ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca Common Council’s Second Ward has another candidate for its two-year seat as West Fox has declared their bid for the position.
Fox, whose pronouns are they/them, becomes the third candidate to seek the two-year position, joining Aryeal Jackson and appointed incumbent Kris Haines-Sharp. Fox is endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the Ithaca Tenants Union and the Working Families Party. Fox recently changed their last name from Lalanne to Fox, aligning them with the rest of their family.
Fox’s background is in the arts, marked by performing as a dancer and musician, as well as in education-adjacent ventures in low-income locations. Fox has held similar jobs in Philadelphia, Camden, New Jersey, the Bronx in New York City and Compton, California. Currently, Fox has just begun a job as the Program Coordinator with the Village at Ithaca after working at the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School and the Center for Community Transportation since moving to Ithaca in 2020.
Fox said their campaign is propelled by their experiences as a renter and struggling with homelessness in Los Angeles after graduating college. Fox’s family was unable to help them, meaning Fox was left to fend for themself—which presented a difficult road, despite attending an exclusive boarding school thanks to an academic scholarship and graduating from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in philosophy and public policy.
“Folks who experience homelessness run the gamut,” Fox said. “I was in the system and trying to find housing with folks with their doctorates and folks who are addicts and folks who had mental illness and folks who fell through the veteran system.”
Eventually, Fox settled in Ithaca with a friend about four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, having arrived while the nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd were still ongoing.
On police reform, Fox said they care less about the exact specifics of the police department’s future iteration and more about the ripple effects of the conversation being had over the topic. In Fox’s hopes, those conversations will open more minds to an emphasis on community connections and interpersonal relationship-building that could partially alleviate some of the need for increasing police budgets.
“I want to join Common Council and continue being an engine for the Reimagining Public Safety campaign,” Fox said. “I do have a worry and fear that as residents of Ithaca, what I’m noticing is that we’re relying a little too heavily on our local government and police force to be doing the work, and while they do need to do the work […] I think that grassroots, people-to-people organizing is equally as important as them finding a new police chief, as them hiring new unarmed officers, as them getting more mental health professionals.”
In an interview, Fox also endorsed the #FreeCAT campaign calling for TCAT buses to be fare-free for all riders, calling public transportation a crucial part of achieving what the city aims to do with the Ithaca Green New Deal.
Citing the myriad difficulties in obtaining housing locally, Fox said they would like to see more stringent restrictions on short-term rental usage like Airbnb (though Fox added they understand the need for some people to do that to cover their own housing costs) as that takes away housing units from the long-term rental or ownership market, where stock is desperately needed to avoid further price climbing. The housing market in Ithaca is often addressed in a level-by-level way, they said—one project for high-price renters, one for low-income, others for homeowners, etc.
“We have this opportunity, because of all this unrest and instability, to form a coalition where we’re deciding early on that we’re going to support the homeowners, renters and the unhoused in our policy, instead of just one part of the population and letting the other parts flop around,” they said.
Fox touts their “progressive socialist” values, an increasingly popular label among candidates in Ithaca during this election cycle, but understands how that might rub some voters the wrong way at first glance. Fox argues that much of what they have said about their campaign priorities is rooted in socialism but represents what people actually want in Ithaca—public transportation, reforms to create a more suitable public police force, more aggressive work being done to improve public streets and infrastructure, etc.
“By claiming the term socialism, what we’re doing is having a reframe of our point of view so that we believe in our own power,” Fox said. “I think this growing socialist movement in Ithaca really is legitimizing the collective and community power, grassroots power that already exists here.”