December 2023 Reporting Archives

News Briefs:

It’s Time; Campaign Over

Thank you, Enfield.  Final yard sign retired and packed away with the rest; Saturday, December 9th.  We move forward.


New Day, New Place

(Dec. 31):  At least for this first meeting of the New Year, the newly-constituted Enfield Board of Fire Commissioners will hold its meeting on Tuesday, not Monday, and will meet in the Enfield Fire Station, 172 Enfield Main Road, not at the Enfield Courthouse.

The Fire District’s Organizational Meeting is set for Tuesday, January 9th beginning at 6:30 PM.  Though the meeting notice did not state it, officials indicate they plan to arrange for remote viewing and attendance.

With the start of 2024, a four-member majority of the Fire Commissioners will be Enfield Volunteer Fire Company members.  Some in the Fire Company have urged in the past that meetings relocate to the fire station.

At the meeting, Fire Commissioners must choose a new Chair, as outgoing Chair Jim Mathews did not choose to run in the December election.  New members joining are recent Fire Chief Greg Stevenson, and Fire Company volunteers Alan Teeter and Christopher Willis.  Barry Rollins and Robyn Wishna continue on the Board.


No-Go Making Van Ostrand Slow-Go

Van Ostrand Road, west of Thomas Rd. on the Town Line

(Dec. 30):  Only frustration and anger face those on each side of the Enfield-Newfield line as New York State traffic engineers refuse to lower the speed limit on Van Ostrand Road, despite its poor condition, increased traffic, and accident risk.

“NYSDOT follows a practice of not posting speed limits on unpaved roadways,” Scott Bates, Regional Traffic Engineer for the State Department of Transportation, replied to Enfield’s request in late-November.  “Studies have shown that lowered posted speed limits on gravel roads have negligible impact on improving safety and operations.”

Bates’ counter-intuitive argument went on to state that speed limits on unpaved roads lack reliability because road conditions can change making a limit set one day inappropriate the next.

Mind you, a Newfield resident appealed to Enfield for help because speeding vehicles are using Van Ostrand as a shortcut. Exiting her driveway the day before, she’d almost been hit head-on by a truck.

DOT’s textbook logic doesn’t work here.  Gravel roads deserve speed limits more than do paved roads, not less.  And unlike cities, towns can’t set limits on their own.  This has to change, and change before someone gets killed. / RL


Suit Brewing over Election Law Change

“They get an F.” Onondaga Exec. McMahon.

(Dec. 30):  It’s a legal long-shot.  State law usually overrides Home Rule.  Nonetheless, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said Wednesday he may challenge in court the State Legislature’s moving to even-numbered years of the traditionally odd-year elections for down-ballot offices like his own.

“We’re going to talk to other charter counties about how we’re going to challenge this,” McMahon told WSYR-TV in an interview.  “We’re going to defend Home Rule, and we’re going to defend the fact that if you’re going to challenge our charter, our local constitution, the only people who can do that are the voters themselves, not New York City politicians.”

Tompkins County, like Onondaga, has a charter.  So any lawsuit the Syracuse-area executive might win could also apply locally.  Town offices, however, might not see an impact, unless the suit was broadened somehow.

“We are going to defend the citizens of this community that said they want these elections to be in odd years,” McMahon insisted.   The Onondaga Executive, like many other local leaders, believes that putting town and county races in busier election years will relegate local issues to obscurity.

The State Legislature adopted the change during its final hours last June without hearings.  Governor Hochul signed the bill into the law on the Friday before Christmas.  “The transparency,” McMahon said, “the Governor and the Legislature, they get an F.”


Hochul Tightens NYSEG Billing Practices

(Dec. 30):  “I’m not going to say it’s perfect,” NYSEG President Patricia Nilsen admitted at a Governmental Stakeholder Roundtable in Ithaca last April concerning her utility’s billing practices.

Sen. Michelle Hinchey

Nilsen said more than nine in every ten bills go out within one month.  Of course, that means as many as one in ten may not.

