This is a letter to the editor submitted by local resident Kate Cardona in support of Tompkins County Legislature candidate Nicole LaFave. To submit opinion letters, please review our letters policy here and submit them to Anna Lamb at

I received a mailer this morning from Nicole LaFave’s campaign for Tompkins County Legislator in District One with the slogan “We rise, together” next to an image of Nicole gazing into the distance with a look of determination on her face. I was struck by how deeply this encompasses the person I know Nicole to be: someone who lives each day in the pursuit of an Ithaca that truly centers racial and economic justice, unwavering in her commitment to ensuring no one is left out of her vision for an equitable community. In the eight years that I’ve been connected to Nicole, I’ve witnessed her address educational inequities through her role on the ICSD School Board, work for police accountability as a member of Ithaca’s Community Police Review Board, co-found our local Black Lives Matter chapter, and bring her vast knowledge of organizational change to Cornell as the Assistant Director of Diversity Alumni Programs, all while being an amazing mom to three incredible kids. This work is not done from a place of abstraction but rather from her intimate firsthand knowledge of the issues on the table. Rather than seeing herself as separate from or above her community, Nicole has always used her lived experience and her varied and ample skill sets to work alongside other people and advance concrete changes. 

In my own relationship with Nicole, she has been a generous advisor in all of my activist endeavors and has been unfailingly honest with me, even when the truth may have been hard to hear. If we are to actually address the issues that plague our community such as the lack of local affordable housing options and living wage jobs, climate change impacts and injustices in our criminal legal system, then we need legislators who are willing to tell the truth and come up with creative, outside-the-box solutions to complex problems. One of the quotes that I learned from Nicole is James Baldwin’s “If I love you I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see”. In any room she’s in, Nicole will go right to the heart of what isn’t being named but that must be addressed in order for actual progressive change to take place. This truth telling comes from a place of deep love for her community and for our city itself, and a belief in everyone’s capacity to address oppression and lift us all into the lives we deserve. For all of these reasons and more, I believe Nicole LaFave will make an incredible, passionate and principled Tompkins County Legislator for District One and is undoubtedly the best candidate for the job. Let’s rise together. 

Kate Cardona

Leadership Team Member, Tompkins County Showing up for Racial Justice

Board Member, Multicultural Resource Center