A New Era for Students in Ward 4
Posted by Alfonse Muglia on November 7, 2012
For eight years, Cornell students maintained control of the two seats that represent Ward 4 on the Ithaca Common Council. Ward 4, as you may have heard, is the district comprising most of Collegetown and parts of West Campus. Ninety-seven percent of its residents are students.
The residents of the district last night overwhelming elected Stephen Smith to represent the area. His election came as little surprise, considering three events that unfolded the last few weeks. For starters, the Ward’s registration numbers greatly favor his Democratic Party. Secondly, the Republican opposition ran a campaign that failed to connect with students. And nowhere was this more apparent than the third event: the Sun’s endorsement of Smith. This decision by the Editorial Board signified the new era in Ithaca politics.
The Ithaca Democratic Party is moving away from nominating students for the position, beginning with the nomination of Graham Kerslick last year. Smith, an experienced campaign manager with little ties to the Collegetown community, exemplifies this new era of Ithaca politics.
In this new era, students are involved through committees, like the Collegetown Student Council. Expect students to continue to try to affect the conversation through such committees, while bypassing opportunities to rally behind a candidate for government the way they did for Mayor Myrick last fall.
Perhaps this is exactly what Ithaca party machine wants: students to engage in distracting conversation, while experienced, career politicians hold the Council positions. Perhaps it does not believe that students fare well in the position. This would be a fair argument, as the last eight years of a student sitting on the Council have seen consistently rising housing prices, deteriorating quality of living, and the closing of many small businesses that served the interests of students. Despite personal successes of the representatives, Collegetown saw little improvement.
The question then becomes: is it the inexperience of the student representatives or the failed policies of the Ithaca Democrats that are to blame? In this new era, the next few years should answer that question.