By Rob Montana
With at least 20 people announcing their plans to run for Tompkins County Legislature in the fall, Tompkins Weekly will be offering readers an opportunity to learn more about the people who will be appearing on ballots in September and November.
District 5, which covers the Town of Ulysses and portions of the towns of Enfield and Ithaca, has been represented by Democrat Jim Dennis for the last three terms. After initially planning to seek re-election, Dennis announced the suspension of his campaign last week, meaning that there will be a new face in the District 5 seat – either Democrat Anne Koreman or independent Keith Hannon.
Here is what Koreman had to say in response to the questions we asked about the county and the role of legislators.
Tompkins Weekly: What are the top three issues facing Tompkins County?
Anne Koreman: The most pressing issues facing Tompkins County are housing, jobs, and the environment.
We are in desperate need of more housing that is affordable, safe, and energy efficient. When I bought my first house in Trumansburg in 1989, my salary, at a good union job, was $30,000 and my house cost $62,000. I worked 2 or 3 jobs as I struggled to pay my bills, which included college loans. That same house is now valued at $140,000. By those metrics, I should be making at least $68,000 to afford that home, but unfortunately my income has been nearly stagnant, as it has most folks in the working class. Our communities need innovative housing options in the $100,000 or less range, such as small cluster housing and tiny houses, so folks who are lucky enough to find jobs in this county can also live here. If we do not include for sale and rental housing that is affordable in every new project, we are gentrifying our county so that only the middle class and above can afford to live here.
We have a scarcity of good local jobs. I pledge to vote for passing a living wage in this county so people working full time don’t have to live in poverty. We can spur good local jobs through the tax abatements that the IDA gives out. I want to require that a prevailing wage is paid to all construction workers. That provides an incentive for contractors to hire local workers whenever possible and supports unions.
With a Trump administration and the weakening of the EPA, it is imperative that we do everything we can on a local level to save the planet. When I was chair of the Finger Lakes Sierra Club we sounded the alarm about the impending dangers of fracking. We helped provide awareness regarding energy efficient construction, HVAC systems such as geothermal, and renewable energy. At our home we installed solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and we have an electric tractor. I spurred New York state legislation to expand net metering to farms and businesses so that renewable energy systems are now affordable for them. This not only helps the environment, but improves the financial stability of local farms and businesses because they can generate their own energy. While on the board of Black Oak Wind Farm, I have been working for many years to get a 7-turbine wind farm in Enfield. On a county level, we need improve support to local municipalities so they can balance the concerns of the residents and continue to meet the counties’ renewable energy goals.
TW: What skills do you possess that would be an asset as a Tompkins County legislator?
AK: I have a strong record of community involvement including social justice and environmental activism dating back to when I moved to this area in 1984. I served on the board of Fightback of Central NY (a non-profit women’s self-defense course), Black Oak Wind Farm, was chair of the Finger Lakes Sierra Club, and my wife and I are co-founders of a new LGBTQ+ organization, Finger Lakes Pulse. Members of FLP were instrumental in getting the pride flag flown at the Tompkins County offices, Ithaca City Hall, the town of Dryden and the Village of Trumansburg. We recently held our first pride month celebration where we raised money for FLP and Planned Parenthood.
I have hands-on experience working with a diverse group of organizations and populations through my 22 years in health care, including people with physical and mental health issues, the elderly, addiction treatment/alternatives to incarceration, and vocational training. I have been a home inspector over the past 11 years. Both of these careers, along with my extensive experience as an activist, will help make me a well-rounded legislator who knows how to assess complex issues and work toward solutions.
TW: What is something that would surprise people to know about you?
AK: I tutored my mother to get her GED so she could get a union job.
TW: How would you balance the desires of your constituents and your own personal beliefs when making decisions as a member of the Legislature?
AK: I am a good listener and skilled at gaining consensus. One example is when I was chair of the Finger Lakes Sierra Club. We had some strong disagreements about how to address foreign corporations wanting to build wind farms locally. I facilitated a listening session starting with each volunteer board member relating their reason for becoming involved in our group. Finding commonality among our board members helped us build consensus to deal with this and other subsequent issues for the greater good of the community.
TW: Why should people vote for you?
AK: I will bring a fresh progressive perspective to the TC legislature including the voice of the working class, diversity, inclusivity, and environmental awareness. I have longevity and dedication to this community. I love Tompkins County and will continue to work tirelessly to make sure it is a place for all to thrive, especially the working class. I am honored to have been endorsed by the Town of Ithaca Democratic Committee, the UAW union Local 2300, and most recently by the Working Families Party.