Opinion: Fifth ward needs new leadership

Editor's Note: The following opinion column was submitted by Amanda Funk, a Cortland resident and neighborhood watch coordinator for the city's 5th ward.

As always, alternative or dissenting viewpoints are welcome. Submit guest columns to [email protected]

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CORTLAND, N.Y. – I love Election Day because it grants me the right to plant my feet and voice my opinion through my ballot. Especially in this election, change is desperately needed.

I live in the 5th Ward in the City of Cortland. The 5th Ward has gotten a bad wrap from time to time. We seem to host the most stories about crime or hardship. That’s probably because those are the stories I pay attention to the most, the stories about my neighborhood. There are issues all over town; they just don’t grab my attention as quickly. I am sure that is the case for you as well.

Recently, our neighborly little end of town was once again in the news. We had an alderman voicing opinions that do not represent us. To our shock and dismay, current Alderman Cliff Dutcher spewed racism and ignorance all over the Common Council meeting where he opposed the application for additional HUD grant monies.  Mr. Dutcher doubled down on his comments in subsequent interviews and public sessions, ensuring that lower to middle income residents knew “their kind was not wanted."

Related: Cortland lawmaker says constituents are concerned about housing for "low-income minority people"

Prior to this, about a year ago, I had a conversation with Mr. Dutcher where he stated in unkind terms that he couldn’t wait to get out of this town, out of New York and move south. This leads me to question, why is he running? If Mr. Dutcher dislikes Cortland so much, why is he still here? Why is he pushing an agenda that does not represent the wishes of 5th ward residents?

As a member of the 5th Ward, I have to say: this is not our voice; this is not our opinion. We welcome diversity. We welcome folks who are looking to put down roots and call Cortland home. We welcome folks who want to be a part of our community.

It breaks my heart to think that anyone would have such a low opinion of their neighbors, especially neighbors they have not met. When Mr. Dutcher attacked those he was meant to represent, that was the final straw.

I met with my fellow members of the Neighborhood Watch (By the way, the watch is open to all of our neighbors, we are not a closed group by any means). We talked about how soon after he took office, Mr. Dutcher stopped attending our meetings. He had stopped to go play golf instead (Even in the winter? We are still trying to figure that one out). We talked about how different concerns were brought to him and he did not take action. In fact, on some issues we had to reach out to other community members to get them heard. When it came time to vote on them, he voted against our direct request. Our alderman flat-out disregarded the electorate's voices. We also talked about how Mr. Dutcher was disgracing too many of us with his erroneous opinions.

That is why we, the vocal members of the 5th Ward Neighborhood Watch, are casting our ballots today for Bill Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was a long time resident and former member of the City of Cortland Police Department. He did leave Cortland for a while, but came home because he loves it here. He is not ashamed of his neighbors.

This is why on this particular Election Day I am so excited. I am excited to hopefully be rid of such a toxic person from our ward’s seat at the table. I am hopeful for a brighter future for the City of Cortland and the 5th Ward residents.

Amanda Funk
5th Ward Neighborhood Watch Coordinator

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