September 10, 2001

Cornell Junior Runs for Seat in Tompkins County

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Derek Burrows ’03 is reaching beyond the boundaries of the Cornell campus this semester by running for a seat the Tompkins County Board of Representatives.

The election will take place on Nov. 6. Nancy Schuler, a member of the Tompkins County Board of Representatives for 12 years, is Burrows’ opponent.

“I am running because I want college kids to have solid representation on the Board,” Burrows explained.

A member of the Collegetown Independent Party, Burrows wants to improve quality of life for people living in District 4 of the City of Ithaca, which encompasses West Campus and Collegetown.

Burrows’ main concern is Tompkins County’s growing budget.

“The budget has been expanding at an exponential rate over the last three years,” he said. “This leads to increases in student rent.”

Burrows hopes to protect student rent prices by assuming fiscal responsibility and capping the budget.

“I want to prevent the [rumored] one percent increase in sales tax,” Burrows said. “I’m for less taxes.”

Current seat holder Schuler is concerned with quality of life issues such as transportation, human services and consumer protection, according to her website. Schuler could not be reached for comment.

These issues are of importance to Burrows as well, but he feels that because “Nancy Schuler lives outside the district and I live with college students, I am more in touch with the district’s constituents. Students can approach me, call me or e-mail me with their concerns.”

Should he win the election, Burrows pledges to live in Ithaca for the full duration of his 4-year term. Although he is an operations research major in the College of Engineering, and has no prior experience in politics, he plans to remain involved in the political scene after he graduates.

Although Burrows thinks he “definitely can win,” the campaign got off to a rocky start. Due to invalid signatures on his nominating petitions, it took him two attempts to earn a spot on the ballot. Now, his remaining obstacle is getting students to vote.

“I’m going to kick off my campaign with a registration drive,” he said. “I will be [signing students up] at Ho Plaza, Noyes Community Center, or convenience stores in Collegetown.”

Students running for positions in Ithaca’s government is not unprecedented. In 1999, Green party candidate Josh Glasstetter ’01 defeated Jane V. Pedersen, associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, for the position of alderman for the city’s Common Council. Students make up 90 percent of the voters in his district, Ward 4.

Two other students running for positions on the Common Council that year, however, did not fare as well, losing to their opponents.

Burrows noted that the adult members of the Board seemed receptive to working with a student. Many of Burrows’ peers support his efforts as well.

“Cornell students are not just part of the Cornell community, but part of the Ithaca community as well and have just as much right to speak their minds as any other citizen,” said Sarah Bender ’04.

Burrows hopes that in case of a victory, his seat would remain occupied by a student in the future.

“Student involvement in politics is a huge issue to me. Our generation has been accused of apathy and disinterest for as long as I can remember. This is a way to show the critics that we do care, and that we do want to be involved,” Burrows said.


Archived article by Rachel Einschlag