Cortland Common Council looks to extend term length to four years

City Hall (Cortland Voice file photo)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — City lawmakers may add a new measure to the November 2019 ballot that would extend the two-year term of elected council members and mayor to four-years.

Mayor Brian Tobin said he suggested the idea at the last city council meeting after hearing that the Village of Homer Board of Trustees and the Cortland County Legislature were pursuing similar ambitions.

Changing the term of office for the mayor and council members requires a mandatory voter referendum. A public hearing and consideration of a local law will be the first steps in potentially changing the legislators’ terms from two years to four years. If the local law is approved, the proposal will then be on local ballots in November. If taxpayers vote to ratify the lengthening of legislators’ terms, the change will come into effect in the subsequent term beginning in 2022.

“Personally, I like the accountability of the shorter term,” Second Ward Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman said at Tuesday evening’s meeting. “I like that it allows people who maybe bit off more than they could chew to bow out after two years.”

Fifth Ward Alderman Bill Carpenter acknowledged Silliman’s comments but held a different opinion on the issue.

“There’s a lot of things to get accomplished, and it’s hard in two years. All of a sudden, you turn around, and you have another re-election.” Carpenter said. “The four-year term will be a lot easier to get a lot of things accomplished in your ward and for your constituents.”

Silliman said it would be a good idea for council members to consider and discuss the ethics, expectations, and consequences of changing the term length of elected officials.

“I have no problem putting it on the ballot and leaving it up the public,” Fourth Ward Alderman John Bennett said. However, Bennett said he is concerned for potential confusion between city and county measures on the ballot: “I can see the confusion of voters not being clear if this is a county or city referendum,” Bennett said.

After much discussion, council members decided to move forward with the proposal of a local law. A public hearing date has not yet been set.

At its January 24 meeting, Cortland County legislators voted to extend the term of office for county lawmakers from two years to four years. This law will also be subject to a mandatory referendum in November. If voters approve the measure, the law would not apply until after the next two-year term has expired, in 2022.

Restricting Parking on Tompkins Street

City legislators set a date for a public hearing to eliminate parking for safety reasons at 206-208 Tompkins Street, where Jason McRae’s Stupid Choppers is currently operating. The hearing will take place on Tuesday, March, 5.

Alderman Bennett suggested the idea to council after noticing the potential danger to public safety because of the area’s high traffic and decreased visibility from parked cars.

Sixth Ward Alderman Carlos Ferrer added that city lawmakers should also consider eliminating parking on the opposite side of the street.

If approved, the local law will eliminate parking from the corner of Levydale Park to the existing no parking zone at the railroad tracks on the north side of Tompkins Street; and on the opposite side of the street, from the railroad tracks to the existing no parking at the American Legion. The implementation of no parking on each side of the street will eliminate roughly ten parking spots, city officials said.

Settling with Ramada

City council members unanimously approved a resolution to enter into a settlement agreement regarding property taxes, sewer special assessment, and water and sewer usage charges with the Ramada Inn in Cortland.

The hotel owes the city $458,925 in 2017 and 2018 property taxes and sewer special assessments; $14,598 in water usage charges; $14,4774 in sewer usage charges; and $47,814 in interest on the outstanding debt. The city resolved to forego the interest owed and accept settlement of $497,471.

Porchfest, Halloween Parade get approvals

Common Council unanimously approved the special event application along with other required applications for Porchfest on Sunday, August 18, 2019. Council also waived the $250 amplified music fee for Porchfest.

Council accepted a Special Event Application for the Cortland County Halloween Parade. In recent years, the parade was a collaborative effort between the Cortland Downtown Partnership and the Cortland Elks Lodge, but the Cortland Elks Lodge will now solely be sponsoring the event.