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Christina Sonsire

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Christina Sonsire last won the day on August 10

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About Christina Sonsire

  1. It’s too bad re Jim as he was the true driving force behind getting this recent city-county collaboration started. If you search the CCM blog you will see several things he wrote in 2018.
  2. I can’t say I disagree that having greater perspectives is a good idea even though the committee members all did a great job of shedding their identities (i.e. county or city) when we came to the table. As you know, I am the legislator who represents portions of two areas (the Towns of Elmira and Big Flats) and no part of the city, so I necessarily had to be very cognizant of any negative impact our recommendations would have on those areas. Town of Elmira Supervisor Dave Sullivan supports the recommendations and efforts of the committee fully as he realizes there is no negative impact - only a potential net gain. Big Flats Town Supervisor Ed Fairbrother has a different take, but my opinion is that it’s borne out of a years-old struggle between the City and Big Flats as none of the recommendations hurt that municipality either.
  3. Moss designed the Committee. He chose two members - Jim Waters and John Burin - and asked each of them to select four members. The Commitee only included eight in the end as Jim Waters resigned and one seat was never filled. John Burin desired to have a larger committee with greater representation, but Moss didn’t set it up that way. Should the Legislature recreate it I suspect we will have bigger numbers as I agree it would be good to get more perspectives at the table. Again, I think this is yet another reason to reestablish a Council of Governments. To be clear, we hand-delivered copies of our report - which included only recommendations - and included the Legislature, City Council, all municipal leaders and the public to a forum to discuss them. I am not sure we could have done it any other way as quorum was invoked, meaning the meeting was public no matter what. We chose to use Mandeville Hall (at no charge) because the Hazlett Building and City Hall were not big enough. On a side note, the two resignations of Councilpersons is unrelated to any of this. They both left for personal reasons.
  4. The Committee worked very hard to pull together information about why the city has the financial problems and what to do about it. Most of the recommendations will require passage by the Legislature and/or City Council to pass, and they frankly could be initiated by either of those bodies without input or support of the County Executive. Of course it would be far better to have us all on the same page, but it is not necessary. There is no reason why this precise commitee could not (a) be formed by the Legislature or City Council; or (b) just meet on its own like Jim Waters’ group did as quorum is not invoked. We are exploring both options. The bottom line is that we have a group of people willing to put in a tremendous amount of time and energy to delve deeply into these issues. I don’t know why anyone would want to cut us out of the process. Instead, we should all work together to come up with the best solutions. It’s interesting how history has a way of repeating itself. In 1965 a City/County Commitee was established by the Board of Supervisors to study sales tax distribution. Within a short period of time leaders outside the city became weary of the group, and the Council of Governments was formed. COG was an important tool in local government for the next 30 or so years, but has since disbanded. I am all for recreating it so that issues like this could be hashed out by all of the stakeholders. The members of the Commitee are not going anywhere. We had a great turnout Tuesday night, and have received a lot of feedback both positive and critical that will help us fine tune the recommendations. I can’t tell you for sure what the next steps are, but can guarantee no one is giving up on the process. I ran for this position to actually help the community. Working on these issues is the first time I - and I believe the other Legislators on the Committee - feel like we are doing anything meaningful. We have all grown tired of the politics and just want to get things done.
  5. I am a little unclear on the specific details right now (weekend summer brain) and don’t have time to research them at the moment, but generally speaking the loan was made by Chemung Canal with a repayment schedule of roughly $103k/year over 25 years so long as the Arena is being used. I addressed this in a blog post last winter (I believe - it might have been last fall.) To date the loan has been repaid through an allocation of room tax money that is filtered through the Chamber of Commerce. This appears to be a legal arrangement; whether or not it is advisable and or appropriate is another matter. As I said above, this is a tough issue as defaulting on the loan or otherwise failing to pay it hurts a major community contributor. To be clear, I was elected to the Legislature and appointed to the IDA board this January. The CAN-USA lease and bank loan were both undertaken prior to that.
  6. The Arena is a complex matter worthy of its own thread. The general answer is that right now the IDA, the entity that owns the Arena, is obligated to comply with the terms of a lease signed on July, 2018. Under the lease a company called CAN-USA, owned by Robbie Nichols, is permitted to use the premises for up to three on-year terms. The first year just ended, and Nichols has indicated an intent to lease it for 2019-2020. A copy of the lease and a bunch of other background information can be found in a blog post I did in June - https://chemungcountymatters.com/2019/06/13/first-arena-an-update/ Those are great ideas regarding nonprofits, etc. However, it appears they will have to wait to be considered until either the lease expires in July, 2021 or Nichols decides he no longer wishes to lease the Arena. The bank loan is a separate issue.
  7. There was a lot of talk about changing the way room tax was allocated this spring. The Legislature decided to use the same formula for 2019 because most of the organizations had based their operating budgets on it, but we made it clear things may change going forward. Personally I favor a micro-grant system whereby organizations apply for money as needed rather than relying on it for operating costs. Unfortunately the Arena is one expenditure that is unlikely to change. The payments each year actually go to Chemung Canal to pay off a loan. I don’t particularly like the arrangement, but I also don’t like the idea of harming a lender that does so much good for the community. The Arena’s problems are not the bank’s fault, IMO. I think Woodlawn makes a lot of sense. Ernie Davis, Mark Twain and Hal Roach almighty with the confederate graves bring people to the area, and it’s a way to lift a burden from Elmira. However, as with everything else these are just recommendations open for debate.
