Como area housing, minority involvement discussed at forum

Robyn Repya

Second Ward City Council candidates and University alumni Cam Gordon and Paul Zerby faced off at a Como neighborhood forum Tuesday night to give their opinions on housing, involvement of minorities in the community, and neighborhood policies.

Zerby, a DFL endorsee, said student housing should be of particular concern because of high rent and poor housing conditions.

He said the University should proactively improve student housing conditions.

Gordon, endorsed by the Green Party, said the diversity within the 2nd Ward – including immigrants, students and long-time residents – also poses a unique challenge to the housing crunch, although he didn’t offer specific suggestions.

He attributed recent conflicts over parties in parts of the ward to varying interests of neighbors and students.

One citizen asked the candidates how they plan to work with minority groups within the ward, especially those immigrants who speak various languages.

“We have to make sure we’re communicating with recent immigrants in a way they can understand,” said Gordon, who said approximately 12 languages are spoken in the ward.

Zerby spoke of the importance of outreach, describing a trip he took with Gordon to a Fridley Islamic center following last month’s attacks.

Zerby said it is important to reach out to all ethnicities, especially after the Sept. 11 events.

Another resident asked candidates if they agreed with a Prospect Park neighborhood association’s decision to change its bylaws to exclude residence hall students from voting in association meetings.

Zerby said he agrees with the decision because students have different interests than other residents.

However, Zerby said, the lines of communication within the neighborhood need to remain open.

“I think we can do a lot of learning from one another,” Zerby said.

Gordon said he does not agree with the decision to exclude residence hall students because neighborhood associations need to include everyone. He said excluding certain groups would be risky.

Most of the University and some surrounding neighborhoods are included in the 2nd Ward.

The Southeast Como Improvement Association hosted the forum, which was moderated by a League of Women Voters volunteer.

 

Robyn Repya covers East Bank
neighborhoods and welcomes comments
at [email protected]