A strong, sustainable, and independent local economy is essential so that we can maintain and improve our built and natural environments. We will need:
- Responsible fiscal management;
- An expanded role for workers and a sharper focus on job development in County government, and particularly on the Industrial Development Agency;
- Carefully planned residential and commercial growth throughout our County; and
- Resources and inter-municipal cooperation to provide better public transit services in our towns and villages.
Protecting our environment and keeping people employed while negotiating our transition to a sustainable energy economy will be a major challenge. We will need:
- Better inter-municipal communication and cooperation;
- Better public outreach and education to dispel the myth that we must choose between our environment and our economy;
- A dedication to fact-based solutions; and
- Patience – with technology, the pace of progress, and each other.
Good government requires sustained dialog between legislators and constituents. We will need:
- A legislator who listens and informs (me);
- Constituents who want to stay informed and feel free to communicate their questions and concerns (you); and
- A method of communication (how about a listserv? other ideas welcome!).
My “Pet” Issues
Getting more community support from our “eds and meds”
I’d like to form an ad hoc committee of county Legislators, officials, and representatives of our tax-exempt “eds and meds” property owners to explore ways to leverage their resources and expertise to add value to our County’s bottom line. For example, they might consider donating services (e.g., planning, design, architecture, health and wellness counseling), and even unused real estate, to a development for affordable senior housing. OR, the Cornell Law School might consider reopening its Legal Aid clinic program.
Getting more out of our Industrial Development Agency
Our IDA’s “Local Labor Utilization Policy” (applicable to building contractors during the construction phase of projects that the IDA supports) is framed as an “encouragement” rather than a requirement. This is an unacceptable failure to support our local workforce, especially our union workers. I’ve been told that we don’t have enough skilled laborers in and around Tompkins County to support large projects; I suspect the real story is that we don’t have enough skilled laborers who are willing to work for peanuts.
Our current IDA Board comprises 4 County Legislators, an elected City of Ithaca official, the President of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce (who represents the Tompkins County Area Development agency, and a local architect. I believe that local labor should also be represented on the IDA Board. This isn’t exactly a novel or revolutionary idea either: New York’s General Municipal Law, which governs industrial development agencies, states that “representatives of local . . . organized labor” may be members of an IDA Board (GML Sec.856.2).
Our TCAD/IDA policies should place more emphasis on smaller, local businesses and start-ups that would train and employ our workforce in fields other than minimum wage retail sales, housekeeping, and maintenance. Bigger isn’t always better; LOCAL IS BETTER.
Finally, let’s use our TCAD/IDA and TCDC to promote the kinds of projects and development that we say we need, like alternative energy generation and affordable and senior housing, and not for hotels and high-end market-rate housing in mixed use buildings on the Commons.
District 10’s residents and their Legislator should be engaged in an ongoing conversation.
During the two years that I’ve been attending Legislature and Legislative Committee meetings, I’ve seen the same few members of the public come to meetings to speak to their Legislature. I haven’t seen very many people from District 10 in that group. I choose to believe that, if you were better informed about the issues that the Legislature was dealing with, you would become more engaged in legislative business. I also choose to believe that making myself more accessible will make you more willing to engage with me directly, and that will make me a better Legislator.
Of course constituents are always welcome to email, call, or write to their Legislator, but I’m considering a variety of ways to facilitate a more direct and less sporadic dialogue, including a monthly column in one or more of our local media outlets, a listserve, attending Village Board meetings, and arranging for periodic listening meetings. If you have any suggestions on this issue, or would be willing to host/organize a listening meeting on an issue of community concern, please contact me at Deborah@deborah-dawson.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.