Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Being Mayor in Ithaca

Carolyn Peterson's announcement that she will run for re-election as Ithaca's mayor was made, and met, with a minimum of fanfare, which seems to be her intrinsic style.

You don't hear people saying bad things about Mayor Peterson. On the other hand, you don't hear people saying much about her at all.

Is it calculated? Does the mayor figure that the less heat she generates, the easier it is to get things done?

Maybe so, but then she has the problem of people not knowing what she has done. Perhaps she figures the reputation of quiet competence is sufficient, and appropriate.

It is certainly a change in style from her predecessor, Alan Cohen.

Mayor Cohen was a limelight-loving guy who liked doing sit-ups in public, for instance (he could do a thousand), and seemed to relish the role of ringmaster of city government, although thinking of the city as a circus sometimes became a self-fulfilling image, not always for the good. Mayor Cohen had very public skirmishes with adversaries that frequently descended into bozohood. There has been none of that with Mayor Peterson, who seems not to have an adversary in the world, much less an enemy.

No other candidates have emerged for mayor, yet. Mayor Peterson actually publicly called for other candidacies, in the interests of democracy, which is certainly a high-handed approach, characteristic of Her Honor.

We like Mayor Peterson, but are also interested in energetic democracy, so we also wish to encourage other candidates, and also to offer a little advice.

It seems the best way to take on the mayor is to present a contrast to her easy management style and demeanor. This need not mean public calesthenics; it might mean a respectful but vocal approach to problems that Mayor Peterson's lack of heat, so to speak, is leaving out in the cold.

Race relations is one. Affordable housing is another. Transportation is another.

We have often thought that you could get elected mayor in this town if you promised one thing: to stagger the traffic lights downtown. That could be your whole platform. People would figure if nothing else, they would at least get that.

We are not really advocating that, except as an example of a matter which, minimally, would get people thinking about what they want from their local government.

Hopefully, of course, it is a lot more than happy motoring through town. But a competitive candidate for mayor in Ithaca might want to start simply by getting people talking.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

1 comment:

Nathan Shinagawa said...

Really interesting and informative post. Thanks for writing.