November 21, 2002

Council Discusses Reinstating Sales Tax

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Yesterday’s meeting of the Ithaca Common Council covered the issues of a new sales tax, the Cayuga Green Project and the recent line item veto by Mayor Alan Cohen ’81.

Sales tax on clothing and shoes sold within Ithaca was first on the agenda. When Tompkins County eliminated this tax last year, Ithaca followed suit. On Tuesday, the county board reversed their decision, deciding to reinstate the tax. A brief discussion period by the Common Council showed Ithaca following the county’s lead again.

“This is not one of those things that you love to vote for,” said council member Pat Vaughan (D-3rd Ward). “It is the lesser of two evils and the greater of two evils is that we throw an extra 3 percent on the backs of the taxpayers.”

Other members expressed similar opinions and the reinstatement of the clothing sales tax passed unanimously.

The ongoing Cayuga Green Project was also reviewed by the council at the meeting. This stage in the Cayuga Green Project outlined the details of the construction of a new parking garage on the corner of Cayuga and Clinton Streets, just one of the many improvements planned as part of the overall project.

Mayor Cohen supported the resolution saying, “This is truly going to change the face of downtown and ensure the long-term strength and vitality of our downtown.”

The strongest opposition in discussion, and the only opposing vote, came from council member Susan Blumenthal.

“I am a strong supporter of downtown development but planning for this project has been poorly executed,” Blumenthal said.

The resolution passed nine to one.

Four local residents spoke to protest the mayor’s recent line item veto, which removes the position of typist from the Ithaca Police Department. Among them were Lauren Signer, Ithaca Chief of Police and Charlotte Polloq who had recently been performing those duties.

Polloq described how the position has benefited the police department, by bringing the department’s records up-to-date. She also mentioned the potential for joining a shared electronic database with other police departments.

Francis Braekin, local resident, also asked the council to overturn the mayor’s veto.

“The effectiveness and the efficiency of your police department depends on this position,” Braekin said.

Similar opinions were expressed by other speakers as well.

“Public safety should be our first and foremost [concern],” said Fay Gougakis, local resident. “This position informs the rest of the county, how crucial is that?”

Police Chief Signer brought up the need for the typist position to take advantage of government grants that are currently being offered. One such grant would pay 75 percent of the cost required to join a digital database of fingerprints and mugshots.

The council, however, did not feel that the typist position was essential.

“What we’re talking about here is a time specific project to justify a long-term position,” Cohen said.

Despite the protests, no motion was made to overturn the veto.

Archived article by Courtney Potts