Candidate Forum Debrief Part 2: City Council Candidates

Candidate Forum Debrief Part 2: City Council Candidates

As a Brooklyn Center City Council Candidate I had the privilege of taking part for my first time ever in Brooklyn Center’s City Council Candidate Forum on Thursday, June 16, 2022. If you did not have a chance to watch it or attend in person, you can watch online here. I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for sponsoring this important event.

As a participant in the forum, I had a different perspective than that of an observer. I was aware from months of research leading up to the Candidate Filing Period that it was customary for the League of Women Voters to host a Candidate Forum for the Primary Election and General Election in Brooklyn Center. However, I learned of the date and time of the forum in the Sun Post before I finally received an invite on Friday, June 3rd. At first, I felt that this was in poor taste but in retrospect I think this was due to the Sun Post’s requirements to have news submissions submitted the Thursday prior publication and June 2nd being the deadline to withdraw from candidacy. This means that while the date and time of the forum had been decided the final pool of candidates would not have been set in stone until the Friday I received an invite.

I did experience a little frustration and stress leading up to the forum because candidates were not filled in on all the details of the format until the evening of the forum. It had been my understanding that there would be a short introduction for all the candidates, some standard questions, some questions from the audience, and a closing statement. Having not heard anything, I emailed the City Clerk on the morning of Monday, June 13 asking if I could be provided with the list of standard questions. I never received a direct reply to my email but did receive an email from the City Clerk about an hour later stating, “A couple of you have asked about the format of the forum. All candidates will have an opportunity to give a brief introduction (about 2 minutes). Then there are a couple of standard questions and the rest will come from the audience.” I responded to that email again asking for the list of standard questions and finally received a reply which said, “There aren’t any standard questions for the forum. The questions will come from the audience.” The night of the forum, it was confirmed that each candidate could give a two minute introduction, ALL questions would come from the audience and candidates would have forty-five seconds to respond, and would receive one minute for a closing statement.

Despite receiving inaccurate and contradictory information about he format of the forum, I did my best to be prepared for the event. Weeks before the forum, I decided that I would watch the last candidate forum from October, 2020 and answer those questions for myself. When I learned that there was not a standard list of questions, I sorted my answers by more general topics, added a few of my own, and printed them out. Though I don’t believe my methodology ultimately fit the format of this event, I still feel it was incredibly beneficial to think through and answer those questions. I will likely share some of those materials in the coming days and weeks.

The night of the forum, there were seven candidates who showed up at City Hall. (I was the first to arrive.) Absent from the forum were Christine Suste and Jake Carter. Even though participation in the forum was technically optional, I think it gives us some insight into who we can consider serious candidates. There is a quote often attributed to Woody Allen which says, “80 percent of success is showing up.” I think this principle holds true in most of life’s situations.

Of the seven candidates who participated in the forum, I think there is only one who truly set himself apart from the rest: Dan Jerzak. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table that no other candidate can match because of his years of employment with the City of Brooklyn Center and more recently, with the Brooklyn Center Police Department. I told him in person and I will tell you that anyone would be foolish if they didn’t at least strongly consider voting for him on that basis.

I was hoping for a variety of well-thought-out questions that would help voters draw clear lines in the sand and help them make a firm decision about who they might vote for. In my opinion, none of the candidates radically differed on what they thought the important issues facing Brooklyn Center are or what their priorities would be if they were elected. I was keenly aware that many candidates mentioned something to the effect of “hearing your voice” or “making your voice heard again” which sounded very similar to the verbiage that was available on my website since the beginning of this race. Either everyone took their cues from me or we all feel that this is something that has been missing in recent years. For you as a voter, hopefully this means you will not have to hold your nose when you go to the polls and would be able to support any of the viable candidates with a clear conscience. However, if you seek to be an informed voter, you have your work cut out for you. I encourage you to do your research and vote your values.

After the forum, I had one gentlemen express the sentiment that he wouldn’t be voting for me because this isn’t the time to have someone who is “learning on the job”. Although I’m sure he was coming from a good place, he should reject ALL the candidates based on that logic because none of them, including Dan Jerzak, have ever served on City Council.

In my opinion, the people that are best in their respective fields are always listening and learning on the job so they can continually improve and better serve. This is something I strive for and have been known for in all my years of employment and volunteer work.

I’m here to serve you, Brooklyn Center, and I’m asking for your help and for your vote.