Letter to the editor.

This is a letter to the editor from Ithacan Murali Sitaraman in support of legislature candidate Veronica Pillar. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Anna Lamb at alamb@ithacavoice.com.

I am an educator. Relatively new to Ithaca, I didn’t recognize
Veronica Pillar when she dropped off a flyer at our porch a few weeks
ago. I have learnt more about her since then; we had a 45-minute Zoom
conversation this week that covered a lot of ground, and I hope the
summary here is useful information for others.

Pillar started with what got her interested in the County election in
the first place. Having been at Ithaca over 10 years, first as a
graduate student at Cornell and as a teacher since, she said, “Racial
justice is central.” She was concerned to see the “shrinking of the
Office of Human Rights” as the office reduced a paralegal service for
people coming to get help, without a sufficient explanation. She
placed no blame on anyone. I asked her to elaborate on how she would
handle difficult decisions, and she did.

Pillar described her general approach, when there are disagreements,
in this way: “Explain the reasons behind the decision. Explain the
goals and values in making
the decision. If there’s a disagreement with some constituent(s),
understand their point. It’s important to listen, and to emphasize
that you heard their point.”

Pillar showed her pragmatic side, repeatedly, as we covered a variety
of topics from parents struggling with childcare costs, affordable and
accessible healthcare, affordable housing, and specific problems
facing senior citizens, especially since the pandemic. She said it may
be that “ We can’t do X because of such and such, but here’s something
else [that is a step in the way of achieving X] that can be done.” She
emphasized “listening and learning” and “collaboration” in every case.
She gave examples of problems at the county level that could be
addressed through collaborations with City officials and with State

Pillar noted how aware she is of the specific challenges facing many
students in the area. Discussing mental health, she said how the
capacity of the City of Ithaca is stretched trying to meet the needs
of both the city’s residents and students. She aims to engage Cornell
and Ithaca to find adequate solutions.

The conversation concluded with a discussion of reimagining the public
safety initiative in Ithaca.

Pillar said, “We should look at the Oregon model. There are emergency
issues that don’t involve the police. Mundane smaller issues that
don’t need the police,” and added that these items are not in conflict
with what the police want: “I hear from the police they’re stressed
out and overworked.” A key, she said, is “not to increase the harm” to
the community, regardless of your stated intentions (the CAHOOTS

When my wife Susan and I met Pillar at a rally, we found her to be
someone who cared, engaged, and listened. My conversation with her
confirms that she is a clear thinking, pragmatic person who looks for
solutions through collaboration and communication. Pillar will serve
the County well.

Murali Sitaraman