With a registered Independent and Democrat vying for one of the two Fourth Ward seats on Common Council — Peter Mack ’03 and Jamison Moore ’04 respectively — Cornell student residents in Collegetown and West Campus were thrust into a political system that uniquely characterizes the City of Ithaca.
Two years ago, local elections caused a rift in the local Democratic Party. As a result, many contests for public office now pit one candidate selected by a group of local Democrats against another affiliated with a group of independents.
Mack, running with the East Hill Unity Party, is closely aligned with Joan Spieholz ’73 (D-4th Ward) — a member of the October Alliance. The October Alliance derives from a group, Democrats for Cohen, formed to support the re-election of Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81 after the Democratic Party endorsed Dan Hoffman ’72.
Mack, who votes as a Democrat, comes from New Haven, Conn., “which I believe to be a city that very much relates to Ithaca,” he said. The deficiencies in the way the college, Yale, and the city government worked together made Mack see an opportunity to benefit Ithaca, and especially the Fourth Ward.
In addition, Mack cites his experiences on campus as valuable qualifications for serving on Common Council. Mack is currently the director for community and University relations for the Interfraternity Council, an executive director for the Student Management Corporation, and he participates actively in community service.
A student in the School of Hotel Administration, Mack also works as a teaching assistant in two Introduction to Culinary Theory and Practice classes.
“I’m extremely excited, and I really have a lot of energy going into this,” Mack said. “It truly does bring a smile to my face to know that no matter what the outcome is, a student will [occupy] the position.”
Shortly after Josh Glasstetter ’01 resigned halfway through his four-year term, Mack began to look into the Fourth Ward race.
“I had contact with the mayor, because he was a figure for help in the process of planning a petition and advice for entering myself for candidacy,” Mack said of the early stages in his preparation.
“I had heard specifically that Joan [Spielholz] was looking for candidates,” he said.
Spielholz, with the October Alliance, had set out to identify some independent candidates, particularly students, who would be interested in running. Independent of a political organization, Cohen also spoke with potential candidates about the race.
“It was the Mayor who pointed out to us that there may be other students who are interested in running,” Spielholz said.
“It just seemed like there were a few people who were choosing [the Fourth Ward alderperson],” she said.
In the independent search for potential candidates, Spielholz added, “I think there was some focus on the Greek system.”
Following Moore’s selection by the Fourth Ward Democratic Committee, Spielholz continued her search, in order to draw out issues that would be missing otherwise in an uncontested election.
“I am not questioning [Moore’s] qualifications. I am questioning anybody’s qualifications who just falls into something,” Spielholz said. “Hopefully now people will question his qualifications, and Peter’s.”
Admittedly, Mack acknowledges his relative inexperience in City issues in relation to a person like Spielholz, who has lived in Ithaca for 30 years.
“He doesn’t feel informed on issues, and I’ve talked to him more than once, giving him information,” Cohen said.
“I like what I see in Peter Mack,” Cohen added, while at the same time reserving his support for one candidate without having met Moore.
During the month-long campaign and the duration before the winner takes his seat, the Fourth Ward will retain one vacant seat. Technically an interim representative could be nominated by any resident or a ward nominating committee. However, Common Council is currently involved in budget hearings, making this a particularly inopportune time for such action.
Archived article by Matthew Hirsch