Tiny Town, USA – The following is an entire excerpt typed in by hand from the 1988 Ithaca Centennial's "gift" -- a book of about 200 submissions from various members of the community based on the May 17, 1988 Great Ithaca Write-In. I select the following because the man who wrote it is a good man, and the man who saw to his exile from Tiny Town, was not a good man.
The author is Rick Eckstrom. The man who backstabbed him and sent him away from his beloved city with his wife and child is none other than the duplicitous Alan Cohen, boy wonder: The Mayor who brought us the Southwest Corridor and the miracle mile and broke enough laws to be subject to extradition for hanging. But let's just go back to 1988, a more "honest time." It was my first year at the Ithaca Journal as a reporter and I remember we copied this idea and did our own Day in the Life of Ithaca; I chose to cover clouds. It's true. Anyway, on with our little Greek tragedy:
"My name is Rick Eckstrom and I live at 954 Coddington Road in an old house that my spouse and I are restoring to look like it might have when it was first built in 1860. Coddington Road this far out is still sparsely settled. We live by the original farm once associated with our property, still farmed today by our neighbor, Dick Walker.
I am a building inspector for the City of Ithaca. Because I am relatively new at my job I have to take five courses offered by the State of New York to meet the minimum standards for code enforcement personnel. Today I am taking Code and Enforcement Administration, course number 44. This course consists of 24 hours of training in how to conduct yourself as a code enforcer and how the community relates to your job. I had to get up this morning quite early to make the 8 o'clock start time at the State Fire Academy in Montour Falls, about a 40 minute drive in my pick-up truck, out route 79 to Mecklenburg and then route 228 to Odessa and down the hill into the outskirts of Montour Falls. Today it is very foggy as it has rained throughout the night.
When I arrived at the class we began the role playing exercise that I had volunteered for the previous day. My name is Roy Fish and my job is to go out to the Finkle Farm and see what Mr. Finkle is up to. We all that Mr. Finkle is building a hotel contrary to the zoning that exists in Smalltown, but will not let me in on the secret. He then introduces me to his dog "Lockjaw" and asks me to leave.
My lunch is in Watkins Glen where I have a meatball parmigiana submarine sandwich and a salad at Scuteri's Pizzaria. The afternoon is spent in class talking about zoning and planning, not very exciting topics.
I stop in Cayutaville on my way home at my friend Tom Parker's house and borrow rototiller and haul it home in the pick-up.
I am good health today except for the fifth metatarsal on my left foot that was broken last Thursday, five days ago. I have a slipper cast and a boot on it, and I can walk and work the pickup's clutch quite well, but the foot gets uncomfortable and sore as the day goes on.
My wife is eight months pregnant with out first child, whom we will call Schuyler. We have waited a while to have any children. We are both 35 and quite please with anticipation.
I hope that when this letter is read that Ithaca will be as beautiful a place as it is today and that we have managed not to have any world wars, any nuclear disasters, and learned to stop destroying our environment and living species that are vital to the success and diversity of the whole ecosystem of the earth."
Sounds like a nice guy. Alan Cohen stabbed him in the back. Sent him into a situation to clear out a black barber shop that was operating on the former premises of the Morris' MensWear, now Lot10. Eckstrom, acting on orders from the mayor did what he was asked to do, which was to order the shop to find another place to operate. There had been an effort to keep the shop alive, but merchants in the area complained about it. Particularly the merchants at a Angel Heart, a place that made baggy sackclothing for overweight women, across the street. Eckstrom got caught in a crossfire that included charges of racism and was forced to resign from his position by a cowardly mayor who pretended to know nothing of the situation.
He and his wife Cheryl Russell, who was editor-in-chief of American Demographics back in the day, moved to South Carolina, where they are not happy with the politics. Rick Sanborn? Find weight-bearing wall, bang head.
But it is unlikely they will ever return to their beloved Ithaca, although both contributed to this community in substantial ways, ways that few others have, or will. For an interesting and accurate accounting of this incident, read John Milich's piece on the whole shebang at http://www.wholeithaca.info/tcgp/2001/07/14-1755-Alan_Cohen_Ousts_Rick_Eckstrom_to_speed_Widewaters_Development.html .
This excerpt then, is a wonderful example of why we should all be sending in our submissions to The Great Ithaca Write-In of May 17, 2013. Because these kind of records, stand for themselves in a different way than any other kind of public document. They mark the passage of human life itself, while marking institutional life, as a footnote.
There you go. Things change, hey? Things stay the same.
On May 17, assume the position, and submit.
– Franklin Crawford, who remembers this kind of crap and supports the May 17, 2013 Great Ithaca Write-In.