Citizen J

Writing, working, living. Contact: pblanch7@gmail.com

On the road to recovery, a police officer gives back

The community gave him so much, and Officer Tony Augustine turned around and gave it right back to them.

At the Greater Ithaca Activities Center Thursday, Augustine presented the after school center with a variety of gifts, including basketballs, a flat screen TV, and art supplies, to show his appreciation. He was warmly greeted by children and GIAC employees as members of the Ithaca Police Department, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, the Cayuga Heights police force and the New York State Troopers stood by and watched.
Officer Tony Augustine used the money donated to him to help purchase gifts for the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

On the night of October 11th, 2012, Ithaca Police Officer Tony Augustine was shot in the line of duty while pursuing 22-year-old Jamel Brooks, who shot Augustine while evading arrest and is facing an attempted murder charge.

Three months later, Augustine is still on the road to recovery.

To the average person, Augustine looks healthy, even ready for duty, which is something that continues to bother him.

“The most frustrating part is people look and me and think everything is fine, which creates frustration issues for me,” Augustine said. “Everybody’s like, ‘You should be back to work, you should be this.’ Explaining it every day to person after person gets tiring.”
Augustine suffered a minor stroke sometime after the shooting which continues to impair his vision and has resulted in limited mobility in his left arm and hand. He also suffered a collapsed lung.

Augustine says he did it because he wanted to strengthen the relationship between the Ithaca Police Department and the children of the community.

“It’s unfortunate that a lot of the places we go to, you have young kids say, ‘I don’t like cops, we don’t talk to cops,’” Augustine said. “It’s frustrating, we’re there to help people, and for children to have a misunderstanding of what we’re for and we mean is disheartening.”

Program administrator at GIAC Travis Brooks says Augustine’s efforts strengthen the relationship between police and the children of the community.

“Kids that grow up in fear of police officers…They don’t know how to incorporate them later on in life,” Brooks said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing to have the officers here as much as possible, to build those relationships and to have the kids and officers on a friendly term in the community.”
Brooks says the gifts Augustine donated will be used in various after school programs for kids. 

Can We Trust the Police Again?

The Ithaca Journal reminds us this morning that two years ago today an unknown arsonist burned down the home of Ithaca Police officer Bryan Bangs. Two years later, there are still no leads.

The arson came a few months after Bangs shot and killed Greenwood in the parking lot of Pete’s Wine & Liquor Store on West Buffalo Street in Ithaca, NY. Police officers carrying a warrant were intercepting a drug deal when Greenwood attempted to flee the scene in his van, striking an officer in the process. Fearing the officer’s life was in danger, Bangs shot and killed Greenwood. Greenwood’s family and supporters openly criticized police handling of the altercation, saying his death could have been prevented. The district attorney and the court would find the shooting justified. (You can read the DA’s report here).

Since then, local police have made little to no effort to reach out to the public; quite the contrary, people have every reason to trust the police less and less. Last August, Ithaca Police officer Brandon Goldsberry shot and killed 20-year-old Keith Shumway, a story I took interest in after I learned Shumway grew up in Harvey’s Lake, PA, about 5 miles west of my hometown. Despite overwhelming ambiguity in the case, (the report claimed Shumway reached into the driver side window and ripped the gun from Goldsberry’s holster, quite a feat) the story failed to fuel the same type of community outrage. If anything, the lack of response showed the community’s complacency with police brutality. As one resident who knew Shumway told me: “This is just a case of another kid being shot by the police, and they’re gonna get away with it because people don’t want to step forward. They’re afraid of the Ithaca Police Department.”


Keith Shumway with his 2-year-old daughter, Shynowah Nicole Moon Webster. Photo courtesy of the Shumway Family.

Across the country, the story is the same. Kenneth Chamberlain, Trayvon Martin, and Marissa Alexander are just a few names that come to mind, not to mention the countless peaceful protestors across the country who put their bodies on the line to stand up against brutality and oppression.

We, as taxpayers and citizens, fear the very people who we pay to protect us.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick recently reached out to his constituents via his Facebook page, which has evolved into a public forum for local residents to openly address their concerns. Myrick asked interested followers to consider serving on the Community Police Board,  In the mayor’s words, the board serves as “a way to file a formal complaint by citizens to members of the Police Department for actions performed in the line of duty, which asks for an investigation and resolution between the parties.”

