At least four Cornellians may seek a vacant seat on the Tompkins County Legislature in the coming November elections. Joan Spielholz ’73 announced her intention to run Monday, Nathan Shinagawa ’05 and Matthew Bishop will announce their candidacies today, and Nitin Chadda ’07 said he plans to make his announcement some time in the next couple of weeks. Bishop is not currently a Cornell student, but will be starting a Master’s in public affairs next year.
Spielholz, Shinagawa and Bishop intend to run as Democratic candidates, whereas Chadda said he will run as an Independent. Shinagawa and Bishop will announce their decisions to seek the position at the College Democrats meeting today.
The four candidates all cited a combination of county-wide and Collegetown-specific issues they wish to address on the legislature.
According to Spielholz, “the major problem is very high assessment” of property values in calculating taxes. She said that she would like to see the housing area in Collegetown improved, especially in lower-end housing, which she said has “gone to hell.” That these houses would be improved, Spielholz said, if their owners actually occupied the buildings. Spielholz also said that the legislature should pay more attention to Collegetown in issues over which it has jurisdiction, such as recycling.
“I think the county should be a little more aware that Collegetown exists,” she said.
For Shinagawa, the position on the legislature would provide a way to address county-wide concerns, such as Medicare issues, as well as issues that will affect the majority of Cornell students more directly. He said he would like to see more TCAT buses serving routes for Cornell and reduced-rate or free fares for Cornell students.
Chadda said that he decided to run after being approached “by several people from the Republican party at the county level.” He added, however, that he and these people agreed that his candidacy should be as a student and not a Republican, and that for this reason he would run as an Independent.
According to Chadda, his candidacy would focus on “daily lifestyle issues,” including parking and road conditions. He added that the legislature represents a very diverse range of interests from around the county, including smaller towns, and that the interests of those towns come at the expense of Collegetown’s needs.
“For the county rules to be set up for these interests and not Collegetown is really unjust,” Chadda said.
According to Bishop, the “number 1 most important issue in Tompkins County … [is] economic growth.” He said he would seek to increase the number of jobs offered in Ithaca, especially temporary internships and permanent job opportunities for students. Bishop also said he will examine Collegetown issues such as the need for parking.
“We need more parking in Collegetown,” he said. “Students all over Collegetown are paying high prices for parking spaces and are being ticketed.”
Shinagawa, Chadda and Bishop all said they would seek to extend the hours during which bars are open. Bars must currently stop serving liquor at 1 a.m., but Shinagawa said that extending these hours would reduce the amount of noise and disturbance students may cause for their neighbors while simultaniously increasing tax revenues.
Spielholz said that she feels that a position as time-consuming as a seat on the legislature should not be in students’ hands.
“It’s really not a student job, to tell you the truth, and that’s why I’m running,” she said. She added that the legislature deals with issues outside of a representative’s specific neighborhood and requires a long-term commitment.
But Chadda said that being a student will not interfere with a position on the legislature. He said that the meetings themselves are a manageable time commitment, and that additional work requires networking within the district, which he said is easier in a close environment like Collegetown.
“The people who sit on [the legislature] hold full time positions elsewhere,” Chadda said. “I do intend to make this my primary interest” outside of school, he added.
Shinagawa said he plans to apply to law school or for a Masters in Africana Studies next year, adding that, as a resident of the area, he plans to stay on the legislature for the entirety of his term if elected.
And for Bishop, a legislature position would be first priority.
“If necessary, I will go to school part time” to accommidate a legislator position, Bishop said. The current legislator, Nancy Schuler (D-District 4) announced Monday that she will not seek re-election at the end of her current and fourth term. Before her 16 years on the County Legislature, Schuler served on Ithaca’s Common Council.
“I thought it was time to step down,” Schuler said.
Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun City Editor