Highlights of the February 3, 2009 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature

Robertson Resigns as Legislature Vice Chair, McBean-Clairborne Elected.  Koplinka-Loehr Remains Chair
Nearly a month after disputed leadership elections, the County Legislature sought to put to rest the issue of who will lead the Legislature during 2009, but it took more than two hours of debate to reach that conclusion.  Martha Robertson, who has served as Vice Chair over the past month, resigned from the position, saying she would not pursue the position of Chair or Vice Chair this year.  Robertson, joined by several of her Democrat colleagues, urged Chair Michael Koplinka-Loehr to follow suit, maintaining that the approach of having both chair and vice chair resign, then holding new elections would be the clearest and simplest approach to resolve the issue.  Koplinka-Loehr, however, declined to resign, saying “my goal is to serve all residents for the public good…and this action is not in the good of the people of Tompkins County.”  Robertson’s resignation as vice chair was accepted by a vote of 11-3 (Legislators Dooley Kiefer, Frank Proto and Tyke Randall opposed and Kathy Luz Herrera excused at the time of the vote.)  Proto was one who questioned whether resignation was needed, since he continued to maintain that the election of Robertson as vice chair was invalid.

Legislator Dooley Kiefer then advanced a resolution to rescind the January 6 election of Koplinka-Loehr as Chair “for reasons of mismanagement and other faults” and to hold a new chair’s election.  Koplinka-Loehr stated his firm belief that the election-related error he made on January 6 did not meet the threshold of neglect of duty or misconduct and that such a vote would set a troubling precedent.  Kiefer repeated that her loss of confidence in the chair extends beyond the voting issue.  Republican Mike Hattery described the January decision for chair a “clean 11-4 vote,” which he said shouldn’t be put aside for political considerations.  After a motion to table until later in the meeting failed 6-9, the proposal to rescind the chair’s election failed by a vote of 7-8 (Legislators Mike Sigler, Greg Stevenson, Hattery, Kathy Luz Herrera, McBean-Clairborne, Proto, Randall and Koplinka-Loehr voting no.)  Robertson later withdrew her alternate motion to hold a new chair’s election.

Nominated for Vice Chair and elected by unanimous vote, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne expressed concern about the internal damage the election issue has caused, saying “it comes to a point where we are so divided, (the vice chair position) is not a comfortable place to be.”  With internal trust eroded, she urged her colleagues to figure out a way to move the issue forward, to get past the issue and get on with business, so that the Legislature can “get to a point of healing and working together.”

Despite the conflict, Chair Koplinka-Loehr characterized the debate as “a gift,” with legislators displaying grace and courage when dealing with a difficult situation.
Contact:  Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329; Vice Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, 277-5104; Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584.

Challenge, Optimism Reflected in Chair’s “State of the County” Message
Despite starting the year with a very public internal challenge, Chair Michael Koplinka-Loehr in his annual “State of the County” message predicted that it will be the County’s external challenges, based on worsening fiscal realities, that will demand the County’s collective resources in 2009 to meet community needs.  Although he cautioned that  fiscal uncertainties will make governing in the year ahead more challenging, the Chair expressed confidence that Tompkins County, with the collective expertise and commitment of its department heads, managers, workforce and legislators, is well-poised to excel in its operations to meet those considerable challenges and to achieve the long-term public good of the County’s citizens.

Mr. Koplinka-Loehr called 2008 “a year of transition” for Tompkins County.  He cited more than five dozen achievements during 2008 for the County’s department, which he characterized as “Points of Pride” for county residents.  He pledged that the County will “take advantage of every opportunity embedded in the present challenges to more professionally serve our citizens, while investing in effective strategies to better position us to meet the future needs of the public as they emerge” and predicted that the County, with “exceptional local resources to meet every challenge with vision and common purpose,”  is “well prepared for the uncertainty ahead.”

