This page contains links to background information related to the major issues facing City government. It’s not intended to be a comprehensive list so much as a way of tracking my progress in learning about these issues and how they’ve been addressed (or failed to be addressed) in other places and times.

Economic Recovery

NY State’s new Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), the 2021 act, was signed into law on April 16, 2021. It uses a combination of state and federal funding to provide up to 15 months’ back rent for tenants affected by COVID19. Eligibility requirements must be met and landlord consent is needed. This link provides information on the requirements and application process.

A local, more limited INHS rent relief program, funded last year through repurposed Community Development Block Grant funds.

Pandemic Response and Recovery presentation from Ithaca’s Deputy Director for Economic Development — presented at our 5/5/2021 Common Council meeting, starts at 19:20.

City of Ithaca income distribution by age, sex, race/ethnicity, family type, etc., pre-COVID:

Tompkins County demographic information, pre-COVID:,

Community Wealth, a national organization that seeks to improve networking and information sharing among community wealth building organizations across the US.

Results of a recent experiment on alleviating poverty by (go figure) giving people money.

Public Safety

The NY “Say Their Name” reform package, signed into law in June 2020 in response to the George Floyd protests. This was a precursor to the Reimagining Public Safety executive order.

The NY executive order that launched Reimagining Public Safety initiatives across the state. Note that our local government entities were legally required by this executive order both to engage in the process and submit a plan by the April 1, 2021 deadline, with a financial threat to force compliance.

Ithaca and Tompkins County collaborated on their plans; more information is available here.

Here is our previous attempt to reimagine law enforcement, in 2017:

Public safety plans from neighboring towns:

News coverage about the collaboration between the City and the County, which includes a link to the Center for Policing Equity, a national organization that helped draft our local public safety plan.

Active bystander training for police, a program to train officers to intervene in situations where fellow officers are acting inappropriately.

NPR program about police reform in Camden, NJ.

The Cannabis Law.

Affordable Housing

A series that explores ways in which low-income communities have used creative placemaking to enhance their neighborhoods, expand opportunities, improve equity, and resist displacement and gentrification.

Property taxes are a hot topic in the neighborhood as I’ve been canvassing, and I haven’t spoken to anyone yet who’s satisfied with their own tax burden. But it’s almost impossible for any of us to know just how our neighbors’ properties are valued relative to our own, so most of the frustration is directed at the tax abatements given to new developments. This study leaves me wondering how much we might be overcharging our poorest homeowners, even without considering those tax abatements.

One aspect of Ithaca’s housing situation that concerns many residents is the high proportion of rentals over owner occupied housing, and the predominance of rental units in new development. One possible way to expand affordable homeownership options would be to encourage condo or coop development or conversion. The following links explore how this approach has played out in NYC and other parts of NY State.

Community land trusts are often seen as a promising way to keep prices low, but how they’re structured can have a big impact. Restrictions on resale prices can reduce the benefits associated with ownership, and if maintenance costs are not adequately addressed ownership can be risky for lower-income residents. Here is a list of community land trusts around the US, that can serve as examples (either to replicate or critique.)

The Community Housing Trust at INHS. House appreciation is capped at 2% per year.

Green New Deal

Maps of a variety of expected impacts of climate change across the US. This is useful both for evaluating how we need to prepare for the direct impacts of climate on our bioregion, and also for anticipating how we will be affected by human migration as climate impacts are felt in other parts of the country.

Ithaca’s newly energy code for new construction, adopted by Common Council on May 5, 2021:

Reducing car dependence is a key part of planning for sustainability. The main alternatives to cars are walking, cycling, and public transit. The goal is to create convenient car-free connections between housing, work, retail, and leisure activities. The layout and design of our neighborhoods, streets and sidewalks is an important factor, and so are traffic patterns and traffic safety, as pedestrians and bicyclists are much more impacted by safety hazards than drivers.

Comprehensive plans from the City, Town and County:

Resources related to bike/walk/ride and traffic safety:

Other thoughts: Mixed-use development is a standard approach to bringing retail closer to homes, as an alternative to mall strips designed for car shopping. One of the major challenges is one of scale. Much of modern-day retail requires large and concentrated customer populations, and is one of the driving forces behind the move toward high-density high-rise housing. During the car era, big box stores supplanted small neighborhood stores because they were able to carry a broader inventory, and driving to the mall was no less convenient than walking to the corner store. Now online shopping is replacing big box stores, because you can order anything online from the comfort of your own home. During COVID that trend was accelerated, and even local retail started to depend on online ordering and curbside pickup or (expensive and labor-intensive) home delivery services. We should take the next step in this progression, and develop infrastructure that makes neighborhood retail viable again, by bringing the power of the internet to the corner store.

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