ITHACA, N.Y. — In an unprecedented State of the City Address Wednesday night, Mayor Svante Myrick addressed President-Elect Donald Trump and his administration, calling it “openly hostile” and saying that the City of Ithaca will stand for the needs of its residents in the face of adversity.
Myrick said that since he has been mayor, he had discouraged Common Council from addressing national issues during their discussions about local matters.
But with the Trump administration officially taking office this month, it’s essential, he said, for Common Council to stand strong for the people in this community who will not be represented in the White House over the next four years.
Trump has appointed controversial people without expertise in their field, to high ranking federal positions. That includes Stephen K. Bannon, formerly executive chairman at the right-wing website Breitbart News, as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor.
Bannon once called the Breitbart News website “the platform of the alt-right,” which he recently said has some “some racial and anti-Semitic overtones,” though he eventually spoke out against those views.
Other controversial members of Trump’s newly named administration, among others, include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year-veteran of Goldman Sachs, and billionaire former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon as the head of the Small Business Administration.
“I believe the fight against fascism will be waged and be won at the local level,” Myrick said. “We are the antidote to fascism. We are the antidote to the rage that encourages people to vote against anyone who seems just a bit different.”
He said fascist governance works because it allows people to dehumanize those who are different from themselves. But focusing officials and residents on our their own communities and how Ithaca can become better tackles that problem head-on.
“…It is impossible to look into our neighbor’s eyes and to see anything less than a human being,” he said.
Here are three ways Myrick said city of Ithaca officials will fight Trumpism in 2017:
1) Protect the vulnerable
Myrick said there are people in the Ithaca community who need the community to continue to stand with them in the face of possible federal opposition to progressive ideology that keeps them safe and welcome.
For instance, he said the city will stand against the forced deportation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, stand with women’s rights for full reproductive freedom, continue working with refugees and support groups like Ithaca Welcomes Refugees,and stand against efforts by the Justice Department to instill racial profiling in policing.
He said City Attorney Ari Lavine will be working on a new project called the New Federalism, modeled after the Federalist Papers, which states that local and state governance should check the a federal government’s excess of power. More information will be released about the project in the coming weeks.
2) Link arms with like-minded communities
“While we’re unique in many ways….we’re not the only community that’s living with fear right now.” Myrick said.
He said he and Lavine have met with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with more than a dozen other New York mayors, about how to stand together in the face of a Trump administration.
Myrick said that over the course of the Trump administration he hopes to not only share best practices but also explore how to pool resources together to preserve and continue gains that progressive communities support.
3) Prove that a progressive government leads to a higher quality of life
Myrick said it’s not enough for progressive local leaders to say that their ideas and actions work well — they have to prove that the actions taken improve people’s lives.
In Ithaca, he said that that two largest issues Ithacans face is the lack of affordable housing in the city and crumbling infrastructure.
“We can do better and we will do better,” he said.
He mentioned recent progress in both areas, including rebuilding the Lake Street Bridge, working to build more market rate and affordable housing and making investments to Downtown Ithaca and Collegetown that have defied local trends, raising local taxes by 1.5 percent as of November 2016.
Myrick said, “Most our efforts must shift now to every other neighborhood in the city.”
Among many initiatives mentioned, is the creation of a Southside Neighborhood plan, continued advances to save lives through Ithaca Plan initiatives, and a new housing initiative where the Planning and Development Board will explore ways to prevent housing discrimination, build more housing with a focus on middle income housing, lower rents and taxes by demanding Cornell contribute more to the community, and focusing on the development of the Waterfront District.
Myrick said the city is on the “front lines” for people and will continue to fight for Ithacans, regardless of who is is President of the United States.