November 12, 2007

Last Week in Review

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Council Approves Tax Hike
The Common Council voted last Wednesday to approve the 2008 budget for the City of Ithaca. Property taxes will be raised by 3.85 percent from their current level to balance the deficit between the City’s expenditures and its revenue for next year. This percentage is a compromise between the 3.75 percent increase recommended by Mayor Carolyn Peterson and the 4.04 percent increase suggested by the Common Council.
The tax burden on Ithaca residents has been a frequent point of contention in public discussions regarding the budget. Cornell University’s tax exempt status compels the remaining 30 percent of Ithaca’s landowners to support the City’s budget, because a combined 70 percent of Ithaca is property tax-exempt, and the University owns 97 percent of that tax-exempt property.
The Common Council vote also included a salary increase for its members and the Mayor, from $7,000 to $9,641 and $51,750 to $53,561, respectively.
Other public services slated to receive increased amounts of funding next year are the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and TCAT. The SPCA’s budget will be doubled from $43,000 to $86,000 after the Common Council was informed late into the budgetary process that it required extra funding to avoid bankruptcy.

S.A. Passes Mental Health Initiative
For Asian Students
Last Thursday the Student Assembly passed a resolution regarding physical and mental health issues facing the Asian and Asian-American student communities at Cornell.
The foundation for the resolution was a report commissioned by Vice President Susan Murphy ’73 and Provost Biddy Martin in 2002, looking at various aspects of the health of Asian and Asian-American Cornell students and presenting possible solutions to problems the community faces. The report found that Asian and Asian-American students at Cornell were less likely to utilize mental health resources, such as Gannett or Cornell Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
The 2004 report gave two recommendations: the establishment of an Asian and Asian-American cultural center on campus and the creation of a staff position to support Asian students and promote different cultural and counseling programs. While the administration has already created an assistant dean position for Asian and Asian-American support, it has yet to create a centralized community center. The establishment of such a center went before the S.A. Thursday. The resolution did eventually pass after a lengthy debate in which several concerns were raised. One of the recurring concerns was that the center would further remove Asians and Asian-Americans from the greater Cornell community.

C.U. Text Alert Test Proves Inconsistent
An effort by Cornell to test its new emergency system last Wednesday proved inconsistent. Many students reported receiving the alerts long after the targeted time — or not receiving them at all. According to Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, the goal was to send all messages — whether via text message, voice message or e-mail — by 12:15 p.m. In order to have been sent a message, students had to have submitted current information to Yet, several students who reported providing the information did not get text messages, while other received them as late as 5 p.m. According to Richard McDaniel, vice president for risk management and public safety, over 2,700 voice messages were delivered in little over six minutes. Issues related to the text messaging and e-mail system are being investigated.