November 8, 2011

Kerslick Wins Collegetown Race

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Bucking a recent trend of student representation in Collegetown, long-time Ithaca resident Graham Kerslick was elected to the Common Council for the Fourth Ward — which includes West Campus, Cascadilla Park and most of Collegetown — on Tuesday, receiving 87.4 percent of the vote.

As a member of the council, Kerslick said he will aim to provide “a good representation for the ward as a whole.”

Kerslick, the associate di­­rector of Cor­­nell’s En­ergy Re­­search Center and Micro­en­viron­ment and Meta­­stasis Re­search Center, will be the first elected Fourth Ward representative who is not a student or recent graduate since Carolyn Peterson left the position and became mayor eight years ago. More than 95 percent of the area included in the ward is populated by students.

While Kerslick is not an alumnus of the University, he said he was confident he would be able to effectively represent the interests both students and permanent residents of the area, saying there are issues that are priorities to both groups.

“However long you’re going to be living here, you want decent housing at a reasonable price. The choices … need to be available for people who live in Collegetown,” he said.

Kerslick said it was important to recognize the diversity of the Collegetown community and that students had a wide range of opinions on how to improve the area.

“I don’t see students as a body that can be lumped together,” Kerslick said.

Kerslick also said his role as a University employee will not affect how he approaches issues as a member of the council.

“I think the fact that I work at Cornell does not really have any influence on my role outside my work life,” Kerslick said.

Two representatives serve the Fourth Ward on the council, with one seat up for election every two years. Kerslick will join Eddie Rook­er ’09 (D-4th Ward) as the second coun­­cil member for the ward. Kerslick will take the seat of Svante Myrick ’09, who on Tuesday was elected mayor of Ithaca.

Rooker said he looked forward to working with Kerslick to tackle issues important to Fourth Ward constituents. In particular, Rooker said he hoped to work on the implementation of the Collegetown Master Plan and bringing a grocery store to the area.

Kerslick declared his candidacy in June and spent nearly five months running unopposed for the seat. His opponent, write-in candidate Jessica Reif ’14, only committed to running in October.

“I’m not sure it really had a significant impact,” Kerslick said of Reif’s campaign. “During the last few days, once I was aware there was a write-in campaign, I made sure that I contacted the people I hadn’t yet been able to reach.”

Reif, who is vice-chair of the Cornell Republicans, said that the result was “about what [she] expected.”

“I really didn’t have an expectation of winning when I ran,” she said. “Essentially, the campaign was organized by the Ithaca Republican party… just to give Republicans an option.”

Reif said that she was confident that Kerslick would do an “excellent” job on the council, and she hopes that he will address infrastructure issues, such as repairing sidewalks and potholes.

A native of England, Kerslick said one of his top priorities as alderperson will be to increase participation in Collegetown issues from area residents.

“We have to make sure there’s more involvement from the community,” he said. “I’d like to get more communication with ward constituents; it’s been lacking.”

Original Author: David Marten