January 30, 2004

Meeting Ms. Mayor

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Ithaca’s first female mayor, Carolyn Peterson, who was sworn in at the beginning of this month, has already begun to organize an administration that will tackle what she views as the city’s most pressing issues.

“We are, like many cities in New York, still in a fairly hard budget situation,” she said. “We are facing high health insurance costs and increases in the cost of retirement pensions. There is some good news, though. We had projected a revenue for $7.8 million for the end of 2003, but we took $8 million. We believe that that is due to more of new economic development and we hope to see more economic development in 2004 that will bring in more new revenues.”

Peterson herself is no stranger to Ithaca’s city hall. She represented 5th ward Common Council from 1984 until 1992, and 4th ward from 2002 until she the beginning of this year. As mayor, she said that one of her goals would be to get the general public more involved with local government.

“I will be trying, at least quarterly, some system of town meetings outside of city hall,” she said. “It’s an important way to gather information.”

Members of the Common Council have taken notice of Peterson’s desire to get the public more involved.

“She’s paying attention to morale issues and staff issues,” said Dan Cogan (G-5th Ward). “She seems to want to make an atmosphere of inclusively in city hall and with the public.”

Peterson, whose 4th ward included Collegetown and West Campus, expressed optimism about improving town and gown relations.

“We have a new president at Cornell and a new mayor,” she said. “Thursday I’ll be meeting with President Lehman and looking for ways to more forward as a town and as a university. My particular neighborhood saw students actively involved. Town-Gown relations can be strengthened.”

Another change between the University and the town is the presence of two Cornellians on the Common Council — Michael Taylor ’05 and Gayraud Townsend ’05, who both represent the 4th Ward. Taylor, who has worked with Peterson on the Collegetown Neighborhood Council for over a year, also expressed optimism in regards to improving Cornell’s relationship to Ithaca.

“She named me to the Cornell/City Working Group,” Taylor said. “This is the first time a student has been appointed to it.”

The Cornell/City Working Group is the official link between Cornell and city of Ithaca and serves as one of the major channels of communication between the city and the University.

As new mayor, one of Peterson’s major goals is reorganizing the city’s administration. She has structured the standing committees, and to improve communication on budgetary matters, has assigned all city departments to the various committees.

“The next step is going to be shaping the special committees,” Peterson said. “One of them is intergovernmental relations. That will be headed up by a Common Council person. Another big area of focus is public information, a committee that was started last fall and will be headed up by David Whitmore. They will be looking for ways to convey information inside city hall, but also getting it out to the public.”

Peterson also expressed her disdain toward inviting more chain stores into the community.

There are all kinds of other ways to bring in economic development, she said. “There are small businesses and local businesses that will contribute to our community. There are still a few large chain stores in the works, which have already been in the works.”

The Cornell/City Working Group is the official link between Cornell and city of Ithaca and serves as one of the major channels of communication between the city and the University.

As new mayor, one of Peterson’s major goals is reorganizing the city’s administration. She has structured the standing committees, and to improve communication on budgetary matters, has assigned all city departments to the various committees.

“The next step is going to be shaping the special committees,” Peterson said. “One of them is intergovernmental relations. That will be headed up by a Common Council person. Another big area of focus is public information, a committee that was started last fall and will be headed up by David Whitmore. They will be looking for ways to convey information inside city hall, but also getting it out to the public.”

Peterson also expressed her disdain toward inviting more chain stores into the community.

There are all kinds of other ways to bring in economic development, she said. “There are small businesses and local businesses that will contribute to our community. There are still a few large chain stores in the works, which have already been in the works.”

Archived article by David Hillis

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