On Nov. 2, Robert Cantelmo, grad, won the Fifth Ward Common Council seat in the general election and will be taking office in January.
In office Cantelmo hopes to utilize federal funds to spur economic recovery from the pandemic, address housing needs of community members, double down on Ithaca’s commitment to sustainability and reform community policing.
Cantelmo, a Ph.D. student in the government department, will step into his position after serving as a volunteer then the chairman of the Ithaca Public Safety and Information Commission, where he incorporated public feedback and concerns into city legislation.
Cantelmo hopes that his experience studying evidence-based policy will greatly help him serve the communities in the 5th ward, which includes parts of North Campus and Stewart Park.
“I think my training in politics and my research skills are really useful tools for being a public servant,” Cantelmo said. “During my time as a volunteer for the city, I wanted to continue the good work by the community members of Ithaca to steer the city in the right direction.”
Cantelmo said housing insecurity is one of the most important issues on his platform. He said high rents, resident displacement and extremely low vacancy rates are issues he plans to address during his term.
“I’m in favor of promoting increased stocks of housing because it helps to promote improvements to livability and opportunity for our city residents,” Cantelmo said. “I’m also in favor of utilizing rent stabilization legislation to intervene in the on-going housing crisis and high rents.”
Cantelmo also stressed the importance of allocating resources to improve the city’s public safety, focusing on de-escalation and mental health training. He also hopes to talk to his constituents to get feedback on proposed policies.
“It’s important to me to get feedback on how things are going and to remind the public that this is a two way dialogue,” said Cantelmo. “The community should be able to give iterative feedback to their elected representatives to ensure that the changes and the policy outcomes are being met.”
Two of Cantelmo’s endorsements came from the city’s former Chief of Staff Dan Cogan and Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff (D-5th ward), who Cantelmo will be replacing in the coming year.
Cogan first met Cantelmo when Cantelmo served the city as a volunteer for the Ithaca Public Safety and Information Commission. Cogan was impressed with Cantelmo’s background in research and evidence-based policy making.
“He is able to listen, to synthesize ideas, and to make things happen. Having good people skills is essential, and Robert has them,” Cogan wrote in an email to the Sun. “He will be able to hit the ground running like no one else. I can think of no one more well suited to represent our district.”
In addition to being a public servant and student, Cantelmo is a husband and a father of two. Cantelmo’s special attachment for the community comes from Ithaca being a formative city for his family
“Ithaca is where my wife Catherine and I started our family,” Cantelmo said. “We both had our children here in Ithaca and we have been able to watch them slowly grow up. Ithaca, to my family, has been a rewarding and welcoming community.”