May 3, 2002

Democracy Matters Endorses Clean Money Bill

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Members of Democracy Matters took a major step in their battle for campaign finance reform as Ithaca’s Common Council passed and officially endorsed a campaign finance resolution yesterday, as promised by the student group.

Democracy Matters appealed to the Common Council to gain its support on the issue of campaign money reform in Ithaca. Two of the group’s officers, Drew Warshaw ’03 and Michael Chaim Schwalbe ’03 attended several Common Council meetings where they presented their material to the board.

The resolution drafted by the Council states, that “the Common Council of the City of Ithaca strongly supports the Clean Money Clean Elections Bill, and urges our State Assemblyman and State Senators to support the bill in the State Legislature.”

“A member of the board thanked us for bringing such a resolution to the Council, as she greatly appreciated student involvement in such political issues,” said Schwalbe.

Among other things, the presentation letter to the Common Council explained the effects of the issue, stating that “the current campaign finance system recognizes elections as a private good as they are currently financed by less than 5 percent of the population. The result: private [interest] servants, not public servants. Studies done by Citizen Action of New York estimate that it will cost New Yorkers less than $2.75 per person to elect truly public servants.”

Peter Mack ’03, a representative on the Common Council and a member of Democracy Matters pushed the resolution called the Clean Money, Clean Elections Bill sponsored by State Assemblyman Ortiz and State Senator Luster.

“He was able to get it on the agenda of the Committee on Neighborhood and Community Issues,” said Warshaw. “The Committee voted in support of the principles of Clean Money Campaign Reform, thereby putting to the floor of the entire Common Council for a vote.”

The Council, consisting of ten members as well as the mayor of Ithaca, Alan Cohen ’81, listened and the resolution was drafted on Wednesday.

“The vote was unanimous and that is important because as the state of New York considers this, they will realize that the population of Ithaca has been represented completely and none of the older men object to this bill,” said Mack.

“The fact that the Ithaca Common Council passed this resolution unanimously represents a powerful symbolic gesture to the New York State Legislature that Ithaca is tired of politics as usual in Albany and desires real campaign finance reform,” Warshaw said. “With New York’s gubernatorial race heating up, it sends a message to the candidates that if they want Ithaca’s support, they better come out strong in favor of comprehensive campaign finance reform, specifically full-public financing of elections.”

At the Common Council meeting held yesterday, the Cohen expressed his approval of the student group.

“I just want to thank you gentleman for coming down,” Cohen said. “I think it is a good example of how students in our community can get involved in the community in one way or another.”

Others commented on the student activism as well.

“It makes me very proud that students, specifically Drew Warshaw, and Michael Schwalbe and all for Democracy Matters of Cornell University, can come together to support something that’s so idealistic and right, that the Ithaca Common Council can endorse this bill,” Mack said. “I hope that all Ithaca students can appreciate the amount of work that has gone into this effort and I hope that Democracy Matters of Cornell will be a role model to the community to further our rights within small city politics.”

Members of Democracy Matters plan to continue with their present goals.

“We are extremely excited about the passage of this resolution. Cornell stands as a model for the 10 other chapters in New York State,” Schwalbe said. “Presently we are working on developing materials for the other Democracy Matters chapters to use for the passage of similar resolutions in their cities. Additionally, we aim to pass such a resolution in the Tompkins County Board of Representatives as well.”

Archived article by Veronika Belenkaya