Highlights of the February 19, 2008 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Legislator Tim Joseph Accepts State Parks Appointment; Legislature Pays Tribute
On his final day of legislative service, long-time legislator and former Legislature Chair Tim Joseph announced he has accepted an appointment as Director of New York State Parks, Finger Lakes Region.  He will assume his new state post on March 3rd.
After 15 years representing District 12 (western portion of Ithaca Town) and serving as Chair of the Legislature from 2002-2007, Mr. Joseph had submitted his resignation, effective today, but was not permitted until late today to make public the nature of his new employment.  “I’m really excited at the prospect of working with parks,” Mr. Joseph stated.  “Parks are one of the most treasured assets of our area and our state.  It’s an honor to be given responsibility for them, and I expect to have a lot of fun in the process.”

A resolution of appreciation, approved unanimously by his colleagues, expresses the Legislature’s official gratitude for Tim Joseph’s leadership and “the many contributions (he) has made toward the quality of life for the citizens of our County.”  The resolution, in part, credits Joseph for redesigning the County budget to make it “more transparent and program-based”; leading the “push back” effort by counties across the state that led the State to cap the rate of increase for counties’ Medicaid costs; and his championing of alternatives to incarceration, resisting State pressure to force the County to build a new and larger jail.  Legislators from both sides of the aisle thanked their colleague for his service, several commenting that, even when they disagreed on issues, they respected his ability and commitment.  Calling this “a historic night,” Legislature chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr praised his departing colleague and his many accomplishments, saying Joseph has left a legacy that will long be remembered in the county’s history.

Presenting a gift on behalf of County department heads, administration and staff, County Administrator Steve Whicher thanked Mr. Joseph for his “outstanding contributions to the taxpayers of Tompkins County,” predicting his example of leadership will be difficult to follow.  “I have truly enjoyed working with you more than anyone in my career,” the administrator stated.  “You are a person of the highest level of integrity; a maverick brave enough to stand for the principles you believe in despite the prevailing thinking; a boss who selflessly gives credit where credit is due and stern corrective action when warranted; a talented mediator; a leader of unusual intellect; and a Chair who ensures that all voices are heard before a vote is taken.”

By unanimous vote (Legislator Kathy Luz-Herrera absent), the Legislature also scheduled a special election on April 22nd to fill Mr. Joseph’s District 12 seat.  The candidate elected will fill the unexpired term through the end of next year.

With Mr. Joseph’s resignation, Chair Koplinka-Loehr has appointed Greg Stevenson to succeed Joseph as Chair of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, and Mike Hattery to replace Stevenson as Chair of Government Operations.

Contact:  Tim Joseph, , 277-2519; Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329; County Administrator Stephen Whicher, 274-5551.

Contract with White Collar Employees Ratified
The Legislature ratified a one-year bargaining agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association, White Collar Unit, which provides a 3 percent increase in base salaries.  The vote was 12-1-1 abstention (Mike Hattery voted no; Greg Stevenson abstained and Kathy Luz-Herrera was absent.)  The agreement, already ratified by union members, extends provisions of the previous four-year agreement, with some minor wording changes.  Health Department on-call payments also increase by 3 percent under the agreement.
Contact:  James Dennis, Chair, Human Resources Committee, 387-4058.

Legislature Funds Purchase of New Voting Machines
The Legislature, by unanimous vote (with Legislator Kathy Luz-Herrera absent), allocated the local matching funds required to purchase voting machines to improve access and participation by voters with disabilities beginning with this fall’s elections.  $41,345.34 will be taken from contingency to provide the required five percent local match for the purchase of 45 Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) – one for each of the county’s polling places –  from the New York State Office of General Services, along with supporting equipment.  Total cost of the machines is $531.695, the bulk of the cost borne by federal funds provided to New York State under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). A balance of approximately $250,000 remains in the County’s HAVA allocation after the machines are purchased.  Last month, the Board of Elections selected the Sequoia Image Cast optical scan system as the BMD to be used in Tompkins County.
Contact:  Greg Stevenson,Chair, Government Operations Committee, 273-2439; Elizabeth Cree (Republican) or Stephen DeWitt (Democrat), 274-5522.

Among other actions, the Legislature

§ Approved by a 10-4 party-line vote, the appointment of Martha Robertson as the voting member and chair Michael Koplinka-Loehr as alternate representative to the Tompkins County Council of Governments.  Legislators Tyke Randall, Mike Sigler, Mike Hattery and Frank Proto voted no.

§ Approved, by a 13-1 vote (Mike Sigler opposed) appointments of seven members to the county Industrial Development Agency.  Appointed were Legislators Kathy Luz Herrera, Mike Koplinka-Loehr and Martha Robertson, Jeff Furman and Dan Cogan as at-large members; and Larry Baum representing the Tompkins County Area Development board of directors.