This is an op-ed written by former Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Matt Butler at

When a new Common Council member from Ward 5 is sworn in on January 1, 2024, they will be tasked with advising on, and approving of, a new agreement with Cornell for its voluntary contribution to the City of Ithaca. The current agreement that I negotiated is expiring after two decades. Critical to achieving a suitable new agreement for the coming decades will be understanding 1) the importance of reaching an equitable agreement; 2) the processes to get there; and 3) how to take advantage of the opportunities that arise from a collaborative relationship. Clyde Lederman understands and values each of these aspects. That is why he is the best candidate to represent Ward 5. 

In 2003 I was able to convince Cornell to reopen the then existing agreement and make it fairer for both parties. The City received a larger cash contribution and Cornell was provided assurances that the City would not again play games or try to extort the university. The new relationship we had already established also resulted in a significant Cornell investment in downtown Ithaca, and the establishment of a program to commercialize Cornell intellectual property to create more local businesses. All in all, the City and Cornell enjoyed a closer working relationship and all parties benefited.

Ward 5 should elect a candidate committed to an equitable agreement, and one who is cognizant of the opportunities that arise from a mutually beneficial relationship. I have come to know Clyde Lederman and I believe he is the best candidate in Ward 5 to represent the City’s interests and assist with developing a new agreement. Clyde knows both parties.  He knows firsthand the economic burdens of high rental and other costs, and he knows Cornell from the inside.  He is uniquely qualified to speak truth to power and to do so in a way that will resonate and achieve results.

Clyde has the right vision and temperament to participate in this important process. He understands that securing an equitable agreement with Cornell does not mean being the loudest candidate, but rather the most innovative one. Having served on numerous municipal committees dealing with complex local issues and being a trained expert in parliamentary practice, Clyde is well positioned to comprehend the legal and political nuances that define Ithaca’s relationship with Cornell and Cornell’s unique situation and relationship with the City. Clyde understands it is a symbiotic relationship, with each party bringing benefits to the other. Cornell recognizes the importance of a strong, healthy and safe City, and the City must recognize that Cornell has fiscal constraints as large as its resources and many constituency interests of its own to balance. 

The current agreement has endured for twenty years and the next one may last just as long. It is an important agreement for both parties and it is crucial that it should be negotiated by responsible people. That’s why I strongly encourage you to support Clyde Lederman for Common Council, Ward 5, on June 27th. 

Alan Cohen (Mayor of Ithaca, 1996-2003).