West Bank candidates meet to hear residents

by Mike Oakes

West Bank area state Senate and House candidates chatted about issues Longfellow and Seward neighborhood residents deemed most important at two back-to-back Tuesday night community-guided forums.
In contrast to a debate, the hour-long forums contained little argument or self-promotion. Instead, candidates rolled with many of the 50 attendants’ punches, specifically addressing transportation and the environment as community concerns.
In an effort to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Carol Flynn, DFLer Julie Sabo, Republican Kelly Bailey and Independence Party candidate Steve Anderson shared what years of experience in the area neighborhoods has taught them.
Anderson’s experience taught him transportation issues cannot be solved by road expansion but instead by electrically powered mass transit models. While he said he doesn’t think light rail transit is the best answer, Anderson said it’s a step forward.
He said he supports Personal Rapid Transit (PRT), and contests it’s the best method to alleviate transit problems, by taking 25 percent of Twin Cities’ residents out of their cars. Currently, 90 percent of them drive, he said.
Bailey said better mass transit is important, but said the city should also work to design and improve bus routes, including the addition of separate stop lights that change more frequently for buses.
“The main problem is it takes too long to go anywhere,” he said.
Sabo said the metro area needs to look at diverse modes of transportation, and said light rail transit is a step in the right direction.
House candidates disagreed on the severity of area environmental problems.
DFLer Jim Davnie stressed that environmental issues arise because of urban sprawl. He said the city needs to lessen the sprawl and work for better quality of life in Minneapolis.
But Independence Party candidate Mary Mellen said because water and air quality affect health, measures need to be taken to ensure those resources are pure.
Republican Orlando Ochoada pointed out a need to protect and preserve species and habitat. He also thinks it is imperative to reduce pollutant levels.
Other issues brought up by residents were affordable housing, tax burdens and racial profiling.
Longfellow community member Cam Gordon said he is leaning toward Senate candidate Anderson because he shares similar views.
“I don’t want to support major parties,” he said, “And I like what Steve said about PRT.”
It is community members like Gordon whom Sean Barry, social action committee member and major coordinator of the forums, wanted to reach.
“I felt it was important that community members could get out and meet candidates face-to-face.”