last week. The only one who did now trails. Another one of you lost in the primary. But while most of you had no reason to do so, I was out meeting voters last spring—lots of them. Yes, I lost. But before I did, I learned that no one knows about this $30 Million office project. And when I told my country folks about it, their jaws dropped. Many got angry.
Before you spend next year’s $1.8 Million on designs, put this project on hold for a while, and sell it to the people first.
And speaking of people, here’s my second point. In September, you’d promised to draw $7 Million from fund balance to underwrite your Community Recovery Fund. At the October 19th meeting, we learned that the $7 Million had been shaved by a half-Million or so to fund OTR requests. Please pump that money back up to $7 Million—Legislator Robertson’s and Granison’s suggested $8 Million: Even better.
I call it money Purposed for People; food pantries, housing assistance; child care and the like. It replaces the ARPA money you’d tossed into Cash for Capital, money that, well, yes, may end up building those new offices.
See where I’m going? Spend your budget on what’s important. Scrimp on the bricks and mortar.
Legislate wisely. Thank you.