Yisu Zheng / Sun File Photo

Common Council candidate Cynthia Brock’s campaign focuses on issues that are directly affecting Ithaca residents and builds structured goals.

October 10, 2023

After Democratic Primary Loss, Incumbent Cynthia Brock (D-1st Ward) Runs as Independent Candidate for Common Council Seat

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For Alderperson Cynthia Brock (D-1st Ward), change is a marathon, not a sprint. In an interview with The Sun, Brock explained that she practices a methodical, process-oriented approach to politics, urging measured responses to Ithaca’s most pressing political quandaries.

“I think very deliberately about how systems work together, how you need to take deliberate steps in order to achieve an implementable goal,” Brock said. “I recognize that it all comes down to process. It comes down to legislation. It comes down to really taking the time to put the structures in place to make sure that your larger vision is able to come into effect.”

With Brock serving 12 years on Common Council, voters have looked to her for stability — a quality that stands in opposition to the new voice in local politics represented by Kayla Matos, whom Brock will battle in the November general election for the Ward 1 four-year term Common Council seat.

Brock lost the June 27 Democratic primary to Matos — deputy director of the Southside Community Center and a born and raised Ithacan — but announced in August her decision to continue in the November general election as an independent candidate, running on the Ithacans for Progress line.

While Matos calls for “louder voices and stronger hands to push [political] changes forward,” according to a post on the Instagram account for her campaign, Brock said that she takes a more moderate, incremental approach — stressing collaboration with community members and city partners, especially on hot-button issues like policing and tenant rights.

“I think what is important is to have a dialogue with landlords, have a dialogue with community members, to not come at approaches from an aggressive, adversarial approach. And I have worked very hard to build relationships across all perspectives, across all fields, even with people that are in fields that I want to regulate more,” Brock said. “Whether or not it’s the landlord-tenant relationship, whether or not it’s police officers, [I make sure] that I can sit down at the table with a broad group of people, look at a situation and try to find a collaborative way to move forward.”

To Brock, the Common Council should focus on the concrete aspects of city life that affect every resident on a daily basis.

“If you look at the responsibilities that the city has, it really is about the infrastructure,” Brock said. “It’s about roads and sidewalks and stormwater and water and sewer[s], zoning and fire and police and building inspections, and parks, recreation [and] natural areas. It is about the things that you physically touch, and physically impact you.”

Brock urged caution on issues of housing, saying unintended consequences can result from legislation too hastily implemented, like the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, which can provide rent stabilization for tenants in specific types of rental units. Other candidates in the Common Council race have advocated ETPA implementation.

“I think that anything that we do in that case needs to be very carefully and mindfully done so that we don’t actually create, perhaps, greater challenges than what we intend to address,” Brock said, noting the possibility of landlords’ renovating their buildings so they no longer fall under the ETPA’s purview, potentially causing the loss of previously affordable housing units.

Cornell’s payment in lieu of taxes to the city is also heavy on the minds of Ithaca residents as Cornell and Ithaca continue negotiations. Common Council will vote on the proposed agreement on Oct. 11. Brock said that Cornell and the City of Ithaca have common interests, and the payment can be representative of that outlook.

“We do share the same goals in the sense that Cornell is going to be successful if our community is stable, vibrant and supportive,” Brock said. “There are many things that we do together, between the city and Cornell, that they could take financial responsibility for which would help reduce the city tax burden and would definitely be in their interest.”

Brock has been endorsed by the local chapters of the Community Action Program of the United Auto Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, among others.

The Common Council election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7, with early voting occurring from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5.