Minneapolis mayoral hopefuls debate at U

by Jeannine Aquino

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and challenger Peter McLaughlin battled around the proverbial ring Wednesday to discuss issues relevant to students.

In a debate at Coffman Union, Rybak and McLaughlin spoke about issues facing the city and people of Minneapolis. They also discussed how they would address these issues, should they win the election.

Both candidates emphasized a stronger education system.

“We need to make sure public schools provide quality education,” McLaughlin said.

Rybak said he wants to implement career centers in schools since “some students are not properly prepared to enter college.”

Safety was another issue addressed by candidates.

“Public safety is very important,” Rybak said. “We need to put more police people on the street and more attorneys in the precinct.”

McLaughlin said he wants to diversify the police department.

“We need to make the police department look more like the community they are serving,” McLaughlin said.

Candidates were asked about specific University issues as well.

Both candidates were supportive of a proposed Gophers stadium on campus.

“The stadium is a positive thing,” McLaughlin said. “It might help pay for other nonrevenue sports.”

Rybak stressed that if a stadium is built, “we should keep a lid on costs.”

Another University issue discussed was the closing of General College.

Rybak said he was in support of the college closing because he believes a better system could be created.

McLaughlin, however, did not support the closing.

“I thought it was a step in the wrong direction,” McLaughlin said. “A great university has mechanisms in place to invite the community in and the General College was that mechanism.”

Other issues discussed were public financing, diversity in public office, environmental concerns and rights of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Both candidates expressed the desire for students to become more involved in politics.

“It is important for students to understand that they will be affected by the degree to which they vote and who they vote for,” McLaughlin said.

Rybak said he thinks it is essential for this generation of students to vote.

Applied plant science student Danielle Wosdyla said she thought Rybak did a better job defending his views.

“He was just a clearer speaker,” she said. “He has the advantage of already being mayor and he had a lot of positive things to back up what he said.”

Political science student Nic Kurutz supported McLaughlin, but thought many of the candidates’ stances were the same.

“I think there needs to be more diversity in the races, in the mayoral races especially.”

Rachel Bartleson, executive director of the Minnesota Public Research Interest Group, said she believes it is “critical that students from the ‘U’ hear these candidates speak.”

Christina Baldwin, chairwoman of the Minnesota Student Association’s Legislative Affairs Committee, said, “I hope students will be more aware of where the candidate stands and learn how easy it is to access the mayor and talk about issues that pertain to students.”