Ward 2 debate short on disputes

Getting more students involved in city government was a major point of agreement.

by Cati Vanden Breul

Second Ward City Council candidates Cara Letofsky and Cam Gordon defended similar positions in a cordial debate Tuesday at Coffman Union.

Often their answers were so similar that one candidate often repeated and agreed with the ideas their opponent had just brought up in response to a question.

The Minnesota Student Association, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and audience members prepared questions for the candidates.

Both candidates said they wanted to get students more involved in the City Council.

“Students have been historically underrepresented in the ward, and I want to change that,” Letofsky said.

She said she would reach out to leadership organizations on campus, like MSA to help inform students about what the city can do for them.

Gordon said he would have weekly office hours at a location near campus so students could meet with him more easily.

“I’ll be around, and my staff will be around. It’s an opportunity to be plugged in and make sure I know about what is going on for students,” he said.

The candidates also discussed public safety, housing, transportation and renewable energy issues.

“My goal for public transportation is to make it as easy to not use a car as it is to use a car,” Letofsky said.

She said there is not enough bike lockers downtown; there are waiting lists to use them. She advocated putting bike lockers in parking ramps where there’s available space.

Gordon said he’d like to see a designated area in Minneapolis where public transportation would be free. He said other cities have accomplished this by adding a surcharge on parking.

When asked about stadium issues, both candidates said they were in favor of an on-campus Gophers stadium but are wary of new Twins or Vikings stadiums.

But Gordon said students should fight to get rid of the mandatory student fee the University would charge to help pay for a stadium, because they already deal with high tuition.

“Students should fight, fight, fight to opt out on the fee,” he said.

Letofsky said she didn’t approve of the fee either, but if it’s necessary, the University should at least charge students who would be able to take advantage of it and not students who would be gone by the time it would be built.

The candidates also discussed how to make Minneapolis a more energy-efficient city.

Gordon said he would start a loan program that would help residents who need more insulation in their homes to lower their heating costs. He said the savings would help cover the loan.

Letofsky said the city could do simple things, like install instruments that automatically turn off lights when people leave the room in all new buildings.

“It’s not hard to do, and we should always be thinking about what we can do to improve energy in Minneapolis,” Letofsky said.

After the formal questioning period, the audience and candidates moved into a circle and discussed concerns face to face.