I'm delighted to announce that I have earned the Working Families Party endorsement for my 2021 race! I shared my policy beliefs and goals via a long application and interview process with WFP members (on Zoom). I'm honored to be endorsed again.
Ithaca Times published an article today about my endorsement along with five other candidates for the Legislature. Check it out!
"The most important part of being on the County Legislature for me is listening to people and guiding them to the information and help they need. Particularly during this difficult period of the global pandemic, I’m grateful to have been in a position to help others,” said Champion (District 12). I'm honored to have the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which is such a vital part of the political landscape and will help me continue to do this work."
For Immediate Release:
Six members of the Tompkins County Legislature announce they are running for reelection in 2021. Five of the six are completing their first term on the Legislature this year, with Dan Klein completing his second term. Terms run four years, and all 14 Legislature seats are up for election this year.
The New York State designating petition period begins February 23rd, with the primary election on June 22nd, and the general election on November 2nd.
Shawna Black (D- District 11, Town of Ithaca) says “I have enjoyed my time serving on the Legislature and have learned the intricacies of how County government operates. As we embark on uncertain times – I look forward to working hard to advocate for the residents in Tompkins County.”
Elected as Vice Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature for three terms from 2019 to 2021, Black has provided leadership and bi-partisan collaboration amongst her colleagues. As Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee for the last three years, Black has focused efforts on homelessness solutions in Tompkins County, mental health awareness, and recently, Covid-19 support.
Amanda Champion (D- District 12, Town of Ithaca) has advocated for environmental protections, health and human services, and transparent government during her time on the Legislature. She has served on the Government Operations Committee (Chair), Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee, Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee, Health and Human Services Committee, and the Complete Count Census Committee (Vice Chair). Additionally, Champion has served as liaison to a variety of agencies including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tompkins County Public Library, and Water Resources Council.
Champion says, “The most important part of this work for me is listening to people and guiding them to the information or help they need. Particularly during this difficult period of the global pandemic, I’m grateful to have been in a position to help others, and hope my neighbors and fellow District 12 residents will see me fit to continue as their representative.”
Contact: www.amandachampion.com or www.facebook.com/amandachampiondistrict12
Deborah Dawson (D- District 10, Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights and a portion of the Town of Ithaca) has served on committees including Budget, Capital, and Personnel, Government Operations, Health and Human Services, Housing and Economic Development, and Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality (Chair), and as a director of the County’s Soil and Water Conservation District and of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit. She is the Legislature’s liaison to the Cayuga Lake Watershed Intermunicipal Organization and to the Climate and Sustainable Energy Advisory Board. Her primary interests have been in the environment, climate change, and energy policy.
Dawson says she is running for reelection “to focus on the two overwhelming challenges that now confront Tompkins County: the fiscal aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the efficient transition to sustainable energy we will need to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
Henry Granison (D- District 3, City of Ithaca) is finishing his first term on the Tompkins County Legislature. Granison currently serves on the following committees: Public Safety, Government Operations (Vice Chair), Housing and Economic Development, and Workforce Diversity and Inclusion (Vice Chair). He is also the Legislature’s liaison to the Advisory Board on Indigent Representation, the Criminal Justice Advisory/Alternatives to Incarceration Board, the Emergency Response and Oversight Committee, the Public Information Advisory Board, the Recreation Partnership, the Strategic Tourism Planning Board, and the Alcohol Drug Council. He was also appointed to the Reimaging Public Safety Working Group.
Granison focuses on issues involving Public Safety, Diversity, and Economic Development.
Dan Klein (D- District 7, Towns of Caroline and Danby and a portion of the Town of Ithaca) is in his second term on the Tompkins County Legislature. Before that, he served for six years on the Danby Town Board. Klein is the Legislative Liaison to the County Office for the Aging Advisory Board, Lifelong, and the Environmental Management Council. Klein is Chair of the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) Board of Directors and the President of the Greensprings Natural Cemetery Board of Trustees. His emphasis is on environmental and good government issues.
Anne Koreman (D-, District 5, Town of Ulysses and a portion of the Towns of Ithaca and Enfield) is running for a second term to continue her service to the people of Tompkins County. Koreman says, “We need to take the important lessons we have learned mitigating the effects of Covid-19 locally and apply those same types of efforts towards justice & equity, the environment, and labor issues.”
