Candidates debate dorm residents’ involvement

Robyn Repya

Second Ward City Council candidates Cam Gordon and Paul Zerby met for a debate Monday afternoon in the Carlson School of Management. The debate concentrated mostly on a controversy brewing in the Prospect Park neighborhood.

The quarrel revolves around a Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association decision to exclude residence hall students from becoming members.

Community member Steve Ficker’s question sparked the debate on whether either candidate supported PPERRIA’s decision.

Zerby said neighborhood, business, and student groups all have different interests. He said they all need to work together but, he said students wouldn’t want neighbors voting in their student organizations.

Zerby said when there is a concentration of students such as in University Village, where an allotment of funds and a majority rule, the potential for mischief is great.

Betts Zerby, his wife and campaign manager, said the heavy concentration of students in residence halls and University Village makes it easy for students to outnumber other residents.

“Both Marcy-Holmes, Como and Prospect Park would be overwhelmed by student (interests) if they banded together,” she said.

Gordon, on the other hand, said the exclusion of dormitory residents in the ward would cause a division.

“I think it’s very important that neighborhood associations be inclusive,” Gordon said.

He said it is especially important to include everyone because the group receives an allotment of public money.

To address the fear of student domination, he said, the organization could set up safeguards to assure that no one group would dominate the other.

Gordon said excluding dormitory students by saying they are not “permanent residents” is unfair. He said many people live in an area long before deciding whether they’ll stay.

While candidates didn’t agree on PPERRIA’s policy, both said more dialogue between all groups involved is necessary.

The debate was facilitated by the University Political Science Association.