Chair Koplinka-Loehr identified eleven key areas of organizational focus-chief among them maintaining community-wide economic security for taxpayers and those who rely on the County for services; demonstrating public value for every tax dollar through performance management tools; and deepening partnerships with public and private stakeholders to ensure a vital quality of life for decades to come.  Among six 2009 legislative standing committees is a newly-titled Government Performance and Workforce Relations Committee, which will, in part, address performance management issues.  The Chair has asked the 2009 Budget, Capital and Finance Committee and the Health and Human Services to assist the organization to address economic security for community residents and organizations, with the Planning, Development and Environmental Quality, Facilities and Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committees working to achieve common community-wide goals with the assistance of local institutional partners and advisory board members.

“Tompkins County is healthy, financially strong and resilient in our capacity to meet the economic and social environment threatening to overwhelm us,” Chair Koplinka-Loehr concluded.  “It is the people of this county-our county employees, leaders and legislators, and ultimately, YOU-community residents who are both our board of directors and those whom we serve-who are our strongest source of ingenuity, caring, and mutual support-and who allow us to be able to turn adversity into achievement.  With so much important work before us, taking pride in the existing strength of our Tompkins County teamwork will inspire our hearts and minds for the demanding and ultimately satisfying tasks ahead. For we hold to a common purpose:  improving our community in the present for the benefit of generations to come.”

The Chair’s full message is posted online at www.tompkins-co.org .
Contact:  Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329.

2009 Committees Assignments
For 2009, Chair Michael Koplinka-Loehr has appointed six standing committees, consolidating the 2008 Government Operations and Human Resources Committees, the new committee to be chaired by Nathan Shinagawa.  A number of committee chairmanships have changed.  James Dennis replaces Shinagawa as chair of the Budget committee; Pamela Mackesey succeeds Martha Robertson as chair of the Planning committee, with Robertson moving over to Public Safety, succeeding Greg Stevenson as chair.  A new special committee, to oversee Legislative Rules and Procedures, will be chaired by Dooley Kiefer.  

Committee assignments are as follows:

Budget, Capital and Finance:  James Dennis, Chair; Michel Hattery, Vice Chair; Kathy Luz Herrera; Nathan Shinagawa; Pamela Mackesey

Government Performance & Workforce Relations:  Nathan Shinagawa, Chair; Dooley Kiefer, Vice Chair; Leslyn McBean-Clairborne; James Dennis; Michael Hattery

Health and Human Services:  Frank Proto, Chair; Will Burbank, Vice Chair; Greg Stevenson; Martha Robertson; Duane Tyke Randall

Planning, Development and Environmental Quality:  Pamela Mackesey, Chair; Carol Chock; Martha Robertson; Frank Proto; Will Burbank

Facilities and Infrastructure:  Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, Chair; Kathy Luz Herrera, Vice Chair; Dooley Kiefer; Duane Tyke Randall; Michael Sigler

Public Safety:  Martha Robertson, Chair; Michael Sigler, Vice Chair; Greg Stevenson; James Dennis; Carol Chock

Special Committee - Legislative Rules and Procedures:  Dooley Kiefer, Chair; Michael Hattery, Vice Chair; Frank Proto.

Among Chair Koplinka-Loehr’s other appointments is that of Ithacan Joseph (Jay) Leeming as the County’s Poet Laureate for 2009.  

Contact:  Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Chair of the Legislature 274-5434 or 257-2329.

Among other actions, Legislators

§   Began to discuss, then sent to committee for further review, two alternate member-filed proposals to set salaries of County Legislators for the term beginning in January 2010.  One of the versions would increase legislators’ salaries to $19,450 for next year; the alternate would keep salaries at the current level, $18,700.

§   Heard from County Administrator Joe Mareane about potential projects identified and preparations being made to advance the County’s case for funding as part of the federal stimulus package.

§   Authorized an increase in ground transportation fees at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Aiport and approved five-year lease agreements for rental car franchises (Avis/Budget and Hertz) at the airport.

§   Extended the County’s commitment to pay the difference in pay between military pay and base county salary to county officers and employees performing ordered military duty.

Highlights of Legislature meetings

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