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Issues | Ducson Nguyen for Ithaca Ward 2 Alderperson
June 21, 2015

Issues


These issues are inextricably linked, and we must tackle them with a unified, strategic, and well-informed vision.

Citizen Engagement

There’s too wide a gulf between residents and the city government that serves them. I want to bridge that gap and focus on serving constituents. The city can play a role in strengthening neighborhood groups. As a member of both Northside United and the Dewitt Park Neighborhood Association, I believe organizations like these are vital for commmunicating needs of the community.

Housing

Ithaca has a vacancy rate below 1%, worse than San Francisco’s. It’s one reason we suffer from the 11th highest rent-to-income ratio in the United States and unacceptable housing discrimination. The problem will only worsen as Ithaca continues to grow, with a strong job market driving new residents to Tompkins County.

  • Additional housing can slow or reverse rising rent, and we can build it in smart and historically sensitive ways (the 2nd ward is home to 4 historic districts). We must incentivize developers to include affordable housing in their projects.
  • Moving to form-based zoning better balances function and design in new projects, resulting in more walkable, mixed-use areas and directing growth where it’s needed.
  • We should use the abatement program as leverage to extract community value from developers, including affordable units, the use of local labor, and higher environmental standards.

Taxation

City property taxes make up 34% of an Ithaca homeowner’s property taxes.

  • We can discount property taxes or work with the county to limit assessment rises for long-time owner-occupants to help homeowners stay in their houses.
  • Increasing the amount of real estate on the tax rolls reduces the burden on everyone.
  • Developing the downtown economy increases sales tax revenue, reducing our reliance on property taxes.

Sustainability

The City of Ithaca absorbs 13,000 commuters daily—consuming parking, clogging streets, and dumping carbon into our air. Bringing more of these people into the city through more affordable and available housing will reduce this environmental burden.

I want to reform the developer tax abatement program to require high environmental standards in new construction. To set a good example for developers and residents, I want to work to get city government supplied by 100% renewable electricity.

I am also eager to work with the county to help Ithaca join the fast-growing number of cities with curbside composting. Cities such as Portland and San Francisco have seen significant decreases in solid waste headed to landfills. We can too.

Infrastructure

The ideals of a walkable and bikeable lifestyle are built upon adequate infrastructure. It almost goes without saying that sidewalk improvement is one of the highest priorities and requires more resources. I will also work with the city to improve pedestrian safety at crosswalks with better signage and enforcement of too-often-ignored New York pedestrian right of way.

I will push for completion of a bicycle boulevard and other cyclist safety measures such as more bike lanes and protected lanes. We should be open to investigating new transportation options such as bike sharing, ride sharing, and microtransit.

For those who do drive, the quality of the roads is an obvious problem surrounded by surprisingly complex issues. While I certainly advocate finding more funding for the Department of Public Works to attack the pothole epidemic, we can also explore new innovations in road repair. We should also fight to protect the incredible car share program that Ithacans are lucky to have. And let’s find a way to get rid of wintertime even/odd parking once and for all.

Food Justice

The Ithaca Community Gardens, a source of healthy, affordable, locally-grown vegetables for many families in the city, deserves our protection and promotion. As urban agriculture increases in popularity throughout the world, Ithaca of all places cannot displace this successful project.

Inequality

Ithaca is an oasis of upstate prosperity, with 18% job growth since 2000. But residents continue to be priced out of homes and apartments. Although the city can’t raise the minimum wage without Albany’s approval, we can negotiate living wages for major projects in the city and continue to advocate for this cause.

Commuting into the city can be expensive and time-consuming, particularly for lower income workers. Increasing the housing supply to stabilize prices ensures that more people can stay or move into the city, lifting the commute burden from their lives. Providing more support to TCAT (the city is a funding partner) ensures bus schedules can accommodate the needs of the community.

Economy

Ithaca is #1 in the country for reliance on education and medical jobs. While this is, in many ways, a blessing for our economy, I want the city to work towards greater employer diversity. Redevelopment of un- or under-utilized space like the old Emerson Power Transmission plant can be focused to recruit new industries. Encouraging startup incubators like Rev can foster innovation and prevent the brain drain of talent graduating from nearby schools.

High-speed internet can help attract the talent and innovation that can make Ithaca a city of the future. I want to look into how we can help bring new broadband options like FiberSpark to more parts of the city or to investigate municipal broadband.

I’d also like to work to provide more open access to city data in a standardized format so residents can build applications that serve the public interest.

Safety and Police Relations

Equitable law enforcement and strong community relations with the police are vital parts of the foundation of a safe community. Constrained resources limit the Ithaca Police Department’s ability to do immersive, on-foot patrolling.

  • I support the plan to form a Community Action Team to provide more interaction with citizens.
  • I’m in favor of hiring a social worker to handle mental health and social issues for which law enforcement is often the front line.
  • Address the rising drug problem without incarceration, following the lead of cities that divert low-level crimes to community service.
  • I believe body and dashboard cameras are effective in keeping police officers (and the community they serve) accountable.