Would-be council and School Board members discuss local challenges
Spending, housing and city growth were some of the issues addressed by candidates for Grand Forks City Council in a public forum Tuesday.
Jode Gibbs and Crystal Schneider are running for the Ward 2 seat and Jeannie Schultz Mock and Nels Christianson are running in Ward 4.
Each candidate spoke of their strong ties to Grand Forks and desire to make the city better before answering questions from the public.
In response to asking how the city government should address Grand Forks’ housing shortage, Gibbs said she believes the city should not interfere. “I think the free market should be able to operate,” she said.
Christianson mostly agreed, saying that the private developers “are ready” to build the houses needed, but the city needs to make that easier for them. One way is to make sure planned unit developments are pushed through the Planning and Zoning Commission process, he said.
Schneider, who said she has experience with housing from previously working for Habitat for Humanity, said the city should continue to encourage housing programs like Habitat and the Community Land trust.
In addition, Schneider said the city should work to find housing options for senior citizens, which could open up other options as those seniors move out of more affordable housing that new Grand Forks residents could move into, which would promote growth.
Schultz Mock agreed that the housing shortage affects the city’s growth, adding that the city can facilitate housing development by building and planning infrastructure strategically.
Schultz Mock also emphasized the importance of available housing in attracting new residents to Grand Forks.
Housing isn’t the only factor in Grand Forks’ growth. Candidates said they support private/public partnerships as development continues, specifically in downtown and the 42nd Street corridor.
Asked if they would have supported the city’s recent move to allocate $75,000 to the Downtown Development Association, all four candidates said downtown development is important for Grand Forks, but only Schultz Mock and Schneider said they would have voted for that funding.
Christianson said he would have liked to see the money go to a specific project, rather than just the DDA generally. “I would hesitate to fund organizations that we don’t have oversight over as a council,” he said.
Gibbs said she would have to see more information before deciding whether she would vote on that.
Ward 6 incumbent Dana Sande, who is running unopposed, was not at the public forum.
Candidates for the seven open seats on the Grand Forks Public School Board answered questions in a public forum following the City Council candidates’ forum.
Candidates Joshua Anderson, Christina Loh, Kevin Kuntz, Benjamin Hoffman, Meggen Sande, Ward Johnson, David George, Becca Grandstrand, Cynthia Shabb, Tim Lamb, Bill Palmiscno, Matthew Spivey, Mike St. Onge, Eric Burin and Joshua L. Brown were in attendance.
Most candidates cited transparency and communication as major issues facing the School District, saying they would work toward improving public opinion of the district.
Many said they have personal interest in seeing success for the district, whether that is children in the public schools or spouses working for the schools.
The City Council and School Board forums will be rebroadcast on Channel 2 every Saturday and Sunday between now and the election at 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Election Day is June 10.