Now, Nilsen’s company will pay for its “imperfection.”  On December 22nd, Governor Hochul signed legislation that will require New York’s utilities to waive customer charges for gas or electricity usage that was rendered more than two months prior to the mailing of the first bill to the customer for that service.  (The previous deadline was six months.)  The delay would have to be the utility’s fault, not the customer’s.

Hudson Valley State Senator Michelle Hinchey sponsored the Senate bill.  Local Senator Lea Webb was co-sponsor.

Too many utility companies rely on estimated billing practices that can cost customers hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unforeseen charges, resulting from drastic month-to-month charge swings,” Hinchey wrote in the bill’s justification.  She’d singled out her own utility, Central Hudson, as a prime offender, with its bills sometimes mailed six or more months late.

“Consumers will get a little justice, a little transparency, a little more timely billing,” Assembly sponsor Jonathan Jacobson told Rochester’s WHEC-TV, “so they can go on with their lives and worry about other things as opposed to just their utility bill.”


Third Time’s a Charm

(Dec. 29):  About a year ago, our Enfield Town Board thought we’d struck it lucky.  A lightly-used generator was on live auction during our Town Board meeting.  We took a vote and put in a bid; $30,000.  It fell just short.

Generator #1: Nope!

Then, last summer, Highway Superintendent Barry “Buddy” Rollins found a good, used one in Seneca Falls; $40,900.  We’d have to solicit bids at that price.  The company never bid, and so we lost that one too.

December 13th, our Town Board tried again.  Rollins found a new 80 kW generator on state contract, so no need to bid.  $67,914.  Gulp!  But the purchase should go through, though the unit may take six months to get here.

“Well, it’s something we need, and it’s something we’ve had a problem finding,” this Councilperson told the Board.  “And I think it’s probably a wise investment.”

I’ve long said the Highway Department needs standby power.  “We’ve gotta’ get something down there; that’s an emergency facility,” I told Rollins.  “I guess it’s a little more than we wanted to (pay), but prices go up.”

The Town Board had set aside $50,000 in American Rescue Plan funds for the generator.  With Rollins’ encouragement, $18,000 in Highway Equipment Reserves will fund the balance. / RL


Kelles, Graham in the “Chicken War”

(photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

(Dec. 23):  There are no Chick-fil-A’s in Ithaca, but there’s now a local tie-in to the newly-cooked controversy pitting Christian values against traveler convenience.

Tompkins County’s Assemblymember, Anna Kelles, has joined as lead co-sponsor of an Assembly bill that would require restaurants on the New York State Thruway to stay open seven days a week.  Chick-fil-A, which now operates several at Thruway rest stops, closes on Sundays for religious reasons.

“This is war,” powerful South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on the platform X (formerly Twitter) Friday, according to Fox Business.

“If this goes forward, I will be introducing legislation withholding federal funds from any city or state that requires Chick-fil-A to stay open on Sunday,” Graham stated, adding, “New York is off base and their actions will not go unanswered.”

Kelles, herself, has said little about the matter.  But she’s the first of four co-sponsors listed on Assembly Bill A08336, filed December 13th by downstate Assemblymember Tony Simone to require seven-day service. Michelle Hinchey has sponsored a companion bill in the State Senate.  No action would occur until the Legislature reconvenes in January.

“Look, if you want to eat fried chicken while traveling over the holidays, then Chick-fil-A should be open on Sundays,” Simone told the Associated Press.


Hochul signs “Odd-to-Even” Law

(Dec. 22):  In a move that will please some politicians, yet anger others, Governor Kathy Hochul Friday signed legislation that will move most future Town and County elections from their currently-scheduled odd-numbered years to even-numbers that coincide with those of elections for President or Governor.

While many Democratic Party leaders supported the action—and both State Senator Lea Webb and Assemblymember Anna Kelles voted for it back in June—many county legislatures and town boards upstate opposed the action; legislator associations like the New York State Association of Counties coming out against the change.

“By signing this legislation, we are taking a significant step towards expanding access to the ballot box and promoting a more inclusive democracy,” Governor Hochul stated in a Friday afternoon message that gave no acknowledgement that there are two sides to this issue.

