ITHACA, N.Y.—Common Council held a special meeting on July 27, meeting a week before usual due to scheduling conflicts and a relatively light agenda.

In total, the group tackled four main topics, covered in this recap. You can follow along with the agenda here or watch the full meeting here. Alderperson Robert Cantelmo was present for some discussion but missed the voting portions, explaining the total of eight votes (Acting Mayor Laura Lewis does not vote unless there is a tie).

IPD Lateral Transfer Incentive

The Ithaca Police Department’s struggles to fully staff its allotted roster have been well-documented for years, though retirements and departures this year have amplified the issues. Acting Chief John Joly has frequently spoken about the problems IPD faces with recruitment and retention of officers, and appeared at council again Wednesday to speak in favor of extending the incentive of $20K being paid to new lateral transfers (officers who come to the department but don’t receive a promotion over their position) into the department from other police agencies. The incentive was first introduced in 2014.

The money serves as a signing bonus of sorts: It is disbursed to the officer in two increments of $10,000, one after the first pay period on the job and another at the end of their first year. Officers must commit to work at least two years with IPD to receive the money, and must have at least two years of police work to be eligible.

Joly said that the department is in the process of hiring two new lateral transfers currently. He said the money is necessary to attract transfers, who also enter at a third tier pay rate.

“I know it seems like we’re expediting it, but it’s just to try to attract candidates, we’re competing with every department in the state to attract laterals,” Joly said.

The measure passed unanimously.

Community Justice Center contract

With an accompaniment from Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes, Common Council held a rather extended discussion on the particulars of the contract that will outline.

The council will be able to review the work done each year by the Community Justice Center in order to determine if the contract should continue, while also viewing the work plan for the upcoming year. The Tompkins County Legislature and the Common Council will hold similar powers in that realm, since the CJC is part of the cooperative Reimagining endeavor between the county and city.

Alderperson Cynthia Brock said that the CJC should get a full two years of operation before having to come before the city for financial review.

“What the CJC is undertaking is hard work,” Brock said. “It relies on building relationships and building trust in the community, working with a wide variety of individuals […] to try to make fundamental change to how we approach law enforcement.”

She said that would be a good faith way to show trust in the CJC’s work and mission and suggested some language changes to convey that, which would commit the city’s full funding load through the end of 2024.

Brock’s argument eventually failed, though a smaller change, offered by Alderperson George McGonigal to remove the word “sole” from the phrase “Such Annual Work Plan and Budgetary Estimate as is ultimately approved by the Common Council (‘Approved Annual Work Plan and Budget’) shall be the sole basis for City financial responsibility under this Agreement.” That was agreed to and removed. The contract was then approved by 7-1 vote.

Other News and Notes

  • Changes to the Ithaca Farmers Market’s lease were approved as the local market continues to try to address some of its parking and access challenges.
  • Using mostly state funds, the city approved an amended plan to replace the South Albany Street bridge, which is not in immediate danger but has needed emergency repairs in the last few years, according to Bridge Systems Engineer Addisu Gebre.
  • Three speakers from the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America spoke in favor of expanding mass transit service locally, namely by investing more money into TCAT. This would increase its fleet and, the ultimate goal: allowing TCAT to operate free of charge for anyone using it. The idea is known as “FreeCat.”
  • Republican mayoral candidate Zachary Winn spoke in favor of pausing the Reimagining Public Safety process until the conclusion of the Ethics Advisory Board’s investigation into any potential violations that occurred.
  • In a slight aside, Alderperson George McGonigal informed viewers that he lost his appendix when he was 10 years old.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com