ITHACA, N.Y. –– Come Tuesday, the City of Ithaca mayor’s office could have a new face.
Former taxi driver and valet Adam Levine is running a grassroots socialist campaign against Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick. His third party bid is seeking to include the community as much as possible in running the city.
“The name of our party is the We Party,” said Levine. “The slogan of the campaign is ‘everybody in, nobody out.’ So we’re not, I’m not looking for a solution for a few people and leaving everybody else out.”
Originally from New York City, Levine has lived in Tompkins County for almost 17 years –– 9 of them living in downtown Ithaca. Part of his campaign is focused on making Ithaca an affordable place to live for more people.
“So, a single mom of two or three lives in Groton or Dryden and all the services are in Ithaca. If the bus comes once an hour and she misses it and one kid gets sick and one kid doesn’t want to leave the house…it’s not easy right,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with Groton or Dryden. But your job and your life are here. There are people who are from here and went to high school here, born and raised, who can’t afford to live here.”
The solution, he said, is more affordable housing.
“We can make some rent protection laws that include a certain amount of affordable housing within our housing,” he said. He also said there are a lot of people working long hours just to afford their rent in the city.
“You’re talking about just to live, without food, without transportation, without putting anything away, without any basics and then that will absorb your entire 40-hour check,” said Levine. “Now you have to work another 20 hours just to pay for the other basics, like food.”
Levine feels that better jobs and more affordable housing will benefit the entire community.
“Once the minimum wage goes up and people make more, we can get some good union jobs into Ithaca. The small business owner will benefit because the plumbers and electricians will have a union here,” Levine said. “They’ll be working a lot and making 30 something dollars an hour. Then they can go out and have something to eat or buy an extra shirt or maybe see a little live music and whatever they want to do…the businesses will all benefit from that.”
The other pressing issue for Levine is the relationship between the mayor’s office and the Ithaca Police Department. IPD has not had a contract with the city, or a pay increase since 2011. Levine wants to change that. Levine also says any IPD contract should include some sort of mandatory psychology and sociology education for officers.
Levine was a case manager for homeless adults in New York City, worked with people with developmental disabilities in North Carolina and worked at the William George Agency for Children’s Services with teenage boys who were wards of the state in Tompkins County. All of those experiences, he said, have prepared him to handle drug addiction and crime in the city.
“I was in the field. So I have an idea of how we can approach a lot of these things. It’s a problem all over the country,” he said. “If we had a good rehab facility and were able to send people out maybe to halfway houses, we could help a lot of people and provide a lot of good jobs.”
Eldercare in Ithaca is another social service that Levine believes could stimulate jobs.
“Good quality of eldercare is so important. In ten years the oldest baby boomer will be 83. There’ll be a lot of folks needing care,” he said. “So if you have a good rehab facility providing jobs good eldercare and bringing a little non-toxic manufacturing –– all of a sudden there could be hundreds and thousands of good jobs in the city.”
Levine announced his candidacy over the summer, challenging Ithaca’s sitting mayor, Svante Myrick. Myrick is running for a third term.
To run for mayor in the City of Ithaca, candidates need to collect at least 330 signatures from voters. Levine was unable to do so, but went unchallenged by Myrick and the Tompkins County Board of Elections when filing to run.
Levine said that he got into the race because friends and community members urged him to do so.
“There were some promises made in a good way where I wouldn’t have had to change anything ethically that I would do. And I thought OK now I have to run,” he said. “People were asking me for some advice and I was getting a high level of support.”
After getting his name on the ballot officially, he said that the support he got has since disappeared.
“So we’ve had challenges because I don’t have money of my own. Some of the promised funding didn’t come through immediately,” Levine said.
Levine has not had any formal experience in politics, and said that he will have to rely on community members for help balancing budgets and finding solutions to the city’s problems.
“I’m not gonna wing it and tell you ‘Oh I think that sounds good…’ I’m gonna have people who check the people,” he said. “I’m not gonna be an expert on everything. I’m going to have people that I trust and people to check the people that I trust.”
Levine says his campaign has a shot. A few weeks ago he quit his job to campaign full time.
“We’re on the ballot, we’ve got a chance to win,” he said. “On Nov. 6 I wake up with a job or scrambling to find a job.”
Polls will be open on Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There are also early voting options available. More info from the Tompkins County Board of Elections here.