On Jan. 15, Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 reaffirmed his decision not to run for a third term in November’s election. Cohen’s announcement comes as no surprise since he originally stated his plan not to run for re-election shortly into his second term four years ago.
Cohen cited several reasons for the announcement. His primary reason was to verify to his opponents that they would not be running against an incumbent opponent and also to lock himself in the decision.
“I do not want to be tempted later on,” Cohen said. He also cited his personal life as another reason for the decision.
Cohen also stressed the importance of attaining some diversity in the mayoral position.
“Looking at the pictures of past Ithaca mayors on the walls of the Common Council, you see that they are all white males. I would like to see that change,” Cohen said. He does not foresee this as a problem as four female members of Ithaca’s Common Council have indicated some interest in running for mayor.
Cohen leaves behind a legacy of major economic development in Ithaca. Edward Hershey, a member of the Common Council, praised Cohen’s focus on a balanced approach to development, mainly by bringing big businesses into Ithaca without spoiling the city’s character and beauty.
“The mayor was steadfast and patient in seeing his economic plan through, attracting businesses to Ithaca with minimal harm to the surrounding area,” he said.
The mayor’s plan was to keep Ithaca residents’ millions of shopping dollars in Ithaca as opposed to spending all of it in major shopping areas such as Syracuse. This would also generate revenue for the local community in terms of sales and property taxes.
Some of the mayor’s developmental changes can be seen in the form of the office building to be built at the intersection of Cayuga and Green Streets.
“This is a visible version of his legacy,” Hershey said. “The mayor proposed and helped bring to pass several projects to make Ithaca’s downtown more desirable to businesses.”
The mayor’s proposals have also met with some criticism.
“There has been some frustration with his work in Ithaca,” Common Council member Peter Mack ’03 said. This criticism largely centers on the mayor’s development policies, which raise concerns about maintaining Ithaca’s unique character.
“While these businesses would be good for our economy, they work against the sense of an independent community that Ithaca has developed over the years and is necessary for a liberal college town,” Elizabeth Bailey ’05 said.
According to Hershey, the mayor’s focus on primarily developing the downtown area has offered a solution that most of his critics do not object to.
Cohen has emphasized that he is not a “lame duck” mayor despite not returning to office. He intends to work on small projects that have been pushed aside because of his larger development plans. His office’s moto has become “Ducks Can Fly”; there is little doubt among Common Council members that he will still be an enthusiastic participant in government until his term is complete.
“I have disagreed with him, but I have always admired his work ethic and his ability to communicate,” Mack said.
Hershey hopes that the next mayor will be able to be a unifying force among communities and political factions in Ithaca, a rift caused in part by the mayor’s economic policies.
Cohen’s future plans are unclear, although he is sure that he neither wants another elected position for some time, nor will he go back to the hospitality industry in which he worked before becoming mayor.
Archived article by Matthew Vernon