Meeting the public: Candidates vie for votes

The five candidates for the two open Valley City City Commission seats, and uncontested Barnes County Commissioners John Froelich and Cindy Schwehr, who are up for reelection this year, addressed the community at a candidate forum Tuesday night at the Hi-Liner Activity Center.

The forum, sponsored by the Valley City Area Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Mercy Hospital director Keith Heuser, was an opportunity for candidates to get their message out by answering questions from the community.

On the city side, local businessmen Bob Drake frequently used the entire two minutes of allotted time to speak and frequently exercised his option for a one-minute rebuttal.

To his left, fellow candidate Arthur Friese’s responses were open and honest as he said “I guess I really don’t know” when asked about new solutions to how special assessments are placed on Valley City residents, where as Drake, whose primary focus in the campaign has been to change the assessment process, called the current methods “absolutely criminal.”

Candidates Mary Lee Nielson, a former commissioner and one-term mayor, and Dr. Madeline Luke, an outspoken city resident who has been on the forefront of water issues involving the Sheyenne River, often echoed each other’s statements when the topics were on flood protection and infrastructure.

“We need to get our arms around the water issue first,” Luke said when asked about repairing city infrastructure, adding that if the city continues to be repeatedly flooded, repeatedly repairing sewers and roads would be a major drain on the town’s budget.

Ken Evenson, a former commissioner who lost his seat in a recall election earlier this year, said he’d like to see town hall meeting reinstated in the city, and would personally encourage residents to get involved in local government.

“People don’t go to city hall and don’t talk to their commissioners because they don’t really get any answers,” he said.

As to whether they would support a smoking ban in Valley City bars, only Luke and Nielson said they would vote in favor of the ban, while Friese and Drake said they would oppose it. Evenson said he would support whatever the state legislature decided, but his opinion is that it should be left up to individual business owners.

“At this time, I would not be pushing for the city to impose on smoking, for the simple reason that we’re telling our business people enough what to do.”

When asked about Measure 2, which would abolish property taxes in the state, Drake was the only candidate in favor of it passing.

“I’m all for Measure 2, I think it’s the best thing since sliced bread for North Dakota,” Drake said.

“The misconceptions, misunderstandings and outright foolhardiness of the opposition is just really ridiculous.”