January 9, 2014
Cortaca panel holds first public forum
Commission meeting again tonight to hear from business owners
CORTLAND — About a dozen community members gathered in the Cortland County Office Building’s auditorium Wednesday night for the first of eight public forums hosted by the Cortaca Commission, a joint city and college panel formed to explore remedies to excessive partying surrounding the Cortaca football game.
The focus of the evening’s forum was on community members, one of four subgroups that will be the focus of the commission’s eight public input sessions. The other areas of focus are businesses, landlords and students.
Tom Hartnett, owner of Frank & Mary’s diner on Port Watson Street and also a county legislator, was the first to address the board.
“Everyone wants to point fingers with this,” said Hartnett. “But it was a lot of things.”
Hartnett warned against overreacting, citing the $1.3 million in economic impact that the annual matchup between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College brought to the city and recommended confining Cortaca partying to downtown.
“If the kids want to drink, they’re going to drink,” he said after the forum, offering the idea of closing off Main Street, as is done for Cortland’s annual Brockway truck show, and Clayton Avenue.
“Cortaca is our biggest weekend ever. Far and away,” Hartnett said. “I’ve got a lot of waitresses that worked for me. It’s made their Christmas. I’m getting people in from Texas, California, Michigan that come every year, and they’re not coming for the football game. They’re coming for the party.”
Jan Dempsey, a resident of Stevenson Street for 23 years, advocated for an increased police presence.
“It’s impossible for law enforcement to keep the streets open,” said Dempsey, who suggested using mounted officers and installing cameras on the corner of Clayton Avenue and Main Street to deter law breaking. “People should not feel like they’re prisoners in their own homes.”
Last to address the panel was Linda Schmidt, who lives in Virgil.
Schmidt questioned the role that bar specials and promotions played in the Cortaca party, specifically mentioning the ‘Kegs and Eggs’ promotion.
“Maybe it’s legal, but is it responsible?” Schmidt asked. “I don’t think so.”
“I think the people that came here gave us some good input,” Bruce Tytler, a former city mayor who co-chairs the commission with Kim Pietro, vice president for Institutional Advancement at SUNY Cortland, said after the forum, though he declined to comment on whether any of the evening’s ideas had already been discussed by the commission.
“For us right now, I just want to do a lot of listening,” Tytler said, when asked about the commission’s progress.
Tytler said that in the immediate aftermath of Cortaca, he received many phone calls and emails with suggestions and concerns, but that now such communications have tapered off.
When asked to comment on the forum’s low turnout, Tytler cited the cold weather, but said that he wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of attendance.
The commission’s next public forum is scheduled for 7 tonight in the County Office Building’s auditorium. Its focus will be on businesses, though anyone is welcome to attend. Those wishing to offer input to the commission who are unable to attend can submit an email at www2.cortland.edu/offices/public-relations/commission.dot.
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