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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Road to City Hall: Northfield Mayoral Candidates debate issues

<tion awash with presidential debate fever it may surprise some that Carleton recently did a little debate hosting of its own. This past Tuesday the Carleton Democrats sponsored a campaign forum for Northfield mayoral candidates Paul Hager, a Northfield native, St. Olaf grad and current Technical Director of Cinema and Media Studies at Carleton, and Mary Rossing, also a Northfield native and St. Olaf grad. The two candidates answered questions on a variety of subjects ranging from Northfield’s “town and gown” dynamic, to spurring the city’s economic growth, to ways of improving environmental sustainability. The debate’s moderator, Political Science/IR major Ben Barclay ‘09, was responsible for creating many of the questions, but the Carleton Democrats encouraged audience members to write and submit questions of their own as well.

A goal of getting both Carleton students and Northfield citizens involved seemed to be at the heart of the efforts of the Carleton Democrats in organizing this event. Evan Rowe, a Carleton senior and active member of the Carl Dems, says that part of what motivated him and other members to set up the debate is that he feels there “aren’t many opportunities to get students involved in Northfield politics.” Around 20 Carls and Northfielders actually attended the event, and many of them submitted questions to the candidates.

Rossing and Hager agreed at a basic level on many of the issues brought up by these questions, but had different views when it came to the specifics of their plans. When asked about the recent firing of 2 Northfield city employees, for example, both candidates agreed that cutting city personnel is an unfortunate but sometimes necessary measure when it comes to balancing the city’s budget. However, they disagreed on the matter of who in the city government should be responsible for making these sorts of budget decisions. Rossing thinks that the mayor and the city administrator should share the power when it comes to deciding critical budget issues, while Hager believes the mayor should possess a stronger say.

Rossing and Hager also agreed that Northfield needs a change in leadership. “Northfield has gotten itself into a bit of a hole,” Hager said. He states that working to “cultivate leaders” is a way for Northfield to regain “respectability” and “focus.” Rossing, too, emphasized the importance of leadership but did so by describing the mayor that she herself would want to have, one who listens to citizens and has both good management and people skills.

An audience question particularly pertinent to the Carleton student body asked if local landlords should be discouraged from renting to Carleton and St. Olaf students. Hager responded by admitting that there have been incidences of both bad renters and bad landlords in the past, but stated that he felt no one should be discouraged. Rossing too felt that landlords should be free to rent to Oles and Carls but placed the stipulation that the students also need to learn “how to be [good citizens] in a neighborhood.”

The debate ended with the candidates’ closing statements. Rossing communicated that one of her top priorities as mayor would be to restore trust in Northfield between citizens, the mayor, the city council, and the city’s boards and commissions, while Hager ended by encouraging Carls to get involved in the community, saying to those present, “You’re a part of Northfield and Northfield is a part of you.”

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