Both the Tompkins County Legislature and the Tompkins County Council of Governments came out earlier this year opposed to the change.  Opponents argue that by moving races for Town Board and County Legislature to odd years, those lower-ballot races will get lost in the campaign rhetoric of the more-dominant higher-profile contests.

Supporters maintain it’s better to place local contests in years when more New Yorkers traditionally vote.  But Republicans allege the change is a sly political trick to favor Democrats who more often vote in even-numbered year elections.


Enfield: Saved by “Model 6?”

Emergency Resp. officials briefing lawmakers

(Dec. 20): A newly-proposed, yet so-far little-discussed cost-sharing option could save Enfield and other smaller towns tens of thousands of dollars in supporting Tompkins County’s Pilot Rapid Medical Response (PRMR) system, set to launch early next year.

“Cost Sharing Model 6,” included in a Department of Emergency Response otherwise-routine presentation to the County Legislature Tuesday, would assign municipal cost-sharing on a rough per capita basis and for the first time assess both the City and Town of Ithaca for the three “flycar” medical units the service would station about the Tompkins County.

Under this newest model, Enfield could pay as little as $10,000; Newfield $15,000.

The funding option’s disclosure came just before legislators approved a much-massaged Resolution, debated since mid-November, which directs the County Administrator to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with local towns and determine terms of their PRMR participation, including cost-sharing.

The latest changes would exempt towns from contributing for 2024, but would condition 2025 County support upon successful negotiations.


Ithaca BOE Picks $125M Option

Four of the 8 who voted “Yes” for $125 Million

(Dec. 19): The Ithaca Board of Education chose to think big Tuesday, approving with little debate and by a lopsided margin its asking voters to ratify a $125 Million “District-Wide Capital Improvement Project.”

The projected spending sets as its top priority replacement of the District’s Bostwick Road bus garage and equipping that facility for an all-electric bus fleet.

This enables us “a credit line from the public,” Board Vice-Chair Maura Lange explained during the Board’s brief 15 minutes of discussion prior to its 8-1 vote.  Member Jill Tripp cast the lone dissent.

In approving the most costly of three spending options before them Tuesday, members never even considered two more frugal choices; options that would have limited the capital request to $40 Million or $98 Million.

Aside from bus garage replacement, the $125 Million package’s capital wish list has yet to be spelled out in detail.  And it might never be before the expected May referendum.  “This enables us to be flexible in circumstances,” Lange explained to the Board, suggesting it could later assign what’s authorized wherever it best saw fit.

All Board members—even Tripp—have concluded the 1960’s era bus garage is old, undersized, and unfit for the electric bus era.


Enfield Officers Installed; Service Lauded

Chief Stevenson (left) recognizing EVFC top responders at the annual banquet.

(Dec. 17):  The Enfield Volunteer Fire Company (EVFC) installed its new officers and recognized volunteer achievement during its annual banquet Saturday night.

Greg Stevenson was sworn in for another year as Fire Chief, though his short-lived new term will likely conclude at month’s end when he’d need to resign to assume one of five seats on Enfield’s Board of Fire Commissioners.  Jamie Stevens, sworn in as Deputy Chief, will likely succeed him.

The EVFC also honored its top responders for 2023.  Corey Ike topped the list with 223 calls responded to date.  Other top-responders were Rodney Ike (198 responses), Pam Whittaker (70 responses) and Fire Company President Denny Hubbell (68).  They were joined by Ellen Woods, Robyn Wishna, Josh Carmack, Jamie Stevens, Kevin Morse, and Larry Stilwell.

Jim Whittaker was also honored for his 45-years of service with the EVFC.

In his remarks, Chief Stevenson gave a “tip of the hat” to Wishna for her service this fall as Fire Commissioner, a position she was elected this week to continue next year.  “She’s been a real trooper,” Stevenson said, “standing to her ground when everyone else was working the other way.”


ECC Craft Fair Fun

(Dec. 16):  Santa stopped by.  Lots of others did too, as the Enfield Community Council held its Holiday Craft Fair Saturday in Enfield Center.  The craft fair ran concurrently with Enfield’s “Deck the Halls” celebration at the Town Hall.

