The three City of Ithaca democratic mayoral candidates faced off in a debate hosted by ICTV and WICB yesterday, marking one of the candidates’ last chances to express individual platforms before the primary vote Tuesday.
With only two days until the democratic primary, J.R. Clairborne, councilman, City of Ithaca 2nd Ward; Pam Mackesey, Tompkins County legislator, 1st District; and Svante Myrick, councilman, City of Ithaca 4th Ward, squared off to win Ithaca residents’ votes.
Senior Peter Blanchard, WICB news director and debate moderator, focused on five major topics, which included economic development and business promotion, the growing budget deficit, the vacant, 94-acre Emerson building across from Ithaca College, violence and crime in downtown Ithaca and sustainability.
As Blanchard went over questions, the candidates referred to previous work and influence they have each had in Ithaca, along with their plans for improvement. In regards to violence and crime in the area, Clairborne referenced experience gained during his time as the community liaison for the Community Dispute Resolution Center. Mackesey highlighted her seven years on the Tompkins County Legislature and her position as chair of the Environmental Quality Committee.
On the topic of business and economic growth, all three candidates said the focus should be drawn back to local businesses, where the bulk of consumer spending should be encouraged.
“We should certainly not be giving incentives or abatements to any corporate enterprise that originates from outside of the region,” Myrick said.
The three candidates all advocated for the living wage and condemned hydraulic fracturing, the much-contested practice of injecting sand and chemicals into the ground to extract methane gas. The issue hits home for Ithaca, as the area sits on top of the Marcellus Shale, a large rock formation with untapped resources.
The candidates also touched on the issue of increased crime in the city, and were put in the position of critiquing the current administration by commenting on what they would have done differently had they been mayor during recent shootings in Ithaca. All were in agreement that a better communication system between the community and the authorities had to be established.
“We have to make sure that our officers have the kind of training that they need in terms of diversity, and that they understand that we have different kinds of people in this world,” Mackesy said.
Myrick responded saying that racism is a difficult subject to avoid when questioning community and police relations. He vowed that, as mayor, he would partner with groups dedicated to fostering diversity and work to “heal our city from the vestiges of racism.”
Clairborne, in his closing statement brought up what he saw as Myrick’s comparative lack of governmental experience compared to him and Mackesey. Myrick has four years, Clairborne has 15 and Mackesey has 12.
“The question that you have before you as voters is do you vote with someone who talks about what they will do or do you place your vote with someone who has experience — who has actually done things and has proven collaboration with people across the board,” Clairborne said.
Myrick responded with promises of innovative new approaches and modernization of the current system with a young, fresh eye.
Voters in ward 1, district 1 and 2 can vote Tuesday at the Lehman Alternative School at 111 Chestnut St., and voters in the second ward and districts 1 and 3 can vote at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center at 301 West Court St.