There comes a crucial point in the life of all true journalists when they must decide which side of the fence they are going to stand on. The decision is simple to understand, but complex to resolve: either to report on news independently with your readers well-aware of any biases you may have, or to report on news with hidden biases and treat your opinions as facts under the veil of independence.
This decision affects the stories writers pursue, the stances they take on those stories, and even the quotes they include in order to support the overall message in the article. The staff writers at the Cornell Review are not shy about where they stand on the issues, and as you read our publication, you do so with that in mind. This makes for more honest journalism, allowing the reader to get a true sense of both sides of the issue and hear all arguments, so that you can form opinions for yourself.
Our challenge is to help our comrades at the Daily Sun to do the same, and stand on the right side of the fence of journalistic integrity. Through some investigation, we have located a recent interview between the Sun and Ithaca Common Council candidate Misha Checkovich. The interview was used in an article announcing her candidacy. In the interview, we learn about Misha’s platform as well as some of her background and future plans in Ithaca. The article, however, limited her characterization to a “Cornell student” and “Republican,” as the writer proceeded to comment at length on the Democratic challenger, Stephen Smith.
The fact that little has been made known at a mass market level about this election for the 4th Ward in Ithaca is not an accident.
Below are more details of Misha and her platform as a candidate, as we work on investigating the same for her opponent.
The highlighted [italicized] sections are the lines quoted in the Daily Sun article.
SUN: When did you decide to run for Common Council?
I decided to run when I heard that Eddie Rooker was resigning his Ward 4 seat. It seemed likely, as in fact happened, that the Democratic Party would propose to replace him with yet another Ward 4 resident who has never been a Cornell student and has little in common with the majority of people who live in Ward 4. In view of the enormous impact City policies have, I believe it is important that Common Council not be without a student voice for the first time in years. As an independent-minded and pragmatic fiscal conservative, I will also provide a broader, more reality-based perspective in a City government now dominated by a one-party machine and devoid of political diversity.
SUN: What inspired you to run for Ithaca government in your senior year?
My multi-generational connection to Ithaca. My dad got his bachelors and masters at Cornell. I will finish my history degree at the end of December. I would like for Ithaca to be in my family's future as well. The City needs to do a better job of financial management and of encouraging the growth, jobs, and opportunity that inspire young people to stay here, to see Ithaca as their future, not just the place they went to school.
SUN: What platform are you running on?
I want to address the quality of life in Ward 4, which includes Cascadilla Park, West Campus, and most of Collegetown. Ward 4 property owners and businesses pay huge amounts in taxes and fees to the City. Those of us who are students and renters understand that those costs get passed through to us, which is one reason rents are so high. In view of what Ward 4 contributes to the City's revenues, I don't think that we are getting anything close to the level of City services we should have.
Safety and infrastructure are huge issues in Ward 4. We’ve seen several house fires in the past couple of years, including fatalities, but little has been done to address the fire department's concerns about fire risks in houses that have been converted into rental apartments. This is unacceptable. Some of our streets look like those in less developed nations, including the part of Stewart Avenue where I live. Residents and businesses are being crushed between economic imperatives and the burdensome and often ridiculous demands of City regulatory and review boards. Businesses are failing all over Ward 4, and that puts severe strain on student life, neighborhood life, and City finances. And I won’t even mention the parking crisis. I don’t think it is healthy for a student population such as ours to have so few spaces that are easily accessible during our downtime.
One of my goals is to improve the business and housing situation. Another is to help bring the City budget back from the brink of bankruptcy. We are spending $3 million more per year than we take in. For much of the previous administration that hole was papered over by taking $ 1 million per year from the City's reserve fund. Now, that fund is nearly exhausted and cannot be raided to pay for the profligate spending without endangering the City's bond rating. Some hard decisions need to be made, and they will require cuts in both personnel and services. To his credit, Mayor Svante Myrick clearly wants to move the City toward a balanced budget and is on record as saying that he would rather make cuts than raise taxes. While I have many differences with the Mayor, I look forward to working with him on Common Council in making these difficult but necessary changes.
SUN: Do you think its common for Republicans to run for office in the 4th Ward?
It is becoming more common. Last year Jessica Reif, who is now president of the Cornell Republicans, ran as a write-in candidate. This year I'll be on the ballot on the Republican Party line as well as on the Collegetown Party independent line. Although voter registration in the City tilts heavily toward the Democrats, Ithaca is in fact “10 square miles surrounded by Republicans.” Not only do we have the City surrounded, but I expect to see more Republicans (and independents) in the City running for seats on Common Council as Ithacans become aware of what has happened here over the past decade. The City has been run completely by Democrats, and clearly that has not worked out too well. I think some fresh political blood and diversity in political views would be a great benefit.
SUN: Do you plan on continuing in Ithaca politics if you win the one year interim term?
Yes. I love it here and plan to stay here after I graduate. I am already looking at graduate school and employment opportunities in the area, and of course I plan to continue in Ithaca politics after the one-year term. Ithaca has the potential to be a true powerhouse city in upstate New York, but getting there will take more than one year.
SUN: Could you explain a little about yourself? What is your major? Where are you from?
I am majoring in History in the College of Arts and Sciences because it’s my most comfortable subject and also because history is so important in understanding our society and what drives people. I am originally from a suburb of Boston, so I am very comfortable here in the Northeast. My father is from a Long Island family originally from the Ukraine. Others of my ancestors came to America before the Civil War. My mother is from Taiwan, and I still have family there, in China, and Thailand. My biggest hobby outside of school is politics, and I also love different languages and cultures. I speak Mandarin fluently and am currently learning Arabic. I think it is important for us as individuals to be willing to reach out and communicate with each other across our differences and beyond our comfort zones, otherwise we will never be able to negotiate effectively or develop productive alliances. That is another reason I love this community. For a place with such a small-town feel, Ithaca has incredible diversity and many, many residents who want what is best for the City and its people.