The ECC’s Great Room was packed with exhibitors.  I handled the coffee and donuts.  ECC President Cortney Bailey said her organization did well, with proceeds rivaling, if not exceeding that of this year’s Harvest Festival. / RL


Wishna wins coin toss; race over

Coin flipper” Redmond (file photo)

(Dec. 13):  Enfield’s drama-lasting-but-a-day ended unceremoniously Wednesday night as Town Supervisor Stephanie Redmond tossed a coin to the floor, it came up tails, and with it Robyn Wishna earned a Fire Commissioner’s term one year longer than did her tied opponent, Highway Superintendent Barry “Buddy” Rollins.

The coin toss only proved necessary after a lone Affidavit Ballot, confirmed valid by the Board of Elections Wednesday morning, and then counted, edged Rollins one vote higher and erased the 45-44 vote lead Wishna had enjoyed after paper ballots were counted at Enfield’s fire house the night before.

Rollins and his wife were present for the coin flip.  Wishna was not.  Rollins said nothing about it afterward.  Because of the luck of Redmond’s hand, Wishna will earn a five-year position on the Board of Commissioners; Rollins a four-year term.  Both candidates, appointed to interim Commissioners terms at present, disagree on many fire governance matters.

Unless Tuesday’s results are successfully challenged in court, each winner will serve with three other candidates from Tuesday’s election, those whose lesser votes earned them shorter terms.


Yes, they’ll change again

(Dec. 15):  For those of us in New York, remembering where our Congressional District lies is becoming as hard as remembering our passwords.

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson

On Tuesday, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the judge-directed House districts drawn last year were good for only one Congressional cycle, the current one.  It directed the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission to construct new district lines for the 2024 elections.

Easier said than done.  The Commission is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.  Their deadlock last year was what eventually got the courts involved.  One can easily predict the same thing happens again.

Tuesday’s 4-3 ruling was weedy and procedural.  But should the State Legislature eventually take a role, the final outcome this time could prove different.  A more liberal majority now controls the High Court, with progressive Rowan Wilson as Chief Judge.

Unlike last time, a liberal bench could affirm legislative gerrymandering that favors Democrats.  It could move lines around to hurt Republican incumbents like our current Congressman, Marc Molinaro.  Tompkins County could find itself part of a very “Blue” district, one with boundaries all brand new.


Solar Law Passed; Fees Next

All vote yes; Newfield Solar Law passed.

(Dec. 15): Without discussion by its members and with minimal comment at a Public Hearing held before it, the Newfield Town Board Thursday unanimously adopted a revised Solar Law that in its attorney’s words, “gives us more authority to have control over solar farms.”

“It’s trying to give the town more of a voice in these projects,” lawyer Tom Smith said, responding to a lone resident who raised questions about solar farms in general; concerns ranging from safety to decommissioning procedures to solar operators’ responsibility.

With the law passed, Town Board members moved on to the fee structure for solar operators.  Many thought the current building permit fee insufficient; just $2,500 per Megawatt of power.  For a newly-proposed—but still pending—solar farm off Elmira Road, the 19 Megawatt proposal would bring in only about $47,500 in building permit revenue.

Town bookkeeper Blixy Taetzsch, also Enfield’s bookkeeper, commented that Enfield’s fee structure raised over twice that amount from Applegate Road’s Norbut Solar Farm of only 15 Megawatts.

Town Board members voiced interest and plan to visit Enfield’s and other communities’ fee schedules.


Fire District Results, Updated

(Dec. 12; Updated Dec. 13 @ 11 PM): Results from Tuesday’s voting for (5) members to the Enfield Board of Fire Commissioners:

  1. Robyn Wishna:       45 votes (5 yr. seat )*
  2. Barry Rollins:         45 votes (4 yr. seat)*
  3. Greg Stevenson:    33 votes (3 yr. seat)
  4. Alan Teeter:             30 votes (2 yr. seat)
  5. Chris Willis:             22 votes (1 yr. seat)
  • One ballot cast, an affidavit ballot, was validated by the Tompkins County Board of Elections Wednesday.  The vote was cast for Barry  Rollins, resulting in a tie between Wishna and Rollins for the longest term, a 5-year position.  A coin toss conducted Wednesday (12/13) at the Enfield Town Board awarded Wishna the longer term.

