In his annual message before the Tompkins County Legislature, Legislature Chair Michael Lane called 2017, the County’s Bicentennial Year, “a year of reflection, a year of hope, and a year of action” –a year to look back at our heritage and historic diversity, and to look ahead during the last year of the Legislature’s four-year term, with an election coming in November. “In a year of transition and facing unknown challenges, we have hope and we are strong,” he said. “We are a diverse county, full of forward-looking, intelligent and passionate people,” Mr. Lane observed. Acknowledging the disappointment and apprehension many in Tompkins County feel after the national election, Mr. Lane stated, “We do know, however, that the bitterly divisive rhetoric at the national level does not reflect who we are in Tompkins County and does not reflect the values that we work hard to promote.” In referencing the many elements of the county’s diversity, Mr. Lane said, “We are new people from everywhere in the world. And when new arrivals come to Tompkins County and contribute to our society, we welcome them. We don’t build walls to keep people out; we open our hearts to let them in…We are part of that hope that has always been our America.”
Mr. Lane said there will be challenges, and that there is work to be done—in part, how to respond to Federal Government changes to the health care system. “The likelihood that people in Tompkins County will be harmed by unknown partisan changes is very real,” he said. “We do not know how those changes will affect the Medicaid costs that our County must pay. With sales tax collections plateauing, there is little doubt we will be forced to raise more money than we want to from the real property tax.” At the State level, he said, the financial pressure imposed by state mandates, such as the huge cost of Medicaid and increasing costs for indigent defense, remains a significant challenge. “New York State hypocritically blames local municipalities for the high cost of real property taxes, and imposes tax caps that are unrealistic,” he said. “But this is Tompkins County—the very best county—and we will face the unknown with resolve. We will not be quiet and the Legislature, as it has done in the past, will not be shy about letting its advice and opinions be known to federal and state officials. Where reasonable and rational action is warranted we will take it.”
Chair Lane announced 2017 organizational structure and leadership appointments. Much will remain the same, with six standing committees—Budget, Capital, and Personnel; Facilities and Infrastructure; Government Operations; Health and Human Services; Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality; and Public Safety. There are only a couple of leadership changes—Anna Kelles will become chair of Health and Human Services and Rich John chair of Public Safety, with last year’s committee chairs (Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Peter Stein respectively) moving to committee vice chair positions. Jim Dennis will continue as chair of the budget committee; Dave McKenna as chair of Facilities and Infrastructure; Dan Klein leading Government Operations (with Mr. McKenna chairing its Broadband Subcommittee); and Martha Robertson continuing to chair Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality. Three Special Committees will continue with the same leadership—Chair Lane chairing the Transportation and Old Library Committees, and Mr. John leading the Jail Study Committee. Legislator McBean-Clairborne will remain chair of the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Committee, with Legislator Kelles serving as vice chair. Jim Dennis will continue to chair the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, with Legislators Will Burbank, Robertson, and John continuing and reappointment of Grace Chiang also recommended on the IDA.
Mr. Lane also paid tribute to County employees, saying, “Whatever work we Tompkins County Legislators do pales by comparison to the exemplary job that our wonderful employees do for the people of our county. We owe a constant debt of gratitude for the hard work they perform every day, and every night.”
Mr. Lane concluded: “As Tompkins County proceeds into its third century we must all work together. This year, as every year, we will work hard, we will debate, and we will do business. We are the peoples’ team. And if on occasion we should get something wrong, I promise that it will never be because we did not do our very best to get it right.”
Mr. Lane’s full message is posted on the Legislature website at