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Highlights of the March 7, 2023 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen Recognized

The Legislature recognized outgoing County Historian Carol Kammen with a proclamation. Many of Kammen’s peers shared in the celebration by joining the meeting and offering comments on her tenure as historian and impact on the community through the study and promotion of history. Kammen served in the role of County Historian for 23 years.

The County’s proclamation declared March of 2023 CAROL K. KAMMEN WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH in Tompkins County, and stated the following:

Carol has devoted her adult life to researching, documenting, and communicating the rich history of Tompkins County and, especially, to bringing to rightful prominence the contributions of those often confined to the margins of history: women, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants, and those of lesser means and status.

Much of what is known about the history of Tompkins County is the result of the research and writings of Carol as chronicled in editorials for the magazine History News, countless weekly columns in the Ithaca Journal, and over 20 books that are frequently used in classrooms throughout the U.S. as a lens on studying local history.

County Approves $4,553 Fee Coverage for Encampment Cleanup by City DPW

A resolution passed 13-1 (Legislator Deborah Dawson opposed) authorizing the use of $4,553 from the County’s contingent fund to cover the costs of the City of Ithaca’s cleanup of encampment sites. A proposed amendment failed 6-8 that would have required half of the cost to be paid by the City rather than covering it in full as was initially proposed. The Legislature did not commit to covering future fees for similar deliveries by the City following future encampment cleanups.

Among Other Business

Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) spoke on the recent rise in anti-trans rhetoric and laws being passed in some states and communities negatively impacting transgender rights. Pillar stated, “This is inhumane and terrifying…” adding further reflection on the freedoms at risk by this rhetoric and these laws. Pillar spoke about New York State and Tompkins County protections for gender expression and identify, “I’m happy that we have some strong trans and queer community in this County supporting each other” and gave shout outs to those organizations and the Tompkins County Public Library for their efforts to affirm gender non-conforming individuals and communities. Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) thanked Pillar and spoke about what she’s been seeing about these issues, sharing that she’s open to doing more locally to support people facing these challenges.

The Legislature unanimously (14-0) accepted a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, totaling $160,000 to fund a Tompkins County Strategic Operations Plan. Tompkins County Administrator Lisa Holmes spoke about the plan as an opportunity to set the strategic direction for the organization and that it would be a tool to help consider future investments and programs put in place by the County.

During his report from the Health and Human Services Committee, Legislator Dan Klein (D-Danby) spoke about a presentation from Cayuga Health System CEO Dr. Martin Stallone on the COVID-19 response and programs in-part supported by the County Legislature including community testing.

Almost 2 million tests have been given to Tompkins County residents. County funding paid for over 75,000 tests to residents who had no other funding source. Our testing rate was 29%. The next closest county was at 9%. By using statistical analysis, the estimate is that 181 lives were saved in Tompkins County because of the testing program, the highest in New York State.

We also tested almost a million people from out-of-county. The surrounding counties had lower death rates than the state average, so it is possible that our program had a “halo effect” on Cortland and Schuyler Counties, and possibly others.

Dr. Stallone used the word “herculean” several times to describe the efforts that happened in Tompkins County. I think that is a fitting word to describe what was accomplished by Cayuga Health Systems, County Administration, Tompkins Whole Health, and probably others that I am not aware of. Right after the committee meeting, I went to a retirement party for one of our longtime employees. At this event there were two nurses from Whole Health who spent much of the pandemic working long, long days doing contract tracing. It was a reminder for me of the special thanks we owe these nurses and the other County employees who stepped in to go above and beyond for the public good.