The Fourth Ward in Ithaca has had a long string of student representatives who have sat on the Common Council. The Fourth Ward, which includes Collegetown, is comprised of a large number of students, and it is important that their interests be represented. While there is one student running for the position, we feel that students’ needs will more adequately be served by Alderperson Stephen Smith (D-4th Ward), an Ithaca resident and SUNY Geneseo graduate, and for that reason we endorse him for Ithaca’s Fourth Ward.
Smith was appointed to fill the position vacated by Eddie Rooker ’09 and we feel that he will continue to represent the ward well. He has taken positions on city issues that we feel are pragmatic and necessary. For example, he has supported the mayor’s attempts to fill the city’s $3-million dollar deficit and was the only representative to vote to consolidate building and fire inspections in the city in an effort to reduce redundancy and costs. Importantly, he supports a budget that combines cuts with modest property tax increases. While closing the defecit is a daunting task, with Smith on the council, we feel more confident that the city will finally be able to close its huge deficit.
Smith’s opponent, Misha Checkovich ’13, has taken positions that are more rigidly tied to ideology rather than pragmatism. This rigidity would substantially restrict the city’s ability to close the deficit. Checkovich has said that she would not support even modest property tax increases to minimize cuts to public safety. She has also said she would not cut public safety positions. These two positions make it hard to move in the direction of reducing the city’s deficit. While Checkovich said that the city should close its deficit by promoting business development to create new sources of tax revenue, this is only a long term solution. The city needs strong leadership when it comes to reducing the deficit in the short term.
What both candidates do agree on, and what The Sun supports, is smart development and using growth to boost tax revenues. Both Smith and Checkovich have said that they support exemptions from parking regulations that would make higher density development in Collegetown possible. The addition of these high-density buildings will help decrease rent prices for students while bringing more revenue to the city. These parking exemptions will help bring a grocery store to the heart of Collegetown, for example — a business that Collegetown desperately needs.
Additionally, both candidates have discussed the importance of engaging the long-term residents of the Fourth Ward in a dialogue with the students. Sadly, this is something that has constantly been discussed, but never adequately materialized. Non-student residents and landlords constantly accuse students of having no regard for the City of Ithaca, and students resent landlords for high rent prices. We hope that whichever candidate wins this election will make engaging both students and residents a top priority.
Smith has shown a willingness to take a pragmatic and realistic approach to improving the City of Ithaca. He understands the importance of closing the deficit in the short run and also exploring long term solutions that promote sustainable development in Collegetown. We enthusiastically endorse his candidacy for the Fourth Ward.