Kagin hosts candidate forum

By David Hertz

About 500 students and Twin Cities residents filled Kagin Commons Monday night to hear 10 gubernatorial candidates answer questions about their positions on transit and the environment.The forum, organized by Macalester’s Minnesota Public Interest Research Group and Transit for Livable Communities, drew six Democratic candidates, three Independence Party candidates, and one Republican.

Democrats argued that the state needed to spend more on public transit and other transportation options such as biking and walking.

“People need to have choices so they don’t have to drive everywhere,” said Ramsey County Attorney General and Democratic candidate Susan Gaertner.

“If we make our streets with bike paths and walking paths, people will use [them],” agreed Democratic state senator John Marty.

Republican and Independence Party candidates argued that the state couldn’t afford this spending.

“You can’t pay debt with debt to get out of debt,” said Republican candidate Leslie Davis.

Independence candidate Robert Hahn argued that people should take personal responsibility for using other forms of transit.

“It doesn’t require the government to say, hey, you’re lazy. Take a walk,” Hahn said.

Democrats were split on how to pay for new programs. Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton argued that the state needed a progressive income tax, while others said bonds and federal matching funds from stimulus spending would suffice.

Turnout met the expectations of organizers. The crowd was mostly composed of residents but included many of students.

“We hope to get people aware of the stances of the candidates on transportation, land use, and the environment,” Sklyer Larrimore, MPIRG co-chair, said. “There’s a lot of room for education.”

The caucuses to select each party’s candidate for the general election will be held next Tuesday, February 2. The Democratic Farm-Labor party caucus for residents in Macalester’s precinct will be held Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Kagin Commons. The Republican caucus for the precinct will be held at the same time at Longfellow Elementary School. Residents from other precincts can find their caucus locations at http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Most Republican candidates did not come to the forum, and two dropped out beforehand. Former Macalester graduate, Matt Entenza, also did not come because of a scheduling conflict.

MPIRG plans to follow up the forum with more lobbying for Complete Streets legislation, new proposed regulations that would change the way new streets are built.

“Complete Streets is a plan to make streets more accessible to people with disabilities, bikers, and even cars.,” Larrimore said. The legislation would require future street construction to include new amenities like bike lanes and bus shelters