Legislature Chairwoman Shares Statement on Reimagining Public Safety
Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) shared a statement regarding Reimagining Public Safety:
“Tompkins County passed a meaningful set of plans following a mandate, not just from the previous governor, but from having watched so many examples of injustice across the U.S. including the murder of George Floyd. This also included listening to the voices of the most vulnerable in our community who have been adversely impacted.
I believe what we’ve seen from the collaborative so far is a good faith effort to improve policing and outcomes for community members, to increase accountability, and ultimately to respect the input from the community members who have experienced policing and the criminal justice system differently from the majority white population.
We’re just scratching the surface on the dozen plus collaborative plans and several County-specific plans. We are committed to being thorough, inclusive, and transparent on how those plans are developed and implemented. We will have an advisory board for the Community Justice Center that will aid in these efforts.
I want to thank our county departments for their leadership on the plans currently being implemented – Sheriff Osborne and Undersheriff Olin have been hard at work developing a pilot program to offer unarmed responses to certain calls, and our Mental Health Department has been a leader in the discussions on studying alternative responses and planning for better and more immediate delivery of human services. Our Department of Emergency response has been excellent and trustworthy partners on each plan as they’ve been called to provide advice and expertise. There is great and important work being done – work that takes time. I’m grateful for the monthly updates that we get from the CJC, and I invite legislators to listen and ask questions so that we stay on the same page moving forward.
There have been questions swirling regarding the City’s process and the report recommending a department of community safety – I understand that there are processes in place such as the County’s Ethics Advisory Board, to review the situation, but at this time I do not think it is wise to speculate, make public accusations, or wade into the debate -- our County Attorney, who advises us and the Ethics Advisory Board is assessing jurisdiction and the nature of any questions or complaints brought forth.
We are committed to this process. Our county will stay the course. We devote significant resources to criminal justice and public safety in our community, and I anticipate that the Legislature will continue to be asked for resources as these plans are implemented. I want to caution us about denying support to the wider work of Reimagining because we are uncertain of the outcomes of one plan. The public is listening and our actions to improve the public safety, especially for marginalized communities, is more critical now than ever before. I want to encourage all of us to continue remember and reinforce why we are here. There is still important work to be done, and I look forward to continuing that work.”
Legislators Address Draft Supreme Court Decision on Overturning Roe v. Wade
Legislator Amanda Champion (D-Ithaca) spoke about the draft decision from the United States Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade and shared a history of abortion access in the U.S. Champion detailed how abortion access is also a socio-economic issue, further harming poor and marginalized women who may seek unsafe and oftentimes deadly ways to terminate an unwanted pregnancy under laws restricting or criminalizing access. Champion stated, “Whether and when to become pregnant and if to abort that pregnancy always was and always will be a decision made by the woman facing this issue. It is a right of privacy, it is healthcare, and it is a personal choice.”
Legislator Deborah Dawson (D-Lansing) also spoke about the draft decision and thanked Champion for her comments. Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) offered comments on her personal experiences and echoed many of the concerns and sentiments offered by Champion.
Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) added, “…It is not a radical thing for people to want to be in charge of decisions over their bodies. To the public, as scary as today’s news was, no laws have actually changed, and we are lucky in New York to have stronger reproductive rights protections than many places in the country.”
Chairwoman Black (D-Ithaca) thanked Legislators for sharing their stories and shared her experience talking with her family about the topic as they heard the news. Black added, “The one person who should have the most say over their body should always be the woman...keeping healthcare legal for women keeps all women safe.” Black added, “Although Roe V. Wade has stood for 50 years, states have begun rolling back access to care and threatening to criminalize those who seek an abortion. These efforts will worsen and spread if this decision is rendered, harming women and further driving negative healthcare outcomes for poor women. Our congressional and state leaders across the country must step up and codify laws that protect women and protect from disastrous and harmful outcomes.”
Recovery Advisory Committee Announced to Guide Community Recovery Grant Program
A small committee of legislators who will work directly with the consulting firm (MRB Group) in drafting the application and starting the process was briefly detailed by Chairwoman Black. The committee is set to meet between 3-6 times, Black added that the decisions made by the committee will come to the full Legislature.
The committee will be chaired by Dan Klein (D-Danby), with Lee Shurtleff serving as Vice Chair (R-Groton), and will include Chairwoman Black (D-Ithaca), Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses), and Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) as members.
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Among Other Business
Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) shared a statement celebrating public service recognition week, “I want to recognize the over 700 public servants who work at Tompkins County, and the thousands of others in Tompkins County who work at our local municipalities, school districts, and state and federal offices. Whether it is ensuring that our roads are safe and cleared, educating our children, or the hundreds of other critical local services, public servants are the lifeblood of our communities.”
In her remarks, Black shared a recent example of local public service during a live-saving event at the airport this weekend. “Members of our airport team, Sheriff’s office, emergency response department, and volunteer EMS came together to deliver life-saving care for an individual who had stopped breathing. From the immediate response of our people on the scene, to the direction given by one of our dispatchers, public servants were responsible for saving someone’s life. This is the kind of work that public servants do and I’m proud of our people in Tompkins County.”
A proclamation was read acknowledging “How are the Caregivers? Day” and was accepted by Yael Saar, Founder of Mama’s Comfort Camp. The resolution expanded the definition of who is a caregiver and asked how well caregivers in the lives of others are doing. Saar stated, “Advocacy should come with joy and not just consternation.” Saar further detailed an event to come this weekend in celebration of caregivers.
A proclamation was read in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Leaders from the Ithaca Asian American Alliance (IAAA) were present to receive the proclamation. Member of IAAA Dr. Josephine Mcallister stated, “in a time of renewed xenophobia this proclamation affirms our role as essential members of American society… this is our home too, that we together have helped to build, and we are happy to be here.” The theme of AAPIH month for 2022 is “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.”
A resolution passed 13-0 (Legislator Mike Sigler (R-Lansing) was excused) establishing an air carrier incentive program. The resolution allows officials at the Ithaca Tompkins International Airport to negotiate with airlines, within the established guidelines by the Federal Aviation Administration, to improve and/or increase air service.
Monalita Smiley, Project Director of the Community Justice Center presented progress on Reimagining Public Safety plans. Smiley outlined plans in progress including the community healing plan, the plan to study alternative responses, and the plan to support officer wellness. Smiley shared that she has heard comments from members of the communities of color in Tompkins County who are grateful for the virtual healing plan sessions so far and wish that more were being offered, Smiley added that over 20 people have participated in each of the first three sessions. Information on the Sheriff’s pilot program for unarmed response will be made public shortly.
Community Preparedness Coordinator Geoff Dunn presented an overview of the new mass notification system, Tompkins SIREN. SIREN is the official emergency notification system used by Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and other local towns and villages to communicate with community residents during emergencies. For more information and to sign up, visit: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/siren
The Legislature adopted the fiscal target for the 2023 budget process, setting it at a 1.88% property tax levy increase. This follows conversation at the Legislature’s budget retreat held on April 19th.