ITHACA, N.Y.—Pierre Saint-Perez is a born-and-raised Ithacan and now he’s aiming to earn a seat on the city’s most powerful public body.
Saint-Perez, a student studying at Cornell Law to attain a juris doctor degree, announced his intention to run as a Democrat to represent Ithaca’s Third Ward for a two year term at his high school alma mater, the Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS).
The choice to announce his candidacy there comes down to how deeply LACS seems to have molded Saint-Perez’s development. It’s an alternative public school that, among other departures from a conventional educational experience, gives its student body a hand in schoolwide decision making through a democratic process.
“That truly shaped me and who I am,” Saint-Perez told The Ithaca Voice. However, his choice to run for council in the first place, he says, stems from his belief the City of Ithaca is in the midst of a profound transition.
“I feel like I grew up in a wonderful college town, and I now live in a small college city that’s trying to figure out its path, its direction,” said Saint-Perez.
There was a clear shift in the community he says he perceived returning from his undergraduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University, where he graduated with two Bachelors of Science degrees in public policy in 2021.
He says he’s seeking office not to “displace” anyone on Common Council — though Saint-Perez won’t be facing an incumbent and, as of yet, is the only candidate to declare for the two-year term in the Third Ward — but to “keep the spark of what makes Ithaca truly special and lovely.”
What does that mean? Asked to further explain what issues he felt are endangering that “spark,” Saint-Perez responded the “housing crisis” Ithaca is experiencing, a rising houseless population, and a poverty rate among city residents of over 30% are all concerning to him, and need addressing.
Touching on police reform, Saint-Perez said, “We have many contentious social issues. I’m not going to pretend that I can wave a magic wand and know the answer to public safety. I don’t think anyone has that mystic power. But I think that’s a conversation that I’m glad that the community is engaged in.”
The throughline in the young candidate’s explanation for running for office would prove to be a perceived need to bring people together and mend the city’s social fabric. “I think we need to also work on building and rebuilding community in neighborhoods,” Saint-Perez said. “I think the pandemic took a toll on neighborhood community.”
As he collects signatures and tries to ingratiate himself with his district, the issues that Saint-Perez said he intends to focus on are those that he hears concern about from the residents of the Third Ward which, after redistricting, includes Ithaca’s South Hill and Belle Sherman neighborhoods.
“The first issues I would want to address are the issues that my constituents are most immediately worried about,” said Saint-Perez.