April 28, 2005

Cornellians Declare County Legislature Candidacies

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Nathan Shinagawa ’05 and Matt Bishop both formally announced their decision to run for the Tompkins County Legislature yesterday at a Cornell Democrats meeting. Bishop is not a current student at Cornell, but will be a graduate student at the University next year.

In their speeches, both candidates stressed their status both as students and permanent residents of the area.

“I am also a permanent resident –I grew up in this area — and I am also a student. And as a legislator, I will do my best to be an advocate for both groups,” Bishop said.

“My dual role as student and resident of the area has given me a very, very unique perspective. And it’s a perspective which is necessary to be the Tompkins County legislator for the fourth district,” Shinagawa said.

The two candidates each also spoke about changing county law which forces bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m.

“Now, what happens when [bars] close at 1 o’clock a.m., what do people do? Stand on the streets, after hours, go to house parties — they make noise in the neighborhoods, they cause residents grief. … A possible solution that can help both government and can also help the Collegetown neighborhood is making bars open later, until 2:30 or 3 o’clock,” Shinagawa said.

“After you get out of the bars at 1 or 1:30, you immediately go to a party, you’re not going to go home. And that creates more disruption within the local communities,” Bishop said. “If we expand the hours, we keep the students in the bars, they’re in a responsible environment where there are bartenders who can watch over. And also, there are less likely to be house parties.”

Both also stressed the need to provide social and human services to all members of the community, especially the poor and those in need of health care or jobs.

Bishop spoke about his previous experience, including working on previous local campaigns and speaking with Cornell faculty and Tompkins County residents. After graduating from Dickinson College, Bishop worked as a field director for a Pennsylvania state legislature campaign in the college town of Indiana, Pa.

“The campaign taught me a lot about economic development, property taxes and the difficulty of delivering quality local public services,” Bishop said. “In short, I saw the results of government in action and government inaction. … I realized that the people of Tompkins County are facing many of the same challenges that the people of Pennsylvania face.”

Shinagawa did not talk as much about his past experience, but emphasized that students “need to have a united front” by advocating for student issues at several levels.

“We can advocate for [TCAT reforms] on the student level, we can even advocate for it on the university level. But we can’t do anything unless we have government support,” he said. “The Tompkins County Legislature is the main person in charge of TCAT. And so now we can work on it from a multi-pronged approach, and that’s my whole idea of the united front.”

He said that issues such as parking and internships are not issues that the county can control, but that it can influence other things that affect college students, such as transportation. Shinagawa said he is in favor of Cornell-specific TCAT routes on campus and cheaper or free fares for Cornell students.

But Bishop said that since students generate so much county tax revenue, the county should help provide ample parking for them.

“Students would not be forced to park illegally if there was enough parking in Collegetown,” he said. “The county legislature and city council should work together with Cornell to provide funding for the expansion of pre-existing parking lots.”

Both candidates will seek the Democratic ticket for the election. The Democratic primary will be held in September, but voters must register to vote in it by Aug. 19th, or Aug. 24 if by mail.

Shinagawa’s and Bishop’s announcements bring to three the number of candidates who have formally declared an intention to seek the seat. Joan Spielholz ’73 announced her candidacy Monday and is also running as a Democrat. Cornell Democrats President Mitch Fagen ’07 said that the group has not decided whether they will officially endorse one of the candidates for September’s primary.

Nitin Chadda ’07 is expected to announce his candidacy in the next couple weeks and will run as an Independent.

County Legislator Nancy Schuler (D-District 4) announced Monday that she would not seek a fifth term, leaving her seat on the legislature open.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun City Editor