This is a letter to the editor by former Ithaca Chief of Staff Dan Cogan. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a former City of Ithaca Alderperson and Chief of Staff, I urge voters in the City of Ithaca to vote YES on the proposal to create the position of City Manager, which is on the ballot for the November 8 election (beginning October 29 for early voting).
Every Ithaca Mayor for the last 20 years has found the demands placed on the Mayor to be unrealistic. Then and now, the elected Mayor is expected to supervise department heads, develop a budget, manage daily operations, all while serving as political head of the City. The Mayor also presides over Common Council meetings, without the right to vote except when there is a tie.
The Chief of Staff position was created in 2013 as a partial fix to this structural problem, but unfortunately it did not do enough. As Chief of Staff for five years under Mayor Myrick, I experienced this first hand. I facilitated communication and collaboration among departments, participated in developing and presenting the annual budget, helped develop new policies, served as sounding board for city employees, interfaced with constituents, and much more. It was a big job, but my authority was limited because no one reports directly to the Chief of Staff.
Furthermore, as Chief of Staff I was hired by and accountable to the Mayor, not to Common Council, nor to the voters, which at times restricted my ability to provide information and assistance.
A professional City Manager would do this important administrative work but would be hired by and report to the entire Common Council, which the Mayor would continue to lead. This new role promotes both efficiency and accountability. The elected Mayor will still serve as the political leader of City government and would also have a stronger voice in legislation, as the Mayor would have a vote on Council. The public would be far better served by having a City government that is more responsive to their needs and more efficient with their tax dollars.
Every Ithaca Mayor since 2001 has advocated creating a City Manager role. A task force appointed by Mayor Myrick in 2021, of which I was a member, researched and debated the issue and presented a thorough proposal to Common Council, which adopted it unanimously last November.
We’ve waited too long already to implement this reform in City Hall. Please vote YES for “proposal two; City proposition one” to create the position of City Manager.