ITHACA, N.Y.—A short two months after incumbent Mayor Laura Lewis was elected, and just four days after she announced she would not be running again, Ithaca Alderperson Robert Cantelmo has declared his candidacy for the City Hall seat.
Cantelmo, who works at Cornell as the associate director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, has been on Common Council since winning the 2021 election, representing the Fifth Ward. He’s the first person to declare his candidacy for mayor for the 2023 election, held in November. Lewis won the election this past November to finish former Mayor Svante Myrick’s term; Myrick had picked Lewis as acting mayor in February when he stepped down to take a job with People for the American Way.
“It is clear to all of us here,” Cantelmo said on Sunday at a campaign kick-off event at The Downstairs. “But on these and other issues, we have continued challenges and new opportunities. That’s why I’m glad to be here with all of you as I announce my candidacy for mayor of the City of Ithaca. I want to fulfill promises, promote transparency and offer a clear vision for our community.”
He added that he would prioritize the implementation of the Green New Deal, saying the city should “redouble its efforts” on the matter, and the Reimagining Public Safety reforms.
“On public safety, our next steps must include establishing and resourcing an alternative crisis response team, working with residents to promote community centered training for all of our public safety division, and finding a permanent chief of our police department,” Cantelmo said. He additionally touched upon the city’s affordable housing crisis and recent discontent among city workers that has spilled into the public view.
“Good housing policy also means strengthening protections for tenants facing unfair displacements and evictions,” Cantelmo said. “I am running to restore employee morale and confidence in City Hall.”
Fellow Alderperson Ducson Nguyen introduced Cantelmo at the event, highlighting his accomplishments during his time on council led by Cantelmo’s push to make Ithaca a sanctuary for abortion care in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as his leadership of a bill that introduced employer pay transparency in Ithaca in September.
Most members of Common Council were in attendance for the fairly crowded event, including oft-rumored mayoral candidate Cynthia Brock, who represents the First Ward on council. Brock confirmed she will not be running for Ithaca mayor in 2023. Mayor Laura Lewis was not in attendance.
There’s an added significance to this mayoral race, as the role of mayor will indelibly change with the introduction of the City Manager position in 2024. That means whoever is first to serve in the new mayoral role will certainly set the precedent for how influential the position will be going forward and how it will interact with the new City Manager role and whoever is selected for that position.
“It’s important, going forward, that the mayor view themselves as a coalition builder,” Cantelmo said when asked how he thinks the role of mayor will change. “The primary responsibility of the mayor is going to be leading on policy and working with council colleagues to meet the needs of our community. That means engaging council members early and often, especially in their relative areas of expertise, about problems that the city is dealing with. What we have to move away from is this tendency to allow policy to be only driven by the mayor’s office, and for the city to only tackle one issue at a time.”