ITHACA, N.Y. –– Climate activists packed Common Council Chambers on Thursday during the first public hearing for the Mayor’s proposed 2020 budget.

The Green New Deal wasn’t on the evening’s agenda, but members of the community added it, at least to the public comment portion. When Mayor Svante Myrick released his proposed budget for 2020, he added some funding for the recently passed Green New Deal, which sets goals to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Myrick has proposed adding a full-time staff member to implement the city’s climate goals.

“We are in a climate emergency and what’s currently on the table –– adding one full-time employee in addition to current capacity which is a half time staff person, and putting $100,000 towards developing a climate action plan, there is no way we’ll be able to tackle social, historical and economic inequities,” said Marisa Lansing, an organizer for the Sunrise Movement Ithaca, who recently graduated from Ithaca College. “As a young person, the Green New Deal gives me hope. But without it, I’m terrified my future is a giant question mark. When I say future, unfortunately, I’m not talking about finding a job or building a family or finding love as you’d think a young person would be thinking about right now. Instead, I’m talking about a future where the earth is dying and it will not be able to support the human species at all.”

Myrick said the new full-time position will work with existing departments to implement sustainable practices for planning and development within the city.

“The new money … is not all the money the city spends on sustainability. It’s the money that will be spent organizing the city’s efforts around sustainability and the Green New Deal,” he said

Myrick also talked about the role of big business in financing future sustainability efforts.

“Everyone’s mentioned how this has to be a community-run effort, but I think we’re giving a little bit too much credit for how much we’re able to both regulate and tax the entire community,” Myrick said. “If we’re going to tackle this problem our corporations have to pay their fair share and have to cooperate with us as we try to end inequality and save our planet. The city alone when we’re funding these efforts, what we’re actually doing is taxing the people who are already bearing an unequal portion of the effort.”

Myrick’s proposed budget includes a tax levy and tax rate increase. The rate is increasing from $11.60 to $11.71 per thousand of assessed property. So, owners of median-valued $230,000 homes (based on 2018 assessment) in Ithaca would see about a $25 increase in their property tax bill.

• Related: Quick Overview: Proposed city budget includes tax rate increase

Budget discussions will continue at the Oct. 16 Common Council budget meeting for planning, building and economic development. That meeting will be held in the Common Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall at 6 p.m.

Following the public comment portion of the meeting, leaders at the Ithaca Police Department, Ithaca Fire Department and the Department of Public Information and Technology addressed members of Common Council and requested amendments to the proposed budget. Here’s a brief overview of what they requested.

Ithaca Police

  • funds to produce a new recruitment video
  • security cameras outside of the police station
  • a new crime scene vehicle

Ithaca Fire

  • pay for two new firefighters
  • a pay increase for management
  • a new fire station

Public Information and Technology

  • updated technology for broadcasting city meetings
  • new computers

Common Council will discuss and vote on any budget amendments at the end of the month. The budget is set to be finalized by mid-November. The next public hearing will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 in Common Council Chambers.

View budget documents and schedules here.

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com