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Highlights of the May 17, 2022 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature

Office of Employment and Training Program Approved

An employer education and training program of Tompkins Workforce New York’s Office of Employment and Training was supported by the Legislature. Director of the Office, Jackie Mouillesseaux, described the program, stating “This is to target employers. Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the need for employers to expand their perception of who is employable in the workplace… it is going to be key for employers to be prepared to employ those individuals.”  Mouillesseaux continued, “We have such a low unemployment rate and want to address barriers people from marginalized populations are facing. There is a real need to shift the culture in workplaces, so workers and employers can be successful. We hear from employers constantly about challenges hiring and retaining staff.” The program is estimated to cost $40,000 with the County supporting one half of the cost. Legislator Greg Mezey (D-Dryden) stated, “I think it’s great that we’re doing things for employers as well. This is needed to equip our workforce providers with the tools [they need].” Mezey added that he’s looking forward to seeing the measures of success for the program.

As more details on the program are available they will be communicated directly to businesses and through the County’s workforce programs email newsletter.

Legislators Speak Out Against Racist Shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.

In her Chair’s Report, Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black (D-Ithaca) stated, “I wish I could say it was unimaginable, but it’s one in a string of many hate crimes done in the name of white supremacy – this pattern has to stop. I know we all shared the horror when news broke this weekend, and as we learned that the criminal was from the Southern Tier, having sought out a majority Black neighborhood in Western New York to target. We have a role to play in addressing hate, gun violence, teaching tolerance, and protecting people of color in our community and region. Equity and justice aren’t just something we put on paper, it has to be done through our actions and commitments, here and across our state and country.”

Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden) stated, “The people of Buffalo are great people… They don’t deserve what happened this week. This is the second time for us here in this part of Upstate New York in the past decade or so where minorities have been murdered senselessly.” Lane continued, “There are young people that are susceptible to the evils of our electronic society, sucked in by trolls, conspiracy theorists who preach lies and try to blame and scapegoat ‘somebody else.’ It’s not what we’re about. White supremacy is a lie… We have to say, when something like this happens, ‘stop.’ We have to work together peacefully, but strongly. We can’t let this go on.”

Legislator Anne Koreman (D-Ulysses) added, “In Tompkins County we respect different cultures and different races,” and spoke about victims in more detail, “aged 20-86, shopping at a grocery store just a couple of hundred miles from here, all 10 were Black.” Koreman continued, reading the names of the victims, stating, “I grieve with their families, my heart goes out to them, the County, the City, their families. This was a hate crime, meant to instill fear. This should affect all of us, we shouldn’t just expect people of color to change things, it’s our duty to help fight it.”

Legislator Travis Brooks (D-Ithaca) stated, “I really appreciate my colleagues speaking out and against [this tragedy]. It’s exhausting, it’s the world that I live in, that my friends and family and kids live in.”

Legislator Veronica Pillar (D-Ithaca) stated, “This was a racist hate crime. The person who did this drove all the way to target Black people specifically.” Pillar added that the supermarket where the shooting happened is in a food desert, highlighting the mutual aid supporting the community in Buffalo. Pillar continued, “The theory the killer espoused … is mainstream. You hear folks on big news channels bringing these same ideas. When we talk about stepping up to prevent this kind of thing in the future, it’s taking into account the danger of these hateful ideas… even if it is just commenting on the internet, if left to spread it can kill people. I hope we all will be more vigilant.”

Legislator Rich John (D-Ithaca) stated, “Some reassessment of how we deal with guns in our society is long overdue.” Adding, “We can change things about the gun culture in our country. We could get there if we had the will to do it.”

Among Other Business

A public hearing date was set to review a local law that would extend the Legislature’s allowance of remote attendance by voting members in extenuating circumstances. The hearing will be before the next Legislature meeting, at 5:30pm on June 7. The public and County staff will still be able to join meetings remotely via zoom.

The Newfield Varsity Boys Basketball Team was celebrated, having won the State Championship. Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black “It is with the highest honor that I read this proclamation, written by Newfield Legislator Randy Brown.” The resolution named each of the team’s players and listed their accomplishments including the 2022 State Class “C” Championship. Players and Newfield Head Coach Michael Nembhard accepted the proclamation, with Coach Nembhard stating “Thank you for inviting us here and acknowledging the hard work of ‘my guys.’ This season has been very challenging, but we set a goal at the beginning of the season, and we did it. It took a lot of resilience, dedication, and heart to be state champs. I’m grateful to be a part of the history of Newfield.”

A proclamation was read recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month. Chairwoman Black read the proclamation that detailed challenges around mental health and treatments and supports available in the community. Public Health Director Frank Kruppa accepted the proclamation, stating “One of the things that came forward in this proclamation is that the entire community must come together to meet the needs… we’re asking everyone to do their part in bringing to bear what we need to help everyone live their best lives.”

A proclamation was read acknowledging Hepatitis Awareness Month. Public Health Director Frank Kruppa accepted the proclamation and thanked REACH Medical, a community partner who has made it core to their medical practice and has done an “amazing job of supporting the community dealing with Hepatitis.”

Older Americans Month was celebrated via proclamation, which included recognition of issues faced by older Americans and how Tompkins County is working to build a better community for older Americans. Director of the Tompkins County Office for the Aging, Lisa Monroe thanked the Legislators and reiterated this year’s theme of “Age My Way,” adding that there’s no right or wrong way to age and supporting and affirming older adults can have a big impact. The Tompkins County Office for the Aging recently published a video highlighting their services for older adults and caregivers.