TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Shawna Black, who has been serving as the chair of the Tompkins County Legislature since 2022, was unanimously reappointed to serve for 2023 at the first meeting of the year, which can be watched here.

With a fairly light agenda during the first meeting of the year and just off the marathon Community Recovery Fund debate, Black’s reappointment ended up being the main highlight for the Jan. 3 meeting.

“I think Shawna’s done a great job and been an incredible leader, and I fully stand behind her. I look forward to another year with her in the leadership position,” Legislator Greg Mezey said.

Black thanked the legislators for their support before moving on to the appointment of vice chair. Incumbent vice chair Deborah Dawson nominated Dan Klein for the position, and he was unanimously approved.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several comments were made by leaders and residents at Second Wind Cottages urging support and funding for Second Wind’s expansion plans. Second Wind’s proposal was slated to be funded with Community Recovery Fund money but has been thrown into question after Newfield residents and town leaders objected.

“My friends are living outside in tents right now,” said Carmen Guidi, founder of Second Wind Cottages. “I’ve got friends, people I know, living outdoors […] they get forgotten about. We just want to help them, give them a nice place to be, a safer place to be around people who care about them.”

Alderperson George McGonigal gave an update on behalf of the City of Ithaca Common Council and shared agenda items for the council’s first meeting of the year which will take place on Jan. 4. On the agenda for that meeting is the appointment of Tiffany Kumar to take Alderperson Patrick Mehler’s seat, choosing a new acting mayor, and appointing a new labor liaison for the city’s labor negotiations.

McGonigal also said that the First Ward is “having a lot of problems with crime and violence, and it’s no joke,” and that one of the things the city is trying to do is “get IPD back up to full force. That’s going to take time, it takes almost a year to train a police officer and get them on the street.”

Currently, McGonigal said, the Ithaca Police Department is understaffed by 15 officers, and three new officers have been sent to the police academy, which is a “small start.”

Additionally, he said that the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office is pitching in to help IPD until it is more sufficiently staffed.

Black said that the city and county will have to have continued conversations in order to address some of the issues the First Ward is experiencing.

Mezey asked how the city used its ARPA funds, and McGonigal responded that while a majority of the funds were used for infrastructure projects, some were used for community projects, including improvement projects at Southside Community Center.

Other news and notes

  • Black thanked the highway department for its support to Erie County following the “historic and tragically deadly blizzard, when eight of our employees brought equipment and assisted with snow removal operations all without disruption of our own operations.”
  • Deputy County Administrator Bridgette Nugent said that county administration staff is working to execute contracts with community organizations and will be working with departments on 2023 goals and work plans, which will be shared with respective committees of the legislature.
  • County Attorney Bill Troy gave an update on current cases the county is involved in, including one that has been settled and another case is still pending regarding a suit alleging civil rights being threatened by the law.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...