Sean Gannon, independent Council candidate. (Submitted photo)

ITHACA, N.Y. — Sean Gannon is running as an independent candidate for the Ithaca Common Council’s Second Ward seat against Ducson Nguyen, who won the Democratic primary.

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

To read our interview with Nguyen, see here.

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

1 – What’s your top priority for Council?
2 – What in your background qualifies you for the post? Why are you running? 
3 – What do you think of how the city has handled the Commons construction project?
4 – Do you want to address the issue of parking?
5 – What do you think about the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services project at 210 Hancock Street and the 11-story building proposal for the Trebloc site on State Street?
6 – What do you think of tax abatements for developers?
7 – What are your thoughts on environmental sustainability in Ithaca?
8 – What do you think of 1) dogs on the Commons and 2) chickens in the home?
9 –What’s your ideal Friday night in Ithaca, and why? 

1 – What’s your top priority for Council?

Sean Gannon, independent Council candidate. (Submitted photo)

“My top priority is to re-establish the transparency that will build deeper trust and to work with my neighbors solving our common goals of affordable housing, an equitable local economy, and increased participation of Cornell and Ithaca College in the costs of running this beautiful city that is home to us all. The people in the 2nd Ward want a meaningful voice on Common Council and that is what I am campaigning to be. I hear in my community a weariness of party dominance that exhibits hints of victory at the cost of transparency and accountability. I believe we will be best served in today’s local political climate by an independent voice and this is why I am running as an Independent Candidate.”

2 – What in your background qualifies you for the post? Why are you running? Why do you think you are a good candidate?

“My professional and life experiences before and after moving to Ithaca will enable me to serve us well here in the 2nd Ward.
After studying economics at the University of Pennsylvania I worked in real estate development specializing in the rehabilitation of historical industrial buildings.”

“I gradually shifted my career focus to the arts and found work on a documentary film project titled Ecological Design; Inventing the Future, on which I learned about ecology-based technologies. This experience deeply changed my understanding of the built environment and how we can work successfully towards sustainability. I have been coming to Ithaca since 1989 for educational purposes and in 2003 began renovations on our duplex home here. Since then I have been a landlord and in 2008 I became a food and hospitality business owner. My roots in the community are growing broader and deeper as I continue on my current venture: the conversion of an empty property slated to be a parking lot into a community garden and outdoor performance and art exhibition space.”

In sum, I cherish my experiences because they foster in me a strong and personal empathy with the broad concerns of our community.”

3 – What do you think of how the city has handled the Commons construction project?

“Ask anyone about the Commons Project and you hear an immediate sigh of relief that it is completed. The entire community is relieved to be back supporting local businesses on and around the Commons. The reconstruction would have been very complex even with the process running smoothly. Unexpected problems exacerbated inherent challenges.”

“I applaud the mayor, the city administration, and especially the merchants who survived the tumult for their tenacity in the face of adversarial infrastructure surprises. One complaint that I’ve heard repeatedly from the merchants on the Commons, a population in the 2nd Ward who pay taxes yet do not have a vote, that speaks volumes to me is that they wish the administration had responded more actively to their concerns. If we want business on the Commons to flourish, we need to listen to those businesses.”

4 – Do you want to address the issue of parking?

“Can we please return the coin meters and move the new systems to more appropriate locations around the city? For many segments of our community their operation requirements are unwieldy or prohibitive. I am hearing all over the ward that the new parking system has people frustrated enough to refuse going to the Commons. Merchants echo this concern. In our attempt at streamlining we are inadvertently alienating people dear to our community and turning a deaf ear to their needs.”

5 – You said in a speech at City Hall Wednesday night that development in the city was proceeding too rapidly and must be reconsidered. What do you think about the Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services project at 210 Hancock Street and the 11-story building proposal for the Trebloc site on State Street?

“We need affordable housing now and we need a variety of housing types for different economic situations. I love that the 210 Hancock Street project is addressing this urgency. However, the community’s acceptance of the project moving forward does not mute ongoing concerns. Some adjacent property owners question why the town-homes are planned for creek side while the more controversially scaled buildings face their homes. Can this be reversed to achieve appropriate context? Can the height of the buildings be softened with upper story setbacks? And, given our desire for food security in Ithaca I’d support INHS enthusiastically if they encouraged garden permaculture.

“I wholeheartedly support density development in downtown Ithaca, and specifically the development of the Trebloc Site with a multistory building. The current proposal is being met with substantial resistance by most of the 2nd Ward constituents with whom I’ve spoken. It is the base of our Commons and restaurant district, the entrance into our city for residents and visitors alike, the intersection of students from Ithaca College and Cornell, and it deserves a building that reflects these converging populations. As a community we have presented deep concerns about the monolithic size and single demographic market and the developer has answered with cosmetic alterations. I hope that they continue the conversation with a more holistic approach. The tax abatement scenario has been more troublesome to my neighbors.”

“We need to be more informed of the reasoning behind these decisions beyond the simplicity of what has been presented. Residential real estate development is profitable in Ithaca as evident by the high demand and giving away our tax dollars may just be gravy.”

6 – It’s cool that you mentioned tax abatements, because that was going to be my next question. What do you think of tax abatements for developers?

“For that particular place I think the tax abatement can be an effective tool to influence the development. Tax abatements are literally our tax money dollar for dollar; so, the abatement needs to be used to achieve community goals beyond density. We are stalwart in our desire to have local people employed. We have a keen interest in green technologies. We want to crown our sixteen million dollar Commons with a suitably dynamic building. If we award an abatement it should be to accomplish these things.”

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

“I mentioned in my background that I worked for a film called Ecological Design. I also worked on other media projects exploring sustainable urban planning and keep informed on emerging ecological technologies. Many of these can be used to create light industry. I think we can use tax abatements for attracting and fostering eco-tech light industry. We are already nationally recognized as a great place to live. Let’s strive to become a great place to work with some of the most advanced ecological technologies. People will want to live here doing that kind of work.”

8 – What do you think of 1) dogs on the Commons and 2) chickens in the home?

“I think walking a dog through the Commons is fine and merchants support this. The question of stopping and shopping while walking a dog through the Commons is a good discussion.

“As for chickens, food security is essential. I would be thrilled to trade some of my kale for someone’s eggs. We just need clear guidelines regarding issues such as minimal yard size and proper housing for the hens.”

9 – What’s your ideal Friday night in Ithaca, and why?

“This is a funny one for me because due to the nature of the hospitality business my Friday nights are usually spent ensuring that other people’s Friday nights are enjoyable. My Friday is often Monday or Tuesday. Which is cool in that there is no wait for the restaurants I like to eat at and my friends and I often get ‘private’ screenings at Cinemapolis.

Currently I am preparing for two art exhibitions and in December you will see a show of my work at Gimme Coffee on Cayuga and then at The Shop in February.”

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