Petitioning for the June 27th democratic primary is underway and two candidates have announced their campaigns for the four-year and two-year term to represent Ithaca’s Fifth Ward on the Common Council.
Depending on the position they are running for, candidates are required to have between one to 390 signatures to appear on the ballot and must have their petitions submitted by April 6th.
Longtime Ithaca resident and community organizer Margaret Fabrizio has announced that she is running for the four-year term to represent the Fifth Ward on the Common Council. While Cornell University Freshman Clyde Lederman has announced that he is running for the two-year term.
Fabrizio — who also goes by the name “Margherita” — said that she is running to make Ithaca a more affordable place to live for everyone.
According to Fabrizio, if Ithaca is going to be a “visionary, affordable, equitable, wildly unique place, we need to be properly resourced, and that can’t happen by just continuing to increase the tax burden on city residents, and in turn, on renters.”
In her campaign announcement Fabrizio said that the city needs new partners and new revenue streams.
Fabrizio explained her position on how to make Ithaca a more affordable city in her recent article titled “Cornell’s Tax-Exempt Status and Ithaca’s Bottom Line” which was published in the Ithaca Times on February 15, 2023 — before it was known that Fabrizio would be announcing her campaign for local office.
Following the article’s publication, Fabrizio started a local movement called the Fair Share Campaign, which is dedicated to making Ithaca more affordable by seeking equitable compensation through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for essential community services provided to Cornell University.
According to Fabrizio, “Ithaca’s unaffordability has reached a breaking point. We are all negatively impacted whether students, renters, property owners, landlords, single parents, young families, or retirees.” She continued saying that Ithaca is under-resourced which leads to increasingly high rent and tax burdens for residents.
Fabrizio acknowledges that Cornell contributes to Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca in immeasurable ways, but says that “to have a city where 60% of the property is tax exempt, with over half of that owned by a tax-exempt institution making only a small, direct monetary contribution to help make up for that, is not a formula that works.”
According to Fabrizio, local property taxes are higher than the national average and the city is still not able to pay its workforce fairly or have funds to achieve its stated climate and public safety goals. “I am ready to jump in and help us find pragmatic solutions to our funding challenges,” said Fabrizio.
In addition to pressuring Cornell to contribute more, Fabrizio prioritizes the need to work more closely with the county, school district, and state, to re-prioritize spending.
She has also said that Ithaca could do much more to utilize the talents of students and faculty at Cornell. “I’d like to see a robust internship program and establish formal ways to connect faculty and their students with mutually beneficial service-learning opportunities through Engaged Cornell or the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.”
Fabrizio continued saying that the city “should have a student advisory board composed of student reps to better understand how the community can best capture the imagination and energy that students bring.”
According to Fabrizio, “Increasing public engagement is key to a progressive, sustainable, livable, welcoming community. I’m ready to get to work to build the alliances it takes to make positive change.”
Similarly to Fabrizio, Cornell University freshman Clyde Lederman — who is running for the two-year term to represent the Fifth Ward — has identified housing affordability and transportation issues relating to Cornell’s tax exempt status as some of the priorities of his campaign. Since announcing his campaign, Lederman has been endorsed by the New York Working Families Party.
According to Lederman “local governments can do a lot to help folks. And what I see here are a number of serious problems.” He continued saying that the city is facing a housing affordability crisis, both for students and for permanent residents.
“That means housing is often substandard and overpriced and which really pushes out middle and lower income residents,” said Lederman.
In addition, he says that the city has “real challenges with public transportation, in large part because of Cornell's contribution, or lack thereof, which means that TCAT can't run when it should, and when it does run the routes are more limited.”
According to Lederman, “You don't need to be some sort of expert in order to tell that the bus service in Ithaca isn’t what it should be.”
Like Fabrizio, he continued saying that a lot of the issues in the city “come back down to the Memorandum of Understanding between Cornell and the City of Ithaca that will expire after next year. So a big priority for me is making sure that the city has the resources that it needs to operate.”
When asked why he chose to run in the Fifth Ward instead of the Fourth Ward — where most of the Cornell students live — Lederman said “I live in the Fifth Ward.” He continued saying, “if you look at the math, you’ll see that this Ward includes thousands of students.” Lederman says that the recent expansion of Cornell’s north campus has increased the number of students living in the Fifth Ward.
Lederman graduated from the Masters School, a private school located in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 2022. If elected, Lederman would be the youngest member of the Common Council at just 19 years old. Previously, the youngest member was former Mayor Svante Myrick. When Myrick was elected to the Common Council in 2007, he was 20 years old.
When leftist policies fail, resist natural temptation to double down on those same policies. Instead, try something that might actually work. For example, try building more housing. Duh. What are barriers to construction of more (much more) housing.? Not sure about Ithaca but elsewhere they typically include expensive and ever changing environmental standards, multiple unpredictable inspections that make construction projects unpredictable and expensive, endless haggling over zoning just to get a project started, allow or require “low income housing” only etc etc.. The alternative simply does work - impede construction of more housing, complain when housing cost goes up and local economy suffers, try to force higher wages/lower rent through legal means, send more jobs and people to TX, FL, TN, AZ, complain that people in those states are not as smart as NY people, continues process of upstate NY joining “Appalachia”,
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