Katie Sims becomes the third candidate running for mayor of Ithaca
ITHACA, NY—Ithaca will have a three-way race for mayor this fall, as Katie Sims has launched an independent campaign for the town’s top spot.
Sims, aligned with the growing Solidarity Slate bloc, is attempting a run to the left of current interim mayor Laura Lewis, who is running as a Democrat and was nominated to her current post by former mayor Svante Myrick when he quit. Republican Zachary Winn will also be at the polls in November. The winner will only serve a one-year term, completing Myrick’s term.
Sims is no stranger to city government. When Steve Smith resigned from the Common Council in the fall of 2021, Sims contested the nomination, but Patrick Mehler was chosen over him. Mehler was then defeated in the Ward 4 Democratic primary by Tiffany Kumar in June.
For some, this unceremonious defeat might have turned them away from city government, at least for a while. For Sims, the desire to see the Ithaca government more forcefully defend the city’s massive tenant population, among others, drove her to seek a position again.
“I run because I know Ithaca can be better. In a city as affluent as this, there is no excuse for the ongoing housing crises of stability, affordability and availability,” Sims said. “There’s no excuse not to follow through on Ithaca’s Green New Deal and there’s no reason we can’t put residents’ needs ahead of benefits.”
Sims’ path to the independent ballot is an unfortunate reminder of why she’s running in the first place. According to her, her landlord served her with a non-renewal notice around the same time the petition started appearing on the Democratic ballot. As a result, Sims didn’t know if she was going to be able to live within the city limits – a requirement to be mayor.
But with that settled, Sims has her sights set on a desk she could use to push forward legislation like eviction for good cause (which is back after a county judge’s ruling was appealed). ‘Albany this week), public safety reform, equal transportation and fighting climate change at the municipal level. Sims has a degree in environmental science and policy and worked with environmental advocate Vanessa Fajans-Turner during the latter’s run for Congress earlier this year.
“I was part of the Sunrise movement when it was created and when the Green New Deal was passed in 2019,” she said. “I really wanted to see this project complete, and seeing as the implementation stages didn’t happen on schedule, I’m quite concerned about the process and making sure it’s completed within the timeframe we said it should be.”
When it comes to public safety, Sims would like to see more spending, but in specific areas that don’t necessarily involve the police department. The goal, she suggested, would be to reduce the demands placed on the police department through community investment — designating the potential unarmed responder unit as something she would like to be more funded, as well as “vital organizations pinching pennies to try to make our community a better and safer place.
“We have to have this abundance fiscal attitude towards the things that really protect us,” Sims said. “Support health services in our city, support county mental and public health care, work with and fund community organizations that do this work for free for people, and also invest in community youth programs.”
At least some of that money would come from cutting ancillary law enforcement spending, she said. Another investment target would be infrastructure to facilitate sustainable transport, in particular better routes for transporting bicycles. A biking accident, in which Sims was cut by a car and left with broken ribs and numbness in her wrist, helps inform this position, but also tells Sims that if she wants to push for sustainable use of transportation, the city must be able to support it safely.
Sims also said she was excited about what will hopefully be a fairly high-turnout mayoral election, given that midterm elections normally draw more people to the polls than typical presidential years. Ithaca mayoral elections, which traditionally take place in odd-numbered years without further elections for more senior positions to generate more interest.
“It’s a chance for people to look at more options, in a year where there’s a race for governor, there’s races for Congress, and really have a choice,” Sims said. “A lot more voters are going to weigh in, so that’s what’s exciting about this election cycle.”