  8. KReed - No. The online sales tax measure was just passed by the NY Legislature and signed into law by Cuomo this spring, so the pre-2019 collections set forth in our report do not include any revenue from online purchases. The tradeoff for AIM funding will likely either be a wash for us as the money from online purchases that should go to counties will instead stay in Albany, or a small gain if online sales tax revenue exceeds what needs to be paid in AIM funding. The rub is that Albany traditionally provided AIM funding, meaning all of the monies from online purchases would have stayed here had the trade-off not occurred. In other words, online not sales tax collection does not negatively affect or calculations at all, and possibly lends them to being conservative projections. As I said above, I am still a little fuzzy about the AIM tradeoff, yet certain that none of it has any measurable impact on our report.
  9. That is a great question - and definitely not an easy one to answer. My understanding is that originally the tax generated from online sales was to be returned to the county where the sale originated in order to start putting brick-and-mortar sellers back on equal footing with online retailers. However, after municipal leaders raised a fuss (as they should have!) over Cuomo’s threats to cut AIM funding, a deal was struck whereby a substantial portion of online sales tax revenue is redirected to the towns and villages entitled to AIM monies. In other words, Albany effectively shifted the burden to provide AIM funding from the state to counties via a grab of online sales tax money. However, this all just happened over the past few months and it’s unclear - at least to me - how it is all going to shake out.
  10. KReed - Imagine you ran for office this summer and got elected, then were engaged in this dialogue. Last summer I was “the public” and now I am “the government”. The line is thin and the delineation far, far over-stated. The reality is that we are all on the same side. You wouldn’t care enough to engage in this discussion if you didn’t care about our community, and I certainly would not be doing this work if I didn’t want it to result in something good. It would be great if we could all move past an us v. them mindset. You and others are fully invested and are trying your best to make things better, as are the people recently elected to serve in local government. We have a lot of people engaged in community affairs for the first time in as long as I can remember. I hope we can harness this energy and do something g very good with it.
  11. Our sense is that people who choose to stay in Chemung County do so for a purpose. They are not choosing to stay here for cost, but rather for convenience. The Chemung County Chamber of Commerce has been in support of increase in room tax for years based on the rationale I set forth above, and the hotel owners also generally support it as long as we couple the measure with an imposition of a tax on Airbnbs. To me it’s a no brainer. For the most part Chemung County residents don’t pay the tax, and - at least in my opinion - it’s unreasonable to think a small increase is going to encourage someone to stay in Corning or Watkins Glen, etc.
  12. We did ample due diligence to arrive at these recommendations, including studies of room and sales tax. With respect to the public, we released the report on the same day we announced it will be presented at a public forum within a week and are doing everything we can to solicit public input. I am not sure what level of collaboration is expected, but in my view we are trying our best to be inclusive. Inviting the entire community to participate in writing the report might sound good in theory, but it would take years to get anything done that way. Again, these are just recommendations, i.e. a way to get the conversation started.
  13. The golf course is a tough issue. Our first inclination was to recommend an outright sale. However, after meeting with Senator O’Mara we came to appreciate that a sale will not help the city’s fiscal situation at this time as (a) any revenue from the sale has to be put back into city parks under NY law because the golf course is considered a “park”; and (b) NY law also would require the city to set aside equal acreage elsewhere inside its borders to designate as a park, meaning even more city property becomes tax exempt. Should government run golf courses? Probably not, but in this case the county could ease the city’s financial burden in the short term while earning money by improving course and extending food and drink offerings. I recently heard a suggestion that the city should lease the course directly to a private entity or person. I think it’s a interesting idea, although our experience with the Arena show these types of public-private entanglements are not always a great fit.
  14. Not a bad idea. I did not have a say in who was chosen. Instead Moss’ recommendation was that John Burin and Jim Waters be appointed and they each select four people to sit on the committee. Vandermark is the former city chamberlain and Burin is the former city manager. Both were in those positions when the city turned itself around financially a little over a decade ago before its recent decline. I think the rationale was that we would call upon their experience. I can say firsthand that it helped tremendously.
  15. I understand. We placed them right up front in the introduction section to set them forth as you suggest in your post above. The sales tax section is tricky. We are not merely proposing an increase, but rather a new way of thinking through distribution to provide more money to the city based on need - specifically the amount of tax exempt property - while not negatively impacting the towns and villages. We opted for a general statement in the bullet points with a thorough analysis in the report itself. I anticipate their will be push back about raising sales tax - and I absolutely get it. We will spend a fair amount of time on this topic at the presentation in the hopes of generating some substantive discussion about the pros and cons of an increase. Again, please keep in mind that none of the committee members are professional fiscal analysts, although the past experience of John Burin and Dave Vandemark was extremely helpful. I am sure their are a lot of things we could have done better, but hopefully the end game - improvements to the city and community and large - will be a success.
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