Other candidates: (6) Donald Gunning =20 votes; (7) Larry Stillwell = 19 votes; (8) Robert Harvey = 18 votes; (9) Marcus Gingerich = 11 votes; (10) Alexis Comparetta = 5 votes.

A longer story on the election results is now posted.


Hochul: Naughty or Nice?

(Dec. 15):  Governor Kathy Hochul could give local lawmakers a welcome gift or else a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings during the next few days.

“Don’t suck up bandwidth;” Brock at TCCOG

On December 12th, the State Legislature forwarded to the Governor’s desk a bill it passed in the final hours of its session last June.  The bill would move most local elections for town and county governments—outside New York City, by the way—from odd-numbered  years to even years.

Local elected leaders are split.  But majorities on both the Tompkins County Legislature and the Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) have urged Hochul to veto the bill.  I agree that she should.

At TCCOG’s September meeting, Ithaca Alderperson Cynthia Brock said she feared that by moving local elections to the same years as those for President or Governor, local issues would get lost if all the “bandwidth” is consumed by wider concerns.

“People will tend to think on very broad issues,” Brock told TCCOG.  “They won’t be thinking so granularly on how local representatives will be campaigning on how their issues pertain to… the things around them.”

Governor Hochul has ten days—until the 22nd—to sign or veto.  Watch this space. / RL


The Downtown Reality Check

(Dec. 12):  Someone needed to say it.  And now, Mike Lane has.

Legislator Mike Lane

Tuesday morning, the County Legislator from Dryden spoke the plain truth at a committee meeting considering placement of a 4-5 story Center of Government in downtown Ithaca, and maybe relying on parking ramps to handle its visitors:

“People don’t like parking structures.  They don’t use them.  And people just avoid downtown Ithaca from my area.  They don’t want to come down here. 

“They don’t want to shop on the Commons.  They don’t want to try to figure out this ridiculous parking system that the City has.  They don’t want to have to go to the top floor of the Seneca Street ramp and drive up there and down.

“They just won’t come, particularly the elderly people.  They’ll go to Cortland.  They’ll go to Auburn or somewhere else.  They’ll drive further just so they don’t have to have the impediments that the City of Ithaca and its narrow streets and one-way streets provide.”

Mind you, legislator Lane still wants to put the Center of Government downtown, next to the Courthouse.  He’s adamant about maintaining a “downtown campus.”  Yet still, Lane speaks the words that few others have the moxie to utter.  Amen, Mike. / RL


ICSD Spending Vote Delayed a Week

(Dec. 13):  They talked about it for an hour.  But in the end, the Ithaca Board of Education held off taking any vote Tuesday in choosing among three capital spending options that would direct millions toward upgrading, or more likely rebuilding, the School District’s Bostwick Road bus garage and potentially spending tens of millions more on other projects.

The Board set Tuesday, December 19th to make its decision.  Any capital commitment would require voter approval, likely next May.

“We need to get the electrification of Bostwick Road in order,” Amanda Verba, School District Chief Operating Officer, advised the Board, Verba saying the bus garage needs an upgrade to meet the greater demands of electric buses, a large number of which could be added to the fleet next year.  New York State  mandates all buses must be electric in little more than a decade.

Options before the Board would spend $15 Million for the electrification upgrade, or $40 Million to additionally build the new garage, or $125 Million to handle other improvements as well.

Board members expressed no consensus toward any of the options Tuesday.  Member Karen Yearwood reiterated her preference for the costlier option.  Jill Tripp supported a mid-range compromise, perhaps spending around $70 Million.

Any compromise price tag could be set at a committee meeting this Thursday. [Note:  That committee meeting was later canceled.]


