A new year! The to-do list for 2018 was long locally and nationally and while not accomplishing everything, progress was made and 2019 promises to be even better.
Locally, the Cargill Salt Mine moved ahead with a new shaft in Lansing, a more than $40 million investment. There’s one challenge left, a lawsuit that says the Department of Environmental Conservation didn’t properly vet the project, but our hopes are the court will find the DEC did its due diligence and will find for the state.
Lansing is still under a gas moratorium meaning it will be hard to open even a new restaurant in the moratorium area, not to mention new manufacturing or any energy-intensive businesses like a clean room for microchip manufacturing. While the stated goal of moratorium supporters is to use less natural gas, gas use continues to rise in the other towns and City of Ithaca where many of the protesters live. In effect, this policy will do little to curb natural gas use, while having the negative impact of making Lansing a bedroom community of the city. Towns need businesses too.
Some successes for Lansing include a new sewer trunk line driving deeper into town. This was tried for years unsuccessfully but came to be thanks to cooperation by Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne and the Villages of Cayuga Heights and Lansing. Lavigne was able to form a coalition with local developers to pay for the line.
Countywide, while Cornell has seen success, some towns have struggled. Dryden saw two major businesses move and the Village of Lansing saw a business with a lot of potential pull up stakes. Trumansburg is dealing with overextended first responders, an issue we see nationwide. In Lansing, the power plant is still under threat of closure; a plant once valued at $120 million is now down to just $20 million. The mall continues to struggle with The Bon Ton moving out this past year. Will it be reimagined? They already have natural gas, parking, and easy transportation, but it will require work. All of these negatives from 2018 can become positives in 2019.
In good news from 2018, the City saw cranes and construction, but also several businesses like Emmy’s Cookies, Greenstar, and Rosie’s move to expand. If the business success of the City can be pushed out from the core to the towns, not just the workers who can’t afford to live in the city, that would be a winning formula for the county. The towns cannot just be fertile land for affordable housing although Lansing managed to start more than 70 units of that too.
The major tasks for the county are big and we continue to add to them. The county needs a third court judge. The courts are overloaded with cases, with wait times for a hearing reaching several months. A garbage burning powerplant continues to be considered up in Seneca County. Some are against it because it burns trash, others because they ask why garbage should be shipped hundreds of miles when it could be burned for power downstate. Either way, there’s stiff opposition and the county passed a resolution against its construction. The county also wants permission to expand its healthcare consortium, which would allow some Non-Governmental Organizations, like our rural libraries, to join. All three of these issues were in resolutions that passed the state Senate last year but were not even brought up by the Assembly despite lobbying from the county.
This will be a year of big changes that the county will have to deal with. I expect a “single-use” plastic bag ban to pass in the county. I’ve put forward why I and others believe a ban will harm the environment, in part by raising our carbon footprint because of more shipping with the expanded use of paper bags, and because of the negative impact that making paper and other materials have on the environment. Even a reusable recycled bag has to be used over 60 times to match the footprint of a “single-use” bag. Now use that “single-use” bag more than once and you see the math favor these plastic bags.While those bags will be banned, it looks like marijuana will be legalized this year. This will be a challenge to law enforcement, the schools, our district attorney and our health department among other agencies, but they are not insurmountable if we work together.
There seems to be this idea that conservatives are against change. That hasn’t been true historically and is not true today as you can see with criminal justice reform both locally and nationally. Preserving what your county’s representatives have done in the past is not a negative and asking for a convincing argument for a change is not detrimental to democracy, it is democracy.
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