Jason Wu/Sun Senior Editor

Zach Winn is a Republican Common Council challenger.

October 25, 2023

Republican Common Council Candidate Zach Winn Centers Crime, Poverty in Campaign

Print More

Zach Winn has been an Ithaca resident since birth, living through its history and the various changes in the community since. After launching Ithaca Crime — a website dedicated to Ithaca crime stories — he now seeks a spot for the First Ward’s two-year Common Council seat as a Republican candidate in hopes he can make Ithaca a more prosperous and safe place for its residents.

“This is my home and there’s a lot of good people here,” Winn said. “The Common Council is fundamentally unserious about addressing problems, maybe they’re serious about doing what they want to do. But they’re not serious about stopping the decline and improving the quality of life for the average person.” 

Winn embarked on an unsuccessful campaign for mayor last November, losing to Fifth Ward Common Council member Laura Lewis.  Winn said one of his top priorities is to correct Ithaca’s ongoing poverty rates and create more job opportunities for residents. 

“I would ultimately like to create circumstances where businesses would want to operate here, and we’re wanting to hire people,” Winn said. He also envisions providing meaningful employment opportunities for former felons and others who might have difficulty seeking a job.

Winn, in an effort to combat poverty in Ithaca, aims to fix the problems in a homeless encampment in the First Ward dubbed the “Jungle.” 

“There’s human trafficking going on, there’s clearly a lot of bike theft, there’s drug dealing, there’s just a whole criminal economy that’s going on out literally in the dark,” Winn said. “I suggest getting in there, literally cutting down on the streets, clearing all this brush, putting lights, fencing some of these areas to just make them more difficult to access.”

Winn specifically emphasized how the “Jungle” became an area for drug usage and how this usage permeates within Ithaca. 

“There’s plenty of drugs and people are flocking there,” Winn said. “We could provide services for people who are on the street and we can have a whole crisis center. They have a detox facility, [but] they don’t have any nurses for it. It just doesn’t make any sense.” 

Winn also said Cornell’s agreement to pay the City of Ithaca $4 million annually through voluntary payment in lieu of taxes contributions was not enough for the city and that Cornell is not a positive entity for Ithaca. 

“Cornell should be treated as a completely hostile entity, like an occupying force and every opportunity to cause problems for them should have been taken up by the city,” Winn said. “The town’s going to continue to fall apart. There was a major opportunity that was missed, and I wasn’t surprised that Cornell got what it wanted in the end.” 

Cornell is exempt from property taxes despite owning 47 percent of the city’s property value. The City of Ithaca has continued to face growing homelessness, drug problems and rising housing prices.  

“So I mean, ultimately, things will get bad,” Winn said. “Cornell will be a less attractive place to go to school with people since the town is full of drug addicts. It is not the quaint little college town it used to be, it’s incredibly expensive. You know, there’s gunfire all the time — it’s got all the negatives of a major city.” 

Winn then emphasized what he believes to be corruption within the Common Council due to its Democrat majority and no open resistance against the actions conducted by the Council. 

“I don’t like elections with predetermined outcomes,” Winn said. “One-party rule lends itself to corruption, abuse of process and a lack of balance. Without any opposition bothers me. Some of the first things I did was I started communicating by calling in via Zoom to the city meetings just to say ‘Maybe this isn’t a good idea’ or ‘Have you thought about this or stopped doing this?’ Because there was absolutely no real opposition to or any sort of pushback against many of the things that are going on.” 

With his run for the First Ward seat, Winn hopes to challenge this uniformity and instill a more contrarian voice to the Common Council.

Anthony Nagle ’27 is a Sun staff writer and can be reached at [email protected].