This is an op-ed written by Common Council candidate Aryeal Jackson, reprised from her remarks at a candidate forum last week. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Matt Butler at email@example.com.
The 2023 primary is here and voting is underway. As we head to the polls this week, we are tasked with choosing what we want to accomplish going forward and who can best get us there. In Ithaca many of us share the same values. However, it’s the person, approach, instincts, and knowledge that define how a candidate will serve their community.
Many of you know me from my years of work in our community: my name on a byline, my service as a city commission chair, my writing for campaigns, my work as a small business owner or a mom of two young children. This week, you’ll see my name on the ballot.
I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors during my campaign and I always ask “How can I help?” I ask because I know the cost of living is too high—I’m a renter and a small business owner. However, I also know that we want to support Ithaca’s ideals. We want to make bold moves for a greener community. We want to make sure that our kids are fed and cared for, that we maintain a beautiful walkable community with accessible housing and the richness that comes from neighbors and sidewalk chats. We need to prioritize our people, because when we do, we succeed.
We also must remember that we are coming out of a global pandemic. Financially we are still trying to recover. More importantly, none of us are ok. We lost loved ones and friends. We lost a sense of stability and security. As a self-employed mom, I understand how difficult it has been for so many of us to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. We can’t move forward without hindsight or a plan to recover.
2024 will bring big changes to city hall, as we pivot to a council-city manager model of government. We will rebalance legislative efforts and departmental oversight to streamline departments and focus city priorities on serving the people.
Communication has been the focus of my community work for years. Surprisingly I heard many neighbors ask about the lack of communication between staff, Common Council, and the mayor’s office. There’s a feeling of disconnect and unclear messaging. This issue was underscored just last week when the results of a staff and council survey ranked communication and organizational effectiveness as a top priority going forward.
We also hear about inconsistencies and accountability issues. While I’m not one to advocate for rigidity, it begs the question—are we being efficient and faithful to our community if this is the state of city hall? The disconnect is costing taxpayers money—$50k here, $50k there may not seem like a lot of money in City Hall, but it sure does out here. And we can’t afford to waste a cent right now.
Clearly what we need is stability within City Hall, staffing, and morale. We need to create achievable action plans and implementation—solid bench marks for initiatives like the Green New Deal and Reimagining Public Safety with financial estimates. Finally, we must work towards financial stability within city hall and in our neighborhoods with creative funding sources and reinforcement of the dynamic support network we have for all of our residents.
However, we can’t do that if we don’t elect someone who understands how to accomplish these things. You’ve known me to be fair and factual, open and forthright. Voters need information and fastidious representation. At this moment in particular, our city needs elected officials who know how the city should and could work for the good of everyone.
As many of you know, I ran for council in 2017. I wasn’t a well-known name and I certainly couldn’t overcome party politics. But I do remember my answer to one question during a forum like this.
We were asked how we would handle budget decisions. My answer was simple, we can’t assume how we would protect the valuable tax dollars of our neighbors until we sat in the room and understood the process. Well, now I know the process, I’ve sat in the room and I understand it.
I know that GIAC has a waitlist for their afterschool program, a program that has shown to lower food insecurity, build self-esteem and provide hope for the future. I know that we have five authorized housing inspectors and only three positions funded. A simple detail, but one that contributes to unsafe housing.
These are the details an alderperson needs right now to make informed decisions on your behalf. I am confident that I can make educated and sound choices for my ward and our city. You see, to be invested in our city is to understand it. We can’t afford to guess or to govern based on political lines.
This week and on June 27 you get to vote for the candidate you believe will achieve the goals we have set for ourselves. You can believe in me, you can trust that I have the knowledge, experience and insight that are so essential to this moment in our city’s history.
So, I say to my future constituents, “Put me to work. How can I help?”