During Koreman’s first term she served as Chair of the Workforce Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Vice Chair of Facilities and Infrastructure Committee, and in 2020 was a member of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency where she chaired a committee to research adding a local labor requirement to projects which receive tax abatements. Other committees she has worked on include Housing and Economic Development, Downtown Facilities, and Planning, Development, & Environmental Quality. She has also served as a liaison to the County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board.
I'm happy to announce that I will be running for reelection to the Tompkins County Legislature in 2021!
I have served on the Legislature since 2018, during which time I have been an advocate for environmental protections, health and human services, and good government. I have served on the Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee, the Budget, Capitol, and Personnel Committee, the Health and Human Services Committee, the Complete Count Census Committee, and the Government Operations Committee, which I chaired in 2020 and will chair in 2021. Additionally, I have served as liaison or member to a variety of agency boards including, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Tompkins County Public Library, County Office for the Aging, Health Planning Council, Environmental Management Council and Waste Reduction subcommittee, Water Resources Council and HABs subcommittee, and Public Information Advisory Board.
A few of the projects I have focused on include fighting for a local plastic bag ban, supporting the TC Poet Laureate program, passing a policy to cease purchase of plastics and Styrofoam within County operations, revising the County forest management plan, updating the County website, undertaking a revision of the Rules of the Legislature, and more.
“I’m proud to serve the people of the Town of Ithaca as their County Legislator. It has been an incredible learning experience to get to know the policies and procedures of County government and I feel honored to have a seat at the table. Most importantly, I have learned that this job is about listening to people, hearing their concerns, and doing what I can to connect them to the help they need. Particularly during this difficult year of 2020, I see my role as a conduit between the constantly shifting landscape of our government response to Covid-19 and the people who very much need information and support. It has been a tough year and I’m grateful to have been in a position to help others.
I am excited to serve the community for another four years as a Legislator, and hope my neighbors and fellow District 12 residents will see me fit to continue in this position.”
All 14 Legislature seats are up for election this year. The designated petitioning process begins February 23rd, with the primary on June 22nd, and the general election on November 2nd. Find more information at the Tompkins County Board of Elections.
When I think of a budget, I think of a bunch of numbers that either do or don't add up. Each of those numbers has a value, meaning they correspond to a "magnitude; quantity; number represented by a figure, symbol, or the like" (dictionary.com). Budget numbers are represented by this symbol $$$.
But as the Tompkins County Legislature moves into budget season, I'm coming to understand the phrase a government's budget is a statement of its values. A budget is a bunch of $$$ indeed, but it's not the symbols that matter. It's what underlies them that defines the principles, the "the quality (positive or negative) that renders something desirable" (vocabulary.com), the values that we want to live by.
But we start with the numbers. Over the past few months, Tompkins County Administrator, Jason Molino and his staff spent much time talking with the 45+ departments and agencies in the County about what they need to keep their operations going, and what they need or want to enhance their department. The result of this work was a presentation to last Tuesday to the Legislature of the draft 2019 budget.
What we're working with is, (to borrow from the County's press release) "total expenditures of $186.5 million (an increase of 2.57%) and local dollar spending of $89.9 million (an increase of 2.05%). The budget is balanced with a 1.43% increase in the County property tax levy, which is less than the Legislature’s 2.2% levy goal, and well below the County’s tax cap."
Scroll down all those lists of numbers and you'll see that the bottom line for the property owner is an increase on their tax bill of about $15 (for the median assessed property of $185,000).
Last year at this time, I was sitting in the audience of the Legislature with my knitting, watching the Legislators with their giant budget books filled with page after page of numbers, trying to decipher the process. This year, I get to participate every step of the way (and still intend to bring my knitting).
Thursday evening, we had our first Expanded Budget Committee Meeting, which equaled three hours of presentations by some of the department and agency heads. They each took a turn explaining their budget and the extras they are asking for - called Over Target Requests (OTRs). We heard from the County Clerk, The History Center, Transportation Planning, the Tompkins County Soil and Water Conservation District, Board of Elections, Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR), Animal Control/SPCA, the County Historian, and the Legislative Clerk. Each was followed by a chance for Legislators to ask questions.
For the next month, we'll meet six times to listen to such presentations and weigh the importance of each department and each OTR. We'll look at their quantitative value along with their qualitative value. Eventually, in October, we'll move to voting meetings, where any Legislator can move to add an OTR or other amendment to the budget. If the item gets eight votes, the majority, it will be added to the full budget. Then, when all that is done, we'll need to get eight votes on the entire budget to make it official for 2019.
