Elie Kirshner, candidate for Tompkins County Legislature

ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca native and Cornell University student Elie Kirshner has announced that he will be running for the currently uncontested seat vacated by Nate Shinagawa in the county’s fourth district.

The district encompasses Collegetown and Ithaca Commons area.

Kirshner, 19, has worked as an intern in the city of Ithaca and is also the field director for Mayor Svante Myrick’s uncontested re-election campaign.

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Here are the 9 questions we asked Kirshner in an interview on Friday; click on the one you’re interested in to see his answer, or read the entire story in order.

(Did we miss your question? If so, email us at jstein@ithacavoice.com)

1 – Why are you running for county legislature? What are the issues that are motivating you to run?
2 — Do you think your age affects your campaign in any way? Do you think you have enough experience and local knowledge to be a legislator?
3 — What kinds of reactions did you get when you told your family and friends that you’re going to run for office?
4 – You said if elected you’d be working on affordable, quality housing. How will you go about doing this? How will you try to get affordable housing that is not too far away from the city?
5 — You said one of your passions is bettering the conditions for people with mental illness. What are your thoughts on the current level of care being provided for them? And how will you improve it?
6 — Currently, you are running unopposed, but what kind of campaign activity are you doing?
7 — What are your thoughts on the environmental sustainability in Ithaca?
8 — You seem to have a lot of connections with Mayor Myrick. Has he given you support in any way?
9 — Why are you running for county legislature? What are the issues that are motivating you to run?

1 — Why are you running?

Well, I’m running because I’m really passionate and excited about Ithaca. I’ve lived here all my life and this community has done a lot of good for me. I feel like this is a great way to give back and that I can do a lot of positive things as a representative.

The issue that has motivated me throughout my life is mental health public policy. I think we’re lacking an advocate for that right now and often mental health cases are overlooked because it’s such a silent struggle, and I think we need someone to be pointing to these issues and bring(ing) in awareness about the resources and services available, advocating for their funding. I also am driven by progressive causes such as promoting living wages, environmental sustainability and social justice in Ithaca and the county.

2 — Do you think your age affects your campaign?

I think that my age has helped my campaign in a big way in that it has brought it a lot more attention than it might have otherwise. Aside from that, my thoughts on my age is that I’m very aware that I have a lot to learn. I’m approaching this and I’m learning everyday. I’m learning right now while I do this interview.

The first thing I need to do is educate myself on the history of every issue and I’ll do that by talking to my fellow legislators and talking to every person in my district. I think that is what makes a good representative.

3 — What kinds of reactions did you get when you told your family and friends that you’re going to run for office?

I think my father momentarily thought about running against me, but they were very excited for me. I think they really believed I could do something positive …

Overall, they were excited and my mother would say she’s proud. My parents have been a great support throughout my life and it’s been wonderful to talk to them about this.

4 — You said if elected you’d be working on affordable, quality housing. How will you go about doing this? How will you try to get affordable housing that is not too far away from the city?

This is the major concern and I know that there was a recent Ithaca Voice article on how many African American residents were forced to move out of the city of Ithaca in pursuit of more affordable housing. I think that comes to really making efforts to support new projects because I believe that with increased supply the overall price of housing will go down. I think we’ve done some of that, but we need to do more because there is an affordable housing crisis.

I think this is an incredibly important issue and I’m not going to run into it pretending that I have all the answers because this is something that requires thought and careful considerations. And I’m willing to listen to the developers and the concerns of the residents of my district, as well as the other legislators in the county.

5 — What do you think about small businesses? How do you think your presence in the legislature can help them?

I can help them by listening and being an advocate. There are many small businesses in this district and I’m ready to engage with them. I think I’ve already many connections with them in college town through the Small Business Alliance and there are many Downtown. I’m looking forward going door to door not only to people’s’ homes but also to businesses and talking to them about what I can do, what I can advocate for.

6 — You said one of your passions is bettering the conditions for people with mental illness. What are you thoughts on the current level of care being provided for them? And how will you improve it?

I think that this is an extremely complicated issue. One of my biggest priorities is being an advocate for that service and part of that is just having a public person who‘ll talk about it. I believe we need more services. I believe there’s more support needed and I’m ready to advocate for them. I will be getting in touch with the people at Families and Social Services, the Ithaca Red Cross, and a variety of different services that I feel like need more attention and advocacy, and I look forward to providing that.

7 — What are your thoughts on environmental sustainability in Ithaca?

We are a growing community and … I believe in supporting development, but I think it’s important that we are encouraging smart and sustainable development throughout the county. The environment is a pressing issue. It always has been and will be. I think one great thing about this community is that we have been leaders in the environmental movement and that we continue to be, and that is through recycling and clean energy initiatives …

8 — Currently, you are running unopposed, but what kind of campaign activity are you doing?

Starting next week I plan to be going door to door. Especially because I’m 19 it’s very important that I show that I’m serious about this and I think that the key of my candidacy is about listening, respect for others and learning.

I am ready to listen to everyone’s concerns and put myself forward as the best advocate. I’m excited and I know many people in this district already through the work this summer but also from living here my entire life. But most of what I’ll be doing is going door to door and looking forward to getting to know everybody.

9 — You seem to have a lot of connections with Mayor Myrick. Has he given you support in any way?

He wrote something incredibly nice on Facebook and in general he has been a very supportive person to me during this process. We have spoke briefly about it and I really appreciate his kind words.

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