Ithaca’s Svante Myrick, One of the Nation’s Youngest Mayors, to Discuss Community Engagement at Cazenovia Forum

18 Aug

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Svante Myrick

CAZENOVIA, NY – Ithaca’s young, dynamic mayor, Svante Myrick, will discuss public policy and community engagement when he delivers the next Cazenovia Forum lecture on Friday, September 12, 2014, at 7:00 pm at the Catherine Cummings Theatre on Lincklaen Street.

 The event is free of charge and no reservations are required. An open reception will follow.

In his presentation, titled “Committing to Community Engagement,” Myrick will relate his experiences in city government and politics, which began with his election to the Ithaca Common Council when he was 20 years old and still an undergraduate student at Cornell University.  Four years later, in 2012, he drew national attention when he was sworn in as Ithaca’s youngest mayor and the first person of color to hold that office.

Click here to view an NBC News profile on Myrick.

Myrick grew up in a family that struggled through poverty and homelessness. He graduated from Sherburne-Earlville Public Schools in 2005 and Cornell University in 2009.

Upon his election as mayor in 2012, he led a successful effort to overhaul city government and close a $3 million budget deficit.  He also championed and passed a series of economic development reforms in the city, which has led the state in job creation in 22 of the 24 months he has been in office.  Ithaca today has the lowest unemployment rate in New York State.

Myrick has also undertaken efforts to move city government into the Internet age by overhauling its web presence and by embracing the use of social media as a tool to improve public engagement.

“While Svante Myrick’s personal story is one of enormous triumph against all odds, he would be the first to tell you that he is not a self-made man – that it was support from the community that got him where he is today,” said Cindy Sutton, the Cazenovia Forum’s President.  “We look forward to hearing how his life experiences are driving his efforts to expand community engagement in Ithaca while meeting the challenges of delivering good government.”

CAZENOVIA FORUM PRESENTS ‘INEQUALITY FOR ALL’ DOCUMENTARY

8 Jul
By Susan Light
 

Income inequality in the United States is widening, says Robert B. Reich, former Labor Secretary, now U.C. Berkeley Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, in the documentary film “Inequality for All.” Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, the film examines the causes of the widening income gap in the U.S.. and argues that the rules of capitalism have been rewritten in ways that undermine democracy. Not since the years leading up to the stock market crash of 1929 has the United States experienced such extremes in income and concentrations of wealth. Middle class wages have remained flat for years while the incomes of a few, primarily in the form of capital gains, have skyrocketed.

An award-winner at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the film made a recent appearance at “A Night at the Movies with a Purpose,” Cazenovia Forum’s June 6 event at the Catherine Cummings Theater on Lincklaen Street. David Rubin, Dean Emeritus and Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and moderator of local public television’s “The Ivory Tower Half Hour,” introduced the film and lead a thoughtful discussion among audience members about Reich’s central claims following the screening.

Income inequality is unavoidable, Reich argues. However, how much is acceptable? How much can we, as a society, tolerate? When do extremes in income become a problem?

Political changes beginning in the 1970s — deregulation, lowered top marginal tax rate, the erosion of unions, Supreme Court rulings that favored large corporations over individual workers combined with the growth in technology and global markets — shifted economic clout away from the middle class and toward an increasingly wealthy portion of the top 1%. According to Reich, 400 individuals own half the wealth of the entire country.

For Reich the middle class is the foundation of a stable economy. Their consumer spending — not the spending of the super wealthy — drives 70% of the economy. Despite economic growth, wage stagnation and proportionally higher taxes among the middles classes than the super wealthy has stressed the middle class to the breaking point. To maintain spending, Reich argues, middle class families require two incomes, work increased hours, and take on precarious levels of debt. For Reich, the consolidation of extraordinary sums of money among a small sector of the population undermines democracy. Wealthy individuals buy influence through lobbyists and campaign donations, according them the power to re-draw the rules that shape the formation of a free market. To narrow the income gap he proposes investing in education, raising the top marginal tax rate, and reforming the election process.

During the discussion that followed the screening, audience members generally agreed with Reich’s analysis of the present economic situation and expressed concern about the broader consequences of wide income inequality. Rubin found the film to be a compelling call for change. What Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” has done to draw attention to global warming, Rubin said, Reich’s film does for income inequality.

The evening closed with a comment about the history of the middle class. Was the post-World War II period of economic growth, wage increase, low income inequality — Reich’s “virtuous cycle” — part of a much larger cycle of economic variability? Or, as Reich claims, can using a pre-1970s rulebook to govern the financial playing field revitalize the middle class, more equitably distribute wealth, and ultimately narrow the income gap?

The next Cazenovia Forum event is scheduled for Friday, September 12, 2014 at the Catherine Cummings Theater when Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick will speak on civic engagement. For further information see http://www.cazenoviaforum.com

Susan Light is a member of the Cazenovia Forum Board of Directors

Cazenovia Forum to Hold Screening and Discussion of Award Winning Documentary “Inequality for All”

21 May

CAZENOVIA, NY – A Night at the Movies with a Purpose will be the theme of the next Cazenovia Forum event, a screening and discussion of the documentary film “Inequality for All,” to take place on Friday, June 6 at 7:00 pm at the Catherine Cummings Theatre on Lincklaen Street.

The film, narrated by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, was an unexpected hit and award winner at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, arguing that capitalism has fatally abandoned the middle classes while making the super-rich richer.  The film has received positive reviews for its presentation of big economic ideas and how they relate to ordinary people.

The film has also generated a great deal of controversy, and accordingly the event will include a post-screening audience discussion moderated by David Rubin, Dean Emeritus and Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and moderator of “The Ivory Tower Half Hour” on local public television.

The event is free of charge and reservations are not required.  Appropriate movie treats will be available at the start of the film.

“Inequality for All has been called An Inconvenient Truth for the economy, and we are delighted to offer a forum for community discussion of a film that has drawn both praise and criticism from across the political spectrum,” said Cindy Sutton, President of the Cazenovia Forum.

“With Dr. Rubin’s immense facilitation skills coming into play, we expect that this event will offer an opportunity to explore a topic that weighs heavily on our nation and on Central New York, as well,” she said.  “This is going to be much more than a typical night at the movies, and if it is successful I can envision doing similar events from time to time with other hot topic films from a range of viewpoints.”

Following a summer break, the Cazenovia Forum 2014 series will continue on September 12th when Svante Myrick, the young and innovative mayor of Ithaca, will speak on the topic of civic engagement.  The final event of the year will take place onOctober 16th, when former S.U. quarterback Don McPherson will speak on the subject of bullying and its ramifications in the schoolyard and at the workplace.

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