I ran into a neighbor and constituent the other day at the grocery store and mentioned budget season. When I told him we're working with $186 million, he reminded me that "That's a huge responsibility!" Indeed, and not something I take lightly.
From the past eight months of work on the Legislature, I have an understanding of what each department does, but listening to each presentation, I got a better sense of who each department is, what population they serve, and what their values are. And it's that last one that is most important. The budget process won't be simple, but when I hear the numbers, the principles, the positive qualities that align with my own, raising my hand to vote for those values will be easy.
The question I hear most often these days is, How's it going?
When I run into old friends from Cedar's elementary school, or cross paths with constituents I haven't seen in a few months, or sit down with a department head to learn about their agency, it's the inevitable question: How's the new job going?
People are curious. Hell, I've been curious myself as to how this would go. As you know, I'm just a regular person who decided it was time to serve my community, and I've never been friends with or worked much at all with any elected officials. My previous interactions with elected officials include: I emailed with Barbara Lifton in 2017 regarding the Women's March; I got to know Will Burbank and Martha Robertson while I was campaigning last year; and I had the opportunity to shake Bill Clinton's hand once, back when he was President, but I refused because I was so mad at him for cheating on his wife.
So yeah, pretty much zero elected official interaction. So if someone I knew ran for office and won, my first question would definitely be, How's it going?
What I think people mean to ask is: What's it like? Are politicians as shady and shifty as the media portrays them? Is all the work worth the small paycheck? I saw you in the news, wasn't that cool? But mainly, I think they mean: How the hell are you coping with such a thankless and controversial job?
Part of the answer to the question is in my daily activities. On one Monday in April I went to the Department of Health for the Health Planning Council meeting, where I learned about the success of the HIV prevention drug. Then I met with Will to catch up and ask for a little advice. Then I attended the Health and Human Services committee meeting, where I am a member, and we discussed the County's medical examiner program and the Human Services Coalition's 211 program.
The next day, I met with one of the County's planners to look at maps and discuss the County forest land we own in Newfield. Then I met with one of the guys from IT to get oriented to my brand new County-issued laptop. Later in the day, I joined a group of concerned neighbors at one of my constituents' homes to discuss issues in their neighborhood.
In between all that, I've been reading emails and articles about the airport expansion, plastic bag bans, Safe Injection Facilities, and agendas for upcoming meetings of the Library Board, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Environmental Management Council.
When I look at this list, I feel like I have the best job in the world. Not one aspect of it was repetitive, mundane, or boring. And I'm a person who doesn't take kindly to mundanity.
As for the pay, I'm not in this for the money. I receive about $1200 a month, after taxes and health insurance costs have been taken out. The past few months I've had to keep track of my hours to show the NYS retirement system my average work amount, which has been about 40 hours per week. So, you can do the math there.
Politicians are a shady lot. It's a pretty standard stereotype. Just look at Albany or Washington. Here in Tompkins County, so far, I believe things are different.
I haven't become friends with all the other Legislators (though a couple, I have). I don't hold the same values as they all do. I don't vote one way or another because someone told me to or tried to coerce me.
Each of our votes counts the same. One time. We can debate, argue, or try to beat each other down with facts and figures from our side. TC Legislators are an opinionated, loud, passionate bunch. Most of us can easily get swept up in emotion of a topic. But I don't see corruption, coercion, underhanded dealings. Instead, what I see are a group of people trying to do their best for the people they represent. Their way of thinking might be different from mine, but what matters is that at the end of the day, I am trying to be my best self, and I believe they are doing the same.
So, you ask, How's it going?
My answer is that it is intense. It's busy--I have meetings every day, one day I had six. It's overwhelming--there are hundreds of pages of reports, articles, studies, and other documents to read every week. It's emotional--when I'm passionate about something, I'm passionately fighting for it, and that takes a toll. It's a huge learning curve--I knew nothing about Robert's Rules, how most County departments are run, and the hardest one for me, speaking in public (hence the reason I am a writer).
But it is also fun--some of us make jokes and laugh at any and every opportunity. It's entertaining--I've seen some great presentations, been on a dozen awesome facilities tours, and many of my advisory board assignments offer cake, cookies, or dinner each time! It's never, ever dull--there have been rousing debates over hot topics, a chance to meet Chuck Schumer, and an insightful LGBTQ+ sensitivity in the workplace training.
It's worth it. I'm contributing. I'm making choices for my community. I'm seeing, from the inside, the power that Democracy holds, and the responsibility that comes with having a seat at the table. All that adds up to make me think that it's going pretty damn well.