This is a letter to the editor written by outgoing First Ward Alderperson George McGonigal. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at

To the Editor,  

The first thing Cynthia Brock did when she decided to continue serving on the City of Ithaca’s Common Council was to begin going door to door in the neighborhoods that are new to the re-configured First Ward.  Talking with residents, listening and learning about what issues are important to people on the Northside, Southside and South of the Creek was her goal.  

This did not surprise me. For 12 years, Cynthia’s commitment to her constituents, and to tackling challenging issues, have been the cornerstones of her service to the City. I have served on Common Council with Cynthia for 10 years. No one on Council works harder than Cynthia Brock. She does her homework, and researches all the issues comprehensively. 

Cynthia understands the challenges we face. They include City infrastructure shortcomings, staffing underfunding and morale concerns, unaffordable housing and homelessness, Reimagining Public Safety, Youth Bureau and GIAC funding, and the complexities of Ithaca’s Green New Deal.  She is also keenly aware of the pressures placed on the City budget and on City taxpayers in order to address these challenges.  Choices will have to be made.

Councilmember Brock’s service as the Chairperson of the Special Joint Committee for Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Plant, and more recently as Chair of the Tompkins County Water Resources Council, has been invaluable. It is so important that her expertise and sound judgment are allowed to continue in these important roles.

Regarding the Ithaca Police Department and the Reimagining Public Safety process, Cynthia has been upfront in her criticism of IPD when criticism is warranted. She has been clear in her support for the reimagining efforts Council is now undertaking and for the need to hire new progressive leadership at IPD. She is committed to hiring an unarmed contingent of public safety workers to both improve community outreach and to bring about better follow-up for mental health and domestic conflict calls for service. Cynthia also recognizes that better relationships with marginalized people in our community and true community policing efforts are unlikely to succeed if our police department remains understaffed and over-extended, with too few local officers of color. 

Cynthia Brock has been working hard for the past two years to improve the lives and safety of people living houseless in the First Ward, particularly in the “Jungle” encampments.  She has also advocated for residents living close by the encampments, particularly at Nate’s Floral Estates, and for local business owners on the West End who are dealing with largely drug-related crimes.

This is a complex and frustrating situation. It calls for human empathy toward all the parties involved, and for action. The work, and the action, has been agonizingly slow.  Cynthia continues to engage in the effort, despite the false narrative being introduced of late by her political opponents. The idea that a sanctioned encampment along the TIDES model would criminalize homelessness or that the City would send people to jail is completely false. 

Ithaca’s city government will be very different in 2024.  There will be a new City Manager overseeing the day-to-day functions of all city departments. There will be a new mayor and a largely new and inexperienced Common Council. We as a city will be facing the same challenges, and undoubtedly some new ones as well. Having a Council member with extensive institutional knowledge of the City’s workings will be invaluable.

I strongly urge my fellow First Ward Democrats to cast their votes for Cynthia Brock so that she can continue serving us on Common Council. 

George McGonigal

518 Hector Street