ITHACA N.Y.—Ithaca’s Common Council will hold a Committee of the Whole (COW) Meeting to discuss role specifics for the newly approved city manager position, which, upon appointment, will reduce the mayor’s duties significantly. 

Back in November 2021, the Common Council unanimously voted to create a city manager position, and in 2022, the addition of the role was put to a referendum vote and was passed by voters. This meeting was called to clarify rules of procedure, roles, budget impacts and more and is scheduled for May 31 at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Those interested in watching the meeting on YouTube can do so on the city’s page, or read the full memo of the meeting.

In the City of Ithaca, a COW meeting includes the full council and is convened when alderpersons need to discuss matters of public importance outside established meeting times. 

The role of city manager will replace the role of chief of staff to the mayor, as well as adopt a number of responsibilities currently held by the mayor: overseeing department heads, developing budgets and declaring emergencies. The role will be appointed and approved by the Common Council. 

The mayor would maintain a few responsibilities and will continue to serve as the presiding officer of the Common Council.

As the power separations were proposed in November, when the referendum was passed:

While mayors are elected to their positions, city managers are typically hired by a legislative body to work a full-time position. Unlike mayors, city managers have no absolute political power with their role, as they are not elected.

Acting Mayor Laura Lewis, formerly an alderperson on Common Council, shared her support for the creation of a city manager position to The Ithaca Voice in 2022. She said she believes the position would increase efficiency and transparency in the city government, as well as in the role of mayor. 

“[Acting as mayor] has only confirmed the vote that myself and my Common Council colleagues took last year [2021] in unanimous support of moving to a city manager model,” Lewis said. 

As for the budget, Lewis told The Ithaca Voice last year the city manager position would “probably command a slightly higher salary than the current chief of staff.” But, “at the end of the day, the cost of a city manager would be similar to our current cost.”

Judy LucasGeneral Assignment Reporter

Judy Lucas is a General Assignment Reporter for The Ithaca Voice.