Every city in the United States should have such a board, and the fact that Ithaca’s is in need of revival highlights an important point. At at time when cities, counties and municipalities across the country are slashing funds to public services at unprecedented levels, a thriving city needs honest police officers now more than ever.

The presence of a Community Police Board implies an important point: Having a positive relationship between the police and the public should not only be the responsibility of the police. It is equally the duty of private citizens to ensure that police carry out their duties in a manner that respects the rights of all citizens.

As UC Berkeley professor Arthur Blaustein once said, democracy is not a spectator sport. It’s time we behave as such.

City Contemplates Traffic Signal at Cascadilla, Cayuga Streets

During a discussion over traffic calming in the Fall Creek neighborhood, the Board of Public Works debated the possibility of placing either 4-way stop signs or a traffic signal at the intersection of Cayuga and Cascadilla Street.

City Transportation Engineer Tim Logue addressed the Board of Public Works Monday, saying that an all-way stop sign may be needed at the intersection of Cayuga and Cascadilla Street in Fall Creek.

“It would improve safety by making it easier to get across the street, whether by walking or biking,” Logue said.

The intersection of Cayuga Street and Cascadilla Street in Downtown Ithaca. (Pete Blanchard/Ithaca Independent)

In April, an inattentive driver drove over the curb in front of Gimme! Coffee on 430 N. Cayuga St, crashing into a table of three coffee drinkers and injuring one. Logue said other accidents have happened at the intersection due to the lack of visibility from the Cascadilla Street entryway.

Superintendent of Public Works William Gray recommended placing a traffic signal at the intersection, noting that there are two traffic signals to the north and south of the intersection.

“I have a problem with the logic of asking drivers to look for stop signs when they’re actually looking for stoplights,” Gray said. “It’s for the safety of the public.”

The BPW also passed a series of resolutions Monday, including a contract for repairs at the Seneca Street Parking Garage. A resident of Dryden Road was granted a parking permit, and the owner of Nate’s Floral Estates was granted an appeal for a late payment on a water bill.

The Board of Public Works meets on the first, second, and fourth Monday of each month at 4:45 PM at City Hall on 108 E. Green St.

Take the Money and Run? City Offers Employees Early Retirement Incentive

The Ithaca Independent

In what is openly regarded as a tool to balance the budget and avoid layoffs, the City Administration Committee passed a resolution Wednesday that would give city employees the option of retiring early.

The incentive comes as the city prepares to assemble a budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The city faces an expected $3 million budget shortfall next year, early estimates show.

Superintendent of Public Works Bill Gray said the city’s budget is one of the toughest he’s seen in years.

“This is probably the worst budget we’ve been asked to put together since I’ve been here,” said Gray, who has been a city employee for more than 15 years. “But this is not the first budget where we’ve been asked to make cuts.”

The incentive provides employees with two options. An employee can either take an $11,000 salary increase, or have the city freeze the employee’s health insurance contribution percentage for a period of five years.

To be eligible for the incentive, city employees must have worked for at least ten years, and the employee must retire between October 1 and December 28. Fire and police officials are also eligible.

City Controller Steve Thayer noted that the city has not offered a retirement incentive since 2001.

“We don’t do this very often, but we find ourselves in a difficult and challenging situation,” Thayer said.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick, who was present at the committee meeting, expressed his support for the program.

“The real shame would be to offer this too late, and then move to lay off people,” Myrick said.

The retirement incentive program will be voted on for final approval at the next Common Council meeting Monday, July 2, at 5 PM.

All I am is nothing more than what I am to you
And yeah I try to recognize all these things unreal
But I can relate to the struggles you face
Yes I can relate

And oh, what does it mean to me to see you all done up?
And I have seen the darkest night
And I am not afraid

And ohh, don’t it feel like being stoned?
And ohhh what did you do?
I can see through you and what you do to me

Day 2: Waking Up In North Carolina

I sit on a dock overlooking a creek. It is a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Hard to believe we’ve come this far in such little time.

A man approaches the swamp with a cat on a leash.

"Mornin!" he hollers.
I return the call.
"Pretty calm out there, today."
I concur.

I am highly impressed with this man’s cat. An incredibly well-disciplined orange tiger cat approaches the swamp. He’s careful not to tug on its neck. I imagine that would anger the cat and risk losing its trust.

Tranter’s Creek, Washington, North Carolina.

