“Think Before You Act” (They didn’t)

Posted September 6, 2023

Enfield Councilperson Robert Lynch, addressing the Tompkins County Legislature, at the start of its meeting, September 5, 2023:

“I’ve spoken on this topic before.  I’m going to address it again tonight.  And it’s concerning the Center of Government that you’re proposing.  There’s a Resolution on your agenda tonight which says that the County should proceed with plans for a Center of Government Building and allocate funds for design; architectural, engineering, for such a building.

“I would recommend that you not do it.  It’s not that you shouldn’t do it ever.  It’s just that you shouldn’t do it right away.   It’s premature to act tonight, I believe.  And I think I have sound reasons behind that.

“I’m going to draw an analogy that may seem kind of strange, but I think it fits.  Down in Washington, some members of Congress are thinking about drafting a Resolution for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Biden.  And they don’t really know why they want to impeach him.  They don’t really know the grounds for it.  But, ‘Why not go ahead and do it anyway, and we’ll see what happens.’

Equivalence to Impeachment?

“Wise observers have said that once you go down that path, it’s hard to turn around.  That if you have an Impeachment Inquiry, pretty soon you’ll get to have an Impeachment vote.  Pretty soon you’ve got an Impeachment.  And I would argue the same is [true] here.   Because what’ll happen is you’ll do the design.  Well, you’re down that chute, and the chute gets narrower and narrower.  And it’s harder to turn around.  And you’ll say, ‘Well, I guess we better go ahead and build the building.’  And I would argue that if you approve this resolution tonight, it’s only a matter of time that you better believe you’ll be building the building.

“I think there’s a good reason to have second thoughts about this because a lot of people in this county don’ t really know what’s being planned.  I’ve campaigned along with Randy Brown two years ago down in Enfield and Newfield for County Legislature.  And most of the constituents I met said, ‘What, you’re planning an office building?’  And back then it was $20 Million.  Then last year, it got to be 32 [Million].  Now they’re talking 40 Million.  And I bet ‘ya by the time you build it, it’s going to be 50 or 60 Million Dollars, if not more.

“And I think there are creative alternatives.  One, for example, the Shops at Ithaca Mall.  CMC [Cayuga Medical Center] has seen fit to retro a little bit of that building for its use.  Why couldn’t the County do the same?  Or Harold’s Square?  I understand there’s a lot of unused space there.  Maybe that would work?

Insulting; where’s the outrage?

“One thing more before I leave.  And this is a plea.  Please, to your Facilities Department and to you as a Legislature:  Please do something about taking that obscene graffiti off the side of the Wally Wiggins building.  It’s an insult to this county; it’s an insult to the reputation of an attorney I very much respect, Wally Wiggins.  And you really should clean up that building to clean up your own county’s image. 

“Please, please think before you act on this Resolution tonight.  And I wish you well.  Thank you.”


Hours later, the Tompkins County Legislature voted 12-2 to adopt its “Resolution to Proceed with Space, Architectural, and Engineering Plans for a Center of Government.”  No, the Legislature did not delay action.  Lawmakers did not step back and give the matter more thought. 

Perhaps this Councilperson’s words fell on deaf ears that night.  But I’m glad I spoke them.  I believe the passage of time will prove that I was right.

Bob Lynch