ITHACA, N.Y. — Thank you for donating to “Spotlight on Ithaca!”

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Vote below on your choice of “Spotlight” story from five options, picked with reader input by the Ithaca Voice. We’ll pursue the story that gets the most votes. (We’ve also included summaries of each story proposal below.)

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1 — How to reduce Tompkins’ homeless population?

Story pitch: In 2015, the city of Ithaca saw a near-doubling in its homeless population during the winter, with a 37-person spike in the number of sheltered homeless, according to a report published by the county.

City Hall contested that report. But regardless of whether there really was a significant increase, experts agree that homelessness remains a persistent problem in Tompkins County.

What’s the best way to eradicate it? Over the course of a 5-part series, we propose an in-depth look at the challenges and difficult decisions facing those who are on the front-lines of the fight to end homelessness in our community.

More reading: City Hall disputes report showing rise of homelessness in Ithaca


2 — Fracking in Ithaca’s backyard?

Story pitch: Many Ithacans were ecstatic when New York state banned fracking in late June.

But did state officials accidentally allow for a major loophole?

Developers are currently looking for a way to bring gelled propane fracking to Tioga County — the county that adjoins Tompkins.

We propose to write a multi-part series about how the gelled propane fracking loophole came to be, and what it may mean for the Southern Tier.

More reading: Propane fracking proposal could sidestep state ban


3 — What happens if Tompkins raises minimum wage to $15/hour?

Story pitch: On Monday, the Ithaca Voice published a poll asking readers if they supported a proposal to raise the minimum wage in Tompkins County to $15/hour.

The results were almost evenly divided. About 49 percent said they supported the proposal, 47 percent said they opposed it and the rest were unsure.

Who is right?

Mayor Svante Myrick and other city leaders say the minimum wage is far too low and that this hurts workers to the benefit of large corporations. Some business owners, however, think a minimum wage hike to $15/hour would put them out of business.

A “Spotlight” series on the issue would talk to the different stakeholders, take a comprehensive look at the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses, interview experts, and reveal the human face of this heated policy debate.

More reading: Would Tompkins county benefit from a $15/hr. minimum wage?


4 — Truck safety post-Simeon’s

Story pitch: Everyone who lived in Ithaca at the time can remember it vividly.

On June 20, 2014, a truck lost control of its brakes and slammed into Simeon’s restaurant on the Commons, killing a pregnant young bartender and wounding many more.

There was a flurry of action from local officials after the crash; a group released 23 ideas for improving truck safety on Ithaca’s hills, which have long been the site of serious truck accidents.

Have those changes made a difference? Over the course of a series, “Spotlight on Ithaca” would examine whether the wake-up call to Ithaca has been heeded — or if we remain at risk of another terrible calamity.

More reading: Officials release 23 ideas for truck safety changes post-Simeon’s crash


5 — Have Cornell’s gorge nets made a difference?

Story pitch: In 2010, Cornell University landed on the front page of The New York Times — for all the wrong reasons.

A series of suicides had rattled the campus’ sense of security. Cornell lost several students that year and faced national scrutiny. “Does 6 deaths in 6 months make Cornell a ‘suicide school’?,” asked USA Today.

The university responded by building a series of expensive and highly-controversial barriers over Ithaca’s iconic gorges — first by installing fences, and then replacing them with nets running beneath many campus and city bridges.

Have they proven effective suicide deterrents? Or — as some predicted — did they instead simply lead students to take their lives in less visible ways?

Over the course of this series, the Ithaca Voice would examine whether Cornell’s bridge nets really saved more lives, or if they have only prevented the university from a PR nightmare.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.