Cynthia Brock

Cynthia Brock represents the 1st Ward on the City of Ithaca's Common Council.

The last two weeks have been revealing in so many ways.

On November 2nd, our City employees came forward describing growing vacancies across our organization, non-competitive wages, low morale, hostile and toxic working environments, and union bargaining sessions which are not perceived by employees to be conducted in good faith.  Speakers asked for Council to get involved in overseeing how the City organization treats its workers. 

In my response that night, I shared my concerns with the issues raised.  I named the HR Director and City Attorney, and expressed my displeasure with the policies and strategies they have utilized.  That was inappropriate of me.  Department Heads - and the negotiation team as well – are professionals who diligently and capably discharge the policies and strategies set forward by the Mayor.  It was the duty of Council as a body and individually, to stand by our staff and our Department Heads in equal measure.  The HR Director and City Attorney felt unfairly attacked by me, and for that I apologize.

Following that night, Acting Mayor Lewis issued a press release, and in her first day as Mayor-Elect she directed City Attorney Lavine to lecture and berate Council on November 9th – ushering us off to a 4-hour executive session, providing no opportunity to respond or comment.

The actions taken on November 9th are deeply troubling for many reasons. 

First, I am presuming that the City Attorney’s statement and tenor of delivery received prior direction and approval of the Mayor-Elect.

Second, the powers and duties of the Mayor are subject to the approval of Common Council.  As elected representatives, it is incumbent upon the Mayor to cultivate a collaborative and collegial relationship with Council.  Instead, we were subject to a hostile, and disrespectful lecture by the City Attorney.  I feel the meeting was orchestrated to intimidate our members and silence the voice of Council.  This treatment of the Council is unacceptable and must stop. 

Third, the City Attorney’s actions substantiated – for all to see – the validity of statements made by employees and former employees that there is a hostile working environment that is allowed to persist.

Forth, employees raised extensive concerns about the growing number of vacancies in our departments, the below-market wages, low morale, and the inability to fill open positions.  These are valid concerns which – if left unaddressed - impact our ability to provide essential services to our community.  I would have liked to have heard a response from the Mayor as to how the administration plans to address these pressing issues.  A 7% wage increase over 2 years for DPW workers when the rate of inflation right now is 8.5% is not going to get us where we need to go.  We recognize that the City faces financial limitations.  But we must also acknowledge that our current policy and negotiating approach is unsustainable and bad for our organization and community.

Finally, I am left with one concern and one request.

I am concerned that given the recent actions of the Mayor-Elect and the City Attorney, that the fragile relationship that we have with our employees, and future employees has been irrevocably damaged.  I am worried that new employees will not want to work here, and that we will lose the amazing employees we have, and

I ask that the Mayor-Elect recognize that Council is a partner in this work.  That through open, respectful, and collaborative engagement with Council we are able to protect and support our employees and organization, and continue to deliver the high-quality professional services our community has come to expect.

(2) comments

David Bly

"Acting Mayor Lewis issued a press release, and in her first day as Mayor-Elect she directed City Attorney Lavine to lecture and berate Council on November 9th – ushering us off to a 4-hour executive session, providing no opportunity to respond or comment."

The citizens of Ithaca had a chance to prevent this kind of thing by electing a mayor for thr PEOPLE in Katie Sims. But instead were happy to let business concerns continue to control th city governmant and continue to build more unnecessary buidlings and ones with ''affordable'' housing that many cannot. Depsite what some peeople seem to think we are not all Cornell professors or refugees from already-gentrified parts of Brooklyn. Well, Laura Loser will be up for election next November . MAYBE people will siee up by then.

David Bly

Apologies for mistakes in previous post - I have arthritis in my fingers.

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