By Cameron Rasmusson
A Sandpoint city candidate forum drew more than 100 people out Wednesday night to watch mayoral candidates Mose Dunkel and Shelby Rognstad square off on the issues.
Sponsored by Sandpoint Online and the Sandpoint Reader, the moral candidates fielded questions ranging from water and sewer rates to community involvement in politics to openness in city government. Attendees walked away impressed with the measured, considerate tone of both the forum and the candidates.
“I think both candidates were treated with a lot of respect and treated each other with a lot of respect,” said attendee Jeanne Cottrell.
Born and raised in the Sandpoint area, Dunkel said his love for the town motivated his decision to run for mayor. He pointed to his experience running the business and employees of Dunkel Logging as well as his volunteering as qualifications. Transparency in city government and affordable utility rates were among his chief concerns.
“When I grew up here, poor people could get by,” Dunkel said. “… Those opportunities are becoming more and more limited.”
Rognstad emphasized his experience in city government as his primary credentials for the office, which range from the Sandpoint Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee to the Planning and Zoning Commission to his years on City Council. He emphasized economic development within the town, tempered by strong planning to keep the cost of living affordable.
“I’m running for mayor because I want to preserve [Sandpoint’s strong sense of community,” Rognstad said. “I want to take it to the next level.”
Although running uncontested, City Council incumbents Bill Aitken, Deb Fragoso and Tom Eddy offered up their chief concerns, highlighting the upcoming downtown streets reconfiguration, safety at major intersections, the new city administrator position and support for businesses among their priorities.
To read what some of the attendees of the forum thought about the night and the candidates’ responses to the issues, see below.
“This was a good event. What I liked about it was this was really well moderated. For Chris to layout from the beginning, there would be no talk about speeding tickets, or other personal issues, made it a great use of my time.”
“I think it was great. I wish I’d been able to go to other forums. I love seeing this kind of engagement. Both of the Candidates handled themselves very well.”
“I came here wanting to know the candidates better. Both made statements that affected me. Shelby struck me as very well informed. I thought Mo speaks to the heart of people. I think the mayor should preserve the character of Sandpoint as we move forward. With Mose in particular, I think that was addressed.”
“I thought the panel was very balanced. Personally I thought Shelby had the best answers. The notion of keeping things progressive and affordable, I think that’s really important. I believe Sandpoint needs to move strongly in that direction.”
“I want people to vote. It’s hard. I grew up here and just moved back. Some things Mo said hit me right. We’re going through a humungous paradigm shift in Sandpoint now. When I grew up here we still had logging as our main economy. And then after our economy fell on a macro level, it was a big deal. People don’t want to be bored. We have a rich community here. We need to vote for someone and get behind them. We need to vote, period. I see greatness in both of the candidates. There were no red flags that came up for me. They are both good candidates.”
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