Sunrise Movement Members Launch Write-In Campaigns For Ithaca Common Council

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG) – Heading into this week the incumbents on Ithaca’s Common Council were all running for re-election unopposed.

Now, two members of the Sunrise Movement in Ithaca are running write-in campaigns for Common Council.

They are challenging incumbents who represent the Collegetown neighborhood.

Ithaca’s Sunrise Movement is part of a national movement of young people working to stop climate change. 

They are saying the proposed city budget for the Green New Deal is too small. It allocates $100,000 for the 2020 budget year and one full-time staff member. The staffer will work with a consulting firm to determine how the city should best implement the 10-year plan proposed by the Mayor.

Ellie Pfeffer said that’s not enough. She spoke at a recent Council budget meeting and is one of the members running for council.

Pfeffer and others in the Sunrise Movement want two more full-time staff members, more money and a longer commitment to funding.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Ellie Pfeffer is a member of the Sunrise Movement in Ithaca and is running a write-in campaign for Common Council. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

It is a symbol that the Common Council is not willing to put robust funds and energy towards making the institutional change that we need in the city that we need when it comes to a Green New Deal,” Pfeffer said.

Rob Gearhart is the incumbent Pfeffer is challenging. He said it’s wrong to say the Common Council is not serious about the city’s Green New Deal plan because they voted for it unanimously. But, he said, the Council has a responsibility  to be fiscal stewards of the people’s money.

He supports an idea by Laura Lewis, another member of the Council, that would add a second sustainability-related position in mid-2020 with others to follow the next year.

Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Thea Kozakis is a member of the Sunrise Movement in Ithaca running a write-in campaign for Common Council. (Photo: Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio)

Like Pfeffer, Sunrise Movement member Thea Kozakis is also running a write-in campaign in a different ward of the Collegetown neighborhood. Like all of the Sunrise speakers at the recent meeting, Kozakis stressed the urgency of doing more now to stop climate change.

She’s running against Stephen Smith. Smith said that his voting record shows he is deeply committed to the issues the Sunrise Movement is pushing, but there are also other budgetary factors to consider. He points to Ithaca’s need for more housing for low- and middle-income residents.

Smith disagrees with the Sunrise characterization of the proposed Green New Deal budget and staffing as an all or nothing option. He said it’s important for the city to get advice before plunging into a multi-year long plan and the first year is only the first step in that process.