ITHACA, NY -- The vote for a switch from a mayor-council to council-manager government in Ithaca will not be offered to the public this November. At the April City Administration Committee meeting, chair Deb Mohlenhoff presented the idea of the working group to the rest of the committee, recommending the change. The original goal seemed to be to work on details and public outreach throughout the summer and early fall and then add it to the November ballot for residents to vote on.
However, City Attorney Ari Lavine discovered that New York state’s recently amended referendum procedures require any city filing for any local law up for referendum to submit it to the Board of Elections at least three months prior. That means the actual piece of legislation would have to be ready to go and submitted by Aug. 2.
“When you add in other required procedures that means Council would have to make a final vote by July 14,” Lavine said.
The two options were to extend the timeline and miss this fall’s ballot, or move forward quickly; the working group chose the former.
“We were just extremely uncomfortable with how little opportunity Council would have to weigh in,” committee chair Deb Mohlenhoff said.
Mohlenhoff added that Common Council would likely need to add two extra meetings over the summer to work on it and said ultimately it just felt too rushed. Lavine said they could continue working on the process and reach the final vote from the Council by this fall, but it would have to wait and go on the November 2022 ballot.
“That way there’s not an intense pressure to have this all wrapped up in a short time frame and simulataneously educate the public,” Mohlenhoff said.