Mayoral candidates trade views on involvement, planning
Grand Forks' two candidates for mayor met Tuesday for a debate covering points that have become themes in this year's election, including housing, planning and the incumbent's record of directing the city's services versus the challenger's promis...
Grand Forks' two candidates for mayor met Tuesday for a debate covering points that have become themes in this year's election, including housing, planning and the incumbent's record of directing the city's services versus the challenger's promise to plan better and devote more time to the job.
Mayor Mike Brown began that debate with a rapid-fire rundown of programs that have been part of his three terms in office, touching on everything from mosquito control, a smoking ban, Air Force base retention, neighborhood revitalization and the dog park in his two-minute opening statement during the debate, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.
"That's not going to be enough time to list all of our accomplishments in the last 12 years," Brown said.
Ward 2 City Council member Tyrone Grandstrand, Brown's challenger, argued that the city should not take past accomplishments as a reason to not expect better.
"It's not OK to stop with, 'We've done good, so now we're good,'" he said.
Taking on issues
Grandstrand cited a rental housing crunch as an example of his criticism that the city too often reacts to problems instead of planning for them before they occur. During his campaign, he has accused Brown of not devoting enough time to the job and promised to spend time on developing a long-range plan for city government.
"We need to take the next step and put it all in an overall strategic plan," he said. "It's actually in writing. It's measurable."
In response, Brown, 61, held out printed copies of plans and goals city department heads had created for their offices. His answer to Grandstrand's criticism of the mayor for not attending Planning and Zoning Commission meetings was that he appointed members of the commission and had city staff taking part.
While Grandstrand promised an active approach to city issues if elected, Brown returned to his accomplishments.
"It doesn't go back to what I will do, it's what I have done," he said.
Grandstrand, 26, said he could use attention Grand Forks would get for electing a young mayor to generate momentum for the city.
"We need to keep pushing," he said.
Candidates have one week to get their messages out before Election Day on Tuesday.
Grandstrand said he had been devoting his time to campaigning door-to-door and appearing at events meant to gather voters' ideas.
"I'm putting out yard signs, knocking on doors, trying to get as much contact as I can," he said.
He plans to continue campaigning on improving housing, strategic planning and devoting more time to the job of mayor. He said his conversations with residents have supported his decision to make the promise to be a full-time mayor a focus of his campaign.
"Generally, it's still 'We need someone who will put in the time and effort to have a strategic plan,'" he said.
Brown said that he planned to attend his duties as an Altru doctor this week and try to remind voters of his accomplishments when he can.
"We have a positive message to spread. My job is to get that message out," he said. "If they don't see what you've got after 12 years, they don't see you."
Candidates for Grand Forks City Council and Park Board also debated before and after the mayoral candidates. The debates will be re-aired on Channel 2 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Video of the event will be available on the city's home page, www.grandforksgov.com .
Reach Bjorke at (701) 780-1117; (800) 477-6572, ext. 117; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org .