It has been just over a year since Svante Myrick ’09 became mayor of Ithaca, and in that year, he has already faced a bevy of challenges. With the city facing a $3-million deficit last year, Myrick made tough choices to close the budget gap and fought for grants to stimulate economic development. While we may not agree with every budgetary decision the mayor has made, we admire the way in which he has not settled for complacency and has been willing to challenge popular opinion. As we anticipate the remaining three years of his first term, we hope that Myrick will capitalize on his past successes and seize this crucial chance to grow Ithaca’s economy.
Even in this era of economic austerity, making the tough choices necessary to close a large budget deficit is challenging for any mayor — let alone one two years out of college. Myrick’s proposal to close the gap through revenue increases, staff cuts and bureaucratic reorganization takes a pragmatic approach to making the city government financially sustainable. Instead of making choices that were politically popular but economically unsound, the mayor took calculated steps to fix the city’s budget woes. These actions demonstrate the leadership qualities that led voters to elect him mayor in November 2011.
Despite demonstrating his willingness to make tough decisions on some budgetary matters, Myrick has also yet to achieve certain goals he has set for the city’s financial health. For instance, in order to close the budget deficit, Myrick said that the University should pay the city “far more” than the $1.25 million per year it gives in lieu of taxes. He has noted that if Cornell’s land was fully taxed, it would pay the city $30 million per year. We commend Myrick’s vocal support for the University increasing its contributions to the city, but hope to see Myrick take action to achieve this change in the next three years.
As Myrick endeavours to balance the city’s budget, he should also strive to support economic growth in Ithaca. In the last few years, the city has seen a number of proposals that have the potential to revitalize its core. The sweeping renovation of the Ithaca Commons, expansion of the Holiday Inn and $30-million “Harold’s Square” development represent a once-in-a-generation chance for the city to expand its tax base and drastically redevelop the downtown area. Myrick has rightly supported these projects and has also fought for federal and state money to help pay for them. In the past year, the city has received $4.5 million in federal funding for transportation upgrades, as well as $1.8 million from New York State for the rehabilitation of the Commons.
With such an incredible opportunity to transform the heart of Ithaca and an impressive first year already behind him, Myrick should continue to fight for a balanced budget and aggressively pursue funding for much-needed capital improvements. While taking into account the importance of public goods that can not be measured in dollars and cents, we urge Myrick to continue striving for economic stability in our city.
Correction: A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Svante Myrick ’09 sold land occupied by Ithaca Community Gardens to a private developer. In fact, the Community Gardens has not been sold.