This is a letter to the editor, written by Ithaca Alderperson Jorge DeFendini and Tompkins County Legislator Veronica Pillar. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

We are a pair of Ithaca City residents and elected officials writing to enthusiastically support Katie Sims for Mayor of Ithaca. We have both known Katie for quite some time, during which Katie has demonstrated her ability to lead, listen, and fight for the people of this city. Ithaca finds itself in the heart of many storms, but we believe Katie is more than capable of steering us through them and towards a better future.

Katie trusts the science on climate change and is ready to combat it with actions, not skepticism. The climate catastrophe looms larger over Ithaca every year, with heat advisories, ice dams, growing flood plains, and more. Tepid modifications to the status quo with a fear of blowback preventing us to do more must be called out for what it is: climate denialism. For years, Katie Sims has consistently demonstrated not only that she knows the severity of this issue, but that she is unafraid to take on the fight for a sustainable future.

Katie is also a fierce fighter for the tenant residents of Ithaca. A renter herself, Katie has spent years as a tenant activist supporting renters facing eviction, uninhabitable apartments, and slumlord abuses of power. More than ¾ of Ithacans are renters, but this is not reflected by our current city policies. Katie is prepared to stand up for tenants by passing Good Cause Eviction, by making sure our codes of habitability are enforced, and putting people before profit.

Katie consistently shows up to support our neighbors in countless ways. Between the two of us, we’ve personally witnessed the following:

  • Katie shows up to eviction court, sometimes in below freezing temperatures, to walk tenants through what may be their first time appearing before a judge with warmth and kindness; 
  • Katie stood up to a multi-billion-dollar university and demanded they divest from the fossil fuels poisoning our planet
  • Katie stands, chants, and speaks on picket lines in solidarity with striking workers in the face of corporate harassment and retaliation;
  • Katie asks the people she meets, from young children to senior citizens, what they’re concerned about in our city, and listens thoughtfully and encouragingly to their responses;
  • Katie worked as a member of the City’s Independent Redistricting Commission to make sure the next decade’s lines were drawn equitably; 
  • Katie holds space for Ithacans to describe hostile and unsafe housing conditions, offers tangible support, and follows through.

In short, Katie embodies a neighborly spirit that any Mayor of Ithaca needs to truly represent their people.

Katie knows that our city needs systemic solutions for systemic problems. Issues of gentrification, labor shortages, and climate change are the consequences of institutions that prioritize profit over people. To fix them requires that we take action and not wait for the market to course correct; that we go deeper than modest reforms that leave things mostly unchanged. If we want to stop gentrification, we need to pass Good Cause Eviction and keep renters in their home; if we want to keep fully staffed city departments, we need to improve the workplaces of our city employees; and if we want to fight climate change, we need to listen to our climate experts and be bold in our policy. Katie’s platform makes clear that she’s prepared to fix our city’s institutions so that they work for everybody, not just the few.

As of November 2022, the Ithaca Green New Deal is stalling, with the Sustainability Director having resigned in justified frustration. City staff rose up this past Wednesday to tell the public that they are underappreciated and undercompensated. Housing is increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible, and those with precarious or no housing bear the brunt of the burden. All of this is unsustainable and unacceptable. If we want Ithaca to truly be a safe and healthy community, inside and outside City Hall, then we need a leader who is deeply committed to workers’ rights, to housing rights for all humans, to fighting tooth and nail against climate change, to accountability and to solidarity. Katie Sims is that leader, and we urge you to vote for her for Mayor of Ithaca.

Signed,

Jorge DeFendini, City of Ithaca Alderperson, Ward 4

Veronica D. Pillar, Tompkins County Legislator, District 2