Highlights of the March 18, 2003 meeting of the
Tompkins County Board of Representatives
By a 13 - 1 vote, the legislature approved the issuance of tax-free bonds for $10 million for a Cornell office building and $20 million for a parking garage and creek walk near the county library. The bonding must still have the approval of the issuer, the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). Discussion among the legislators revolved around whether, because they are not the final decision making body, they should discuss the merits of the projects. Some felt the IDA adequately manages that role and the legislature should not attempt to review projects. Others said they want to know more details about the projects. For the interest on the bonds to be exempt from federal income tax, making them attractive to investors, the county legislature must approve the issuance. Dooley Kiefer voted against approving the bonds for both projects, saying she thought the process for the bond approval was flawed. Legislator Frank Proto was absent. Contact: Michael Lane, Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 844-8440.

The legislators approved a total of nearly $150,000 in funding and grants for tourism development from the pool of money collected through a tax on local hotel and motel rooms. The County will pay the Community Arts Partnership $74,250 for a comprehensive arts marketing plan and consulting services to strengthen individual local arts organizations. A total of $32,140 was granted to 13 community groups including Southside Community Center for Juneteenth 2003, Ithaca Hours for a conference on local currencies in the global economy, and the Tompkins County Chamber Foundation for a hiking and biking brochure. Other grants went to the Hangar Theatre, Discovery Trail, Ithaca Festival, Ithaca Downtown Partnership, Cayuga Chimes, Newfield Historical Society, and the Finger Lakes Runners Club. The grants range from $1,345 to $3,500. Also granted was $9,535 for seven local celebrations including the 150th anniversary of the Newfield Covered Bridge. Contact: Michael Lane, Chair, Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 844-8440.

Tim Joseph, chair of the county legislature, will travel to Albany to testify Thursday morning at a public hearing of two state senate committees concerned with the laws on tax exempt property. The hearings have been called by Senator John Bonacic, chair of the Housing, Construction, and Community Development Committee, and Elizabeth Little, chair of the Local Government Committee. Bonacic and Little have introduced a package of six bills that would, among other things, tighten up the definition of an exempt property, require owners of tax exempt properties to prove the property is used exclusively for tax exempt purposes, and prevent "land banking" by not-for-profits by limiting the exemption on undeveloped land to two years. One of the bills proposes a state reimbursement to municipalities for lost revenue from private, tax-exempt forest land because forests have a statewide benefit. Joseph said he will ask for reimbursement on all state-owned land, including the land-grant portion of Cornell University, on the same premise. 

Several legislators, including the chair, expressed their concern and disappointment that the country is apparently on the brink of war. Michael Koplinka-Loehr (D-Town of Ithaca) announced that he may initiate a fast if the U.S. invades Iraq. Koplinka-Loehr stated, "I am strongly considering starting a fast of undetermined length." Koplinka-Loehr said he is seeking the counsel of his colleagues on the legislature, as well his friends and family. Saying he feels called upon to act as a "moral agent," the Forest Home resident and father of five added that while he understands the physical challenge of such an act, he believes it may be a way to publicly demonstrate his feelings. Contact: Michal Koplinka-Loehr, 257-2329, 255-6668.

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