On Monday, Oct. 27, thanks to Katie Wilson of Cornell’s Career and Civic Engagement Center, the Mount Vernon Sun and the Cornell Republicans, students had a chance to connect with Mount Vernon residents and local politics at the local election forum. Students and citizens were encouraged to ask questions of Mount Vernon’s mayoral and city council candidates in preparation for the upcoming election.
The Mount Vernon City Council has five seats: three council members, a mayor and a mayor pro tempore. In the running for this term are previous city council member Marty Christensen, previous school board member Thomas Wiesler, fire department veteran Keith Huehner, Parks and Recreation Department member Scott Rose, and Paul Tuerler, who has been mayor and member of city council and also has worked in the Parks and Recreation Department. Christensen, Wiesler, Huehner and Rose are all running for four-year terms on city council, while Tuerler is running for the remaining two years of a vacated seat.
The new city council members will have to deal with challenges that face the Mount Vernon community in both the short term, like hiring a new city administrator, increasing housing opportunities, and updating the city’s comprehensive plan, and the long term, like planning for new developments such as a possible community center and a new bypass. Because of all of the opportunities for Mt. Vernon to grow, candidate Wiesler deemed the upcoming years an “exciting time” for the community.
Each candidate eagerly anticipates the opportunity to improve the city they love, and they have varying ideas of how they propose to do it.
In discussion, Wiesler advocated for onboarding programs and leadership retreats for city council to ensure that all members are on the same page and that the term will be productive. Christensen, Huehner, and Tuerler all stated that they favored Tax Increment Financing (TIF) when used appropriately, as it allows the generation of revenue without raising taxes.
Huehner specifically advocated for using TIF to build the community center along with business/industrial and residence parks and parking structures. Rose focused heavily on the upcoming bypass construction, and he and and Christensen both discussed the possibility of trail development as an economic development tool. All candidates intend to help fuel and drive the growth that Mt. Vernon will experience over the coming term and beyond.
In regards to Cornell specifically, all candidates appreciate the town’s relationship with the college and want to strengthen that bond. They see this as especially vital as Cornell increases its enrollment numbers and its students become an even larger proportion of the town’s residents, which is roughly one third.
Each of the candidates has worked with the school in one form or another. As past mayor, Tuerler has participated in New Student Orientation. Through the Parks and Recreation Department, Rose has worked with students to clean up the community and build a frisbee golf course. If elected, he wants to see regular meetings between the college and the council, bringing local politics “to the Hilltop and out of City Hall.”
With the Fire Department, Huehner has worked with the campus in regards to public safety, and, during his time in office, held regular meetings with Cornell. Wiesler actually came to Mt. Vernon because of Cornell, and, during his involvement in local politics, held meetings with Student Senate. Christensen hopes to increase student involvement in local politics by possibly creating opportunities for students in ad hoc committees, or even non-voting seats on council.
All of the candidates agreed with Tuerler when he said, “When students come to Mount Vernon, to Cornell, they must feel like they’re in a community.”
Involvement in local politics is a part of community life that all of the candidates encouraged Cornell students to explore.
Anyone who was unable to attend the forum can watch the recorded discussion in its entirety at https://vimeo.com/mvlsun, courtesy of The Sun.
Cornell students are also encouraged to vote in the local election. November 3 shuttles will be available to take students to the polling station. Look for details and sign up for a seat in the October 28 Cornell newsletter.
Micah Hawker-Boehnke, Dale Dellimore, Ryan O’Hayre, and Rob Kelly are students in Cornell Republican party
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Paul Tuerler talks to Dale Dellimore (19), Ryan Kelly (18), and Micah Hawker-Boehnke (16) after the forum
Source: Ujessa Dhanak
Ujjesa Dhanak, Staff Writer