Two incumbents discuss views, opponent a no-show
NEW ULM — Two unusual candidate forums were hosted by the New Ulm League of Women Voters on Thursday.
The New Ulm City Council Ward 1 and Minnesota Senate 16B forums were held with a single candidate participating in each forum.
Incumbent Ward 1 City Councilor David Christian is running unopposed for his seat. Earlier in the year Chad Cooreman had entered the race but he withdrew his candidacy earlier this summer. Cooreman’s name will still appear on the ballot on Nov. 3.
Christian addressed this development earlier in the forum. He said Cooreman contacted him before officially dropping out of the race. Cooreman had a recent career change and did not feel he would have the time or energy to fulfill the duties of city councilor.
“I admire him for that and I wish him good luck [in] his new career,” Christian said.
The first question of the forum was if Christian had any weaknesses or challenges that affect his ability to serve on the council and how he would counteract them.
Christian said a challenge he had when first coming on the council was learning to listen and avoid snap judgment.
“That has helped me a lot,” he said. “Listen to what your ward wants, listen to what the citizens of New Ulm want. It does work.”
Asked what steps are needed from the city council to improve the vibrancy of downtown New Ulm, Christian said pointed to a RETHO study conducted in July 2019. The study gathered information on what citizens want downtown, and some of those things are being worked on now. Christian pointed to the new signage on park benches and tables downtown that is part of it. A community engagement policy will be coming to the council soon, but has not been formally adopted yet. This will create a forum to receive input from area groups.
“I think that is going to be a huge asset for downtown,” he said.
Asked about whether he would consider moving the city council meeting from 4:30 p.m. to a later time to allow more working people to attend, Christian said this could be brought to the council now or it could wait until after the election when a new council president takes over. Christian said he had heard a later hour would be more convenient, and it would be a reasonable discussion to bring before the council.
The last question of the Ward 1 forum was about Christian’s recent views on a riot/protective gear purchase recently approved by the council.
Christian said he believes this purchase request was worded incorrectly and the public was misinformed about the nature of the equipment. He said the equipment was protective gear, not riot gear like rubber bullets or tear gas.
“It was replacing old [worn out] tasers,” he said. “A lot of it was personal protective gear.”
The Senate 16B forum was held next, after a slight delay. Incumbent Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) was the sole participant in the forum. Joshua Prine, running as an Independent, was invited to the forum but did not attend.
Dahms is completing his third term in the Senate. Currently, he serves as the assistant majority leader in the Republican Caucus.
The first question for Dahms was how he intends to respond to the state’s revenue shortfall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dahms said there is $350 million that could be shifted to help some, but believes in the next biennium, the size of government would need to be reduced.
Asked what policies could be implemented or changed to help the state through the pandemic, Dahms said he would like to see changes to the governor’s emergency authority.
Dahms believes this year, the first six weeks of the governor’s emergency powers in response to the pandemic went smoothly. But he said after that, Gov. Tim Walz began making all the decisions on his own, without the legislative body.
“I think when you can get three bodies working on something, you can come up with better solutions,” he said.
Dahms was also opposed to treating the entire state the same because the impact of the virus is different depending whether the area is rural or metro.
Dahms was asked how he would respond to access and affordability of health coverage, with Minnesota citizens losing employer-sponsored health coverage and employment.
Dahms said options were available under the MNSure program if a person lost their income. Overall, Dahms believes Minnesota has a good healthcare system. He believes telehealth would be the next thing to drive costs down.
Asked about his opinion of the Black Life Matters movement, Dahms said people have the right to protest peacefully, but once protests turn to riots, he is opposed. Dahms said he was not sure who benefited from BLM.
Asked what action he would take to improve the economics of small farming, Dahms said loans for small farmers and new farmers were available. More money for advocate services was provided.
On climate change and its impact on farmers, Dahms said it was a global issue that Minnesota could not solve on its own. He believes there were options with green energy that need to be researched. Baseload energy is still needed when a green solution is not available yet.
The full forum discussions were broadcast live on New Ulm Cable Access Television (NUCAT) and KNUJ radio. The forums can be viewed on YouTube. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3.