School Board Capital Vote Imminent

The current ICSD Bus Garage, Bostwick Road

(Dec. 11):  As predicted at their last meeting, Ithaca School, District administrators have handed up three costly capital spending choices for School Board members to consider—and perhaps decide among—at their Tuesday, December 12th meeting.

Two of the options would replace the District’s 56-year old Bostwick Road bus garage with a new building.

The three, almost identically-worded, dry, nondescript resolutions, just now placed on Tuesday’s agenda, would provide three alternative levels of capital spending: $15 Million, $40 Million, and $125 Million, each spread out over a five-year period, no longer.

Only the least-costly of the choices would keep the current garage in place, merely retro-fitting it for future electric buses, mandated by the State.  The $40 Million choice would build the new garage.  The $125 Million option—which several members favor—would add to garage replacement a pile of other improvements, projects yet to be named with specificity.

Should the School Board, as expected, authorize one of the capital options, voters would likely see the measure on the ballot next May.


We Learn from Neighbors

The Design Class’ preliminary Enfield sketch

(Dec. 8):  Every community is unique.  What works in one place may not work in another.

But we in Enfield should heed what voters in neighboring Ulysses did this week.  By a lopsided vote of 923 to 510—a nearly 29 per cent margin—they rejected a Town initiative to buy 30 acres of farm land off Krums Corners Road to site a new town park.  It would have included athletic fields.

Media reports tell us a prime voter concern was the land’s out-of-the-way location, about six miles from Trumansburg.

We, in Enfield, should take heed.  Our town has taken very initial steps toward a town park of our own.  A Cornell design class this fall provided us some ideas and sketches essentially for free.  No harm.  Students learn and we benefit.  But the site we’re considering is Town-owned land behind the Highway Garage; now brush land and woods.

I can’t envision a town park there, I skeptically told the Town Board earlier this year.  And I still can’t.   Maybe someone, someday can picture it for me.  Maybe someone can convince me that it, too, is not too distant from our own community hub, Enfield Center.

But for me, the Ulysses vote will not soon be forgotten. / RL


Snappin’ Up a Bit of Breeze

(Dec. 6):  When “Breezy Meadows” developers approached the Town of Enfield exactly one year ago, they predicted the 33 lots they’d create would sell slowly, rather like the subdivision they have in Dryden.  Nope.  Not hardly.

One of the many Breezy Meadows lots, off Tucker Road.

Less than three months after New York Land and Lakes Development began widespread marketing of the large-size lots between Podunk and Halseyville Roads, Town officials informed the Enfield Planning Board Wednesday that most of the lots have already been sold.

Town Clerk Mary Cornell reports that at least 15, maybe as many as 20, change of ownership forms for those lots have already crossed her desk in preparation for tax-filing season.

Cornell recalls that only one party buying a lot was local.  Most buyers came from Downstate or New Jersey.  Buyers are mostly individuals, not corporations.

“Everybody’s trying to get out of Downstate,” someone remarked before Wednesday’s meeting began.

Prices paid for the lots, based on papers Cornell’s received, ranged from $80,000 to over $200,000.

The Planning Board granted Breezy Meadows’ developers subdivision approval last June.  Approval came despite neighborhood objections that the development would deplete well water supplies, diminish precious farmland, and require Town expense to upgrade Tucker Road, which bisects the project.


Daniel Winch: 1942-2023

Daniel Winch (courtesy Herson-Wagner Funeral Home)

(Dec. 5):  “He was a good guy and a good mentor.”

Those words Newfield legislator Randy Brown used Tuesday as he announced to the Tompkins County Legislature the passing of a hometown servant.  Daniel Winch, who represented Newfield and southern Enfield in the County Legislature for 20 years, 1985 through 2005, died quietly Saturday, December 2nd.  He was at peace and surrounded by family, Brown reported.

Daniel Morgan Winch was 81.

“I thought he did a great job,” Brown said of his Burge Hill Road predecessor.  “I met with Dan when I wanted to run, and he had a lot of good advice,” Brown recalled.

“And he was so prepared when we met.  That was his nature.”  Brown remembered how Winch brought notes to their meeting.  And the two had met three times since, most recently last August.