Every few minutes, a fish leaps out of the water. I love it here. I could do this indefinitely. It was fairly cold last night, even inside a sleeping bag in a tent, but after 12 hours of driving, sleep is inescapable.

This place is like a gated trailer park community, as Amir put it. Probably only an acre or two of land in the whole place. Trailers and RV’s are ubiquitous. We seem to be the only one’s “camping.” Others are living here, permanently or temporarily. We have two tents set up on a strip of land by the creek. Nicest spot in the whole place, I think.

Along the whole ride, what didn’t seem to change, from Pennsylvania to the Deep South, was the amount of franchises: Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Shell, Wendy’s, Burger King. George Carlin was right: America is one big fucking strip mall. Seems to be the theme I’m taking from this trip.

We wanted the authentic Southern experience, which I’m finding out is hard to pinpoint. It’s somewhere in between home-cooked fried chicken and eating a Big Mac while driving to work. We saw a billboard for an antique mall and decided to check it out:

The Lone Ranger:

Even through all the antiques you could see how corporations were beginning to take over.

We would be in Savannah by nightfall.

Day 1: Road Trip Down South

I was looking forward to getting out of Ithaca. As much as I love this place, being in one place for an extended. Just three Ithaca College students on Spring Break. We left Ithaca around 8:30. We had 12 hours of driving ahead of us. Destination: North Carolina.

We took a less conventional route, hoping for something more scenic while also avoiding tolls.  As we drove further and further south, the appearance of snow became scarce before becoming non-existent. We drove south through Pennsylvania, but instead of taking I-95 through Maryland, we drove through the entire state of Delaware. We saw a sign that read, “The South Starts Here,” right around the Mason-Dixon Line. The main reason we went via Delaware was to experience the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 23-mile long connecting the southern tip of Delaware to Virginia Beach. It’s one of only eight bridge-tunnel systems in the world. For the record, before we hit the tunnel (which costs $12 to cross), we only paid $0.25 in tolls. Google Maps to avoid tolls really works.

Crossing over Delaware River:

As the tunnel drew near, we saw a spot to pull over and view the sunset.

We spent the night camping in Washington, North Carolina. More on that in the next post.

Citizen J: Reactivated

Moderating the City of Ithaca Mayoral Debate, Sep 2011 Photo by Jacob Lifschultz

Been a long time since I’ve been on Tumblr. Good to see I still have 33 loyal followers.

It’s not that I don’t love you, Tumblr. It’s just, well, people tend to post stupid shit on here. Or they just repost someone else’s work. I don’t know, but I’m back.

What prompted this revival? Well, Ithaca College goes on Spring Break this weekend, and my roommate and I will be driving down to Savannah, Georgia, to stay at his friend’s apartment place (he goes to SCAD). On the way, I’ll be documenting the trip, posting journal entries, tweeting, photos, videos, and more.

So what have I been up to? (Because I know you give a fuck.)

On Sundays, I produce a show called Ithaca Now which airs on 92 WICB. You can listen to more clips from the program on our Souncloud page. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @WICBNews. Yadayada.

On Monday nights, I host a political talk show called Experts Say, where college students pretend to be experts on complex domestic and foreign policy issues. Might as well like us on Facebook too and follow us on Tweeter @ICTVExpertsSay.

Here are some pieces I’ve written since my Tumblr went inactive:

Passing Gas: New York’s small towns prevail in fracking lawsuits 02/29/12

I saw this coming…

Guest Commentary in The Ithacan: U.S. Foreign Policy Impedes Human Rights 02/08/12

Keith Shumway: A Wrongful Death 12/07/11

The TCAT Fight 12/07/11

From Hotels to Hershey’s: Foreign Students Fight for Rights 09/07/11

Imprint Magazine Poetry Winner: The Burden of Privilege

Trouble in Cortland: How a local corporation uses foreign students as cheap labor…12/08/10

—Ameera Interview

wicbjazz:

In case you missed it, here’s our interview with Ameera Dillon of Ameera and the New Jump Blues! We’ll be giving away copies of their new EP, Bop Doo Day, every day this week at 12:30 on WICB. There may be some Ameera trivia too… you’ll have to tune in to find out!

You can listen to Jazz Impressions every weekday from noon-2 on 91.7 FM WICB Ithaca, or on iHeartRadio! 

http://www.iheart.com/#/live/5244/