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Legislature Chair Robertson Delivers 2019 Annual Message, Announces 2019 Organizational Structure

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> Legislature Chair Robertson Delivers 2019 Annual Message, Announces 2019 Organizational Structure

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Legislature Chair Robertson Delivers 2019 Annual Message, Announces 2019 Organizational Structure

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Characterizing the year ahead as one of “Building On, Building Up,” Legislature Chair Martha Robertson delivered her annual message before the Tompkins County Legislature.  “2019 will be a year for building – building on the foundations we set in 2018, building toward goals we should set for the next three years. And probably, building up, literally,” she said.  Noting that the first year, or 25 percent, of the Legislature’s four-year term is completed, she asked, “What will be have to show for the next 75 percent?”

Among the elements of “building” Chair Robertson identifies are building on the work of the County’s staff:  “Whatever we might accomplish as legislators is built on the work of our staff,” she states.  “It may sound obvious, but we couldn’t do anything without them. The work we do together is a team sport, and we legislators owe a debt of gratitude to the people who serve our community every day.”  The Chair also identifies building on relationships, such as those started with New York State, and with the Federal government, where she notes that five members of the New York delegation are committee chairs in Congress this session.  “This year we will be all about building in a literal sense,” Robertson adds, for example, with renovations to the Old Jail; evaluating the Tioga Street property and overseeing that project if it moves forward; reaching a decision about the jail and about a possible shared law enforcement facility with the City of Ithaca; and supporting more local housing construction as well, helping to create a more sustainable and equitable community for all who want to live here. 

Robertson also envisions a year on building on the Legislature’s 2018 committee work, calling for 2019 to be “a year for setting clear, achievable goals and keeping our focus there,”  and asking each committee to establish three specific goals for the year ahead, as the three top priorities for the committee’s time and attention.

2019 Organizational Structure and Leadership Appointments: For 2019, the Legislature’s standing committees increase by one, to seven— Budget, Capital, and Personnel; Facilities and Infrastructure; Government Operations; Health and Human Services; Public Safety; and splitting planning-related issues between two committees, Planning, Energy and Environmental Quality; and Housing and Economic Development.  The two new committees reconfigure and rebalance the sizable workload of the former Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, mimicking a structure last employed between 2013 and 2015, when economic development issues were handled in a separate committee, and incorporating matters related to housing, which over the past two years have been the focus of a special Housing Committee.  The Legislature’s other former special committee, Transportation, is discontinued, now that its efforts have initiated the County’s Route 13 study, which is moving into a staff-driven phase, with its steering committee to include legislator involvement. 

Regarding committee leadership, Anna Kelles will chair the new Housing and Economic Development Committee; Deborah Dawson will succeed her as chair of the renamed Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee.  Michael Lane will chair two standing committees this year—leading Government Operations, as well as returning as chair of the Budget, Capital and Personnel Committee.  (Former GO chair Dan Klein has requested no committee chairmanship this year.)  Dave McKenna returns as chair of Facilities and Infrastructure, Rich John as chair of Public Safety, and Shawna Black as chair of Health and Human Services.    Leslyn McBean-Clairborne also will continue as chair of the County’s Workforce, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which reports to Budget, Capital and Personnel.

Concluding her message, Chair Robertson said, “As we sit here tonight, the country is in unprecedented chaos. The federal government is in the longest shutdown in history, on the 25th day today. Polarization seems worse than ever, even more intractable than during the Vietnam War protests, for those of us old enough to remember. I could go on, but I’ll spare us all.

“At least in our little corner of the country, we don’t have to contribute to that. We each have a choice. Will this year of ‘building’ include building each other up? Let’s remember that the foundations of trust and respect that have made this an exceptional organization have taken years to build up. Let’s listen to each other and to our other partners in this work. The votes come and go. I’ve taken enough votes during my 17 years here to know that what lasts are NOT the votes won or lost, but the relationships I’ve been privileged to build.

“Let’s commit to truly working together this year. We work for the people, and we do our best work when we listen and learn. Let’s make the most of the next seventy-five percent.”

Chair Robertson’s full message is posted on the Legislature website at http://tompkinscountyny.gov/files2/legislature/Chair%20Statement.pdf .