“I was surprised how much we aligned our thinking on many things,” Brown told legislators.  “He was an honest guy, and hard-working; really focused on family, and really focused on studying.”

Brown’s colleague Mike Lane served on the Legislature with Winch during Lane’s early years.  “I’m sorry to see Dan go,” Lane said.

Dan Winch is survived by his wife, Nancy—his “childhood sweetheart,” as Brown described her.  The Herson-Wagner Funeral Home is handling arrangements, yet to be announced. / RL


Flycar Vote Delayed; TCCOG Next

(Dec. 5):  Sometimes, a worthwhile idea makes its point.

In a surprise action Tuesday night, during its meeting, Tompkins County legislator Rich John pulled from the Legislature’s agenda a measure he strongly backs.  It would direct County staff to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with local towns toward sharing the cost of the Pilot Rapid Medical Response (PRMR) System, the network of County-run “flycars” intended to fill-in community gaps for EMS coverage.

During the meeting, John never revealed his reason for suddenly pulling the Resolution.  But later he disclosed it was to enable municipalities to first weigh-in at a Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG) meeting the following Thursday, Dec, 7th.  It’s a meeting at which this Enfield Councilperson has requested PRMR cost-sharing be discussed.

I’d spoken to the Legislature at the start of Tuesday’s meeting.  I’d invited members to join the TCCOG discussion and suggested a two-week delay of action would make sense.

“Maybe we’re moving a little too quickly,” I told the Legislature, “and we want to have all the municipalities along and want to move them along in a cooperative way.”

Here, a bit of friendly advice worked.  Thanks, Rich John, for listening. / RL


Commissioners Limit Ballot Choices

(Dec. 4):  In a move that very much opens up to legal challenge the fast-approaching December 12th election for five Enfield Fire Commissioners, the currently-appointed Commissioners voted Monday to permit voters in that election to cast just one vote apiece even though five offices will be at stake.  Most current Commissioners admitted the procedure they’d approved was unfair to candidates and the electorate.

Ironically, the decision would have gone the other way had Commissioners’ Chair Jim Mathews been in the room and not traveling.  Attending remotely, Mathews became ineligible to vote.  But at least during initial deliberations he would have supported the five-vote option.

Monday’s meeting was long and at times chaotic.  Commissioners initially moved to allow voters to select a full slate, but that motion lost in a tie. Then, amidst deadlock and fearing delay, Commissioner Geoff Hollister switched his vote and the more restrictive option passed, over only Robyn Wishna’s objection.

“Maybe  the law’s not where it needs to be.  I think it’s terrible. I think it’s absolutely rotten,” Hollister admitted.  “It’s a disservice to the Town.  But I’m not a lawyer, and we can’t change the law,” he said.  “This is about how we’re going to get five Commissioners elected next week.”

Problem is, the “law” controlling the number of votes allowed in this initial Commissioners election, quite simply, doesn’t exist.  The statute is silent.  And the threadbare interpretation on which the Commission’s attorney relies is far from on point.  Nonetheless, the Board’s majority relied on the opinion, even though their decision could end them up in court.


Sears (and Roebuck) Homes?

(Dec. 1):  OMG!  How many ways can one say “Ticky-Tacky?”

The above rendering of four boxes in a row is of what Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services plans to erect in an upscale neighborhood close to downtown—a block from the Courthouse and a stone’s throw from Temple Beth-El— according to a recent recap of the City’s Planning Board in The Ithaca Voice.

One wonders what Tompkins County legislators pictured in their minds when they sold off those building lots, the Sears Street side of the Tioga Street parcel they’d once planned for a Center of Government.

Well, I can tell you.  In his presentation to the Legislature in April 2019, former County Administrator Jason Molino pictured as representative the architecture here, cut and pasted from someplace unknown.

We’re told what INHS proposes these days are modular units, built by Simplex Homes of Pennsylvania.  And yes, they look it.

Please, “lend some life to this architecture,” the reporter quotes one Planning Board member as saying.  Like Yeah!

County Legislature, you don’t always get what your dreams picture. / RL