KX News your local election headquarters, bringing you tonight’s Bismarck mayoral debate. All three candidates on the ballot discussed important issues in the city and ways to improve.
The event tonight was put on by the League of Women voters and consisted of questions brought by a small panel. They ranged from public transportation to attracting and retaining workforce. At times, it got heated, especially between incumbent Mike Seminary and opponent Steve Bakken.
“There’s a lack of accountability to the taxpayers. There’s lack of accountability to the residents of Bismarck. We need that accountability, we need that transparency of government,” said Bakken.
But Mayor Seminary thinks it’s already there, just needs improvement.
He said, “We are very transparent. And we want to make sure that we are delivering information to as many audiences as possible by the way they taken in information today.”
One major topic of discussion: the homeless crisis the city has battled since last fall. Mayor Seminary thinks city government is right in stepping up. The others disagree saying the problem should fall on community services like churches and non profits.
“That is why I am running. What I do as a pastor daily is to care for the need, to care for the needy, the hungry the sick, and the poor,” said Isaac Afoakwa.
One panelist asked about the opioid crisis, behavioral health issues when it ties to law enforcement, and what needs to happen.
Mayor Seminary said, “That is our number one responsibility – public safety. Our law enforcement professionals are doing a masterful job of dealing with a very difficult situation.”
But Bakken had something poignant to say about Mayor Seminary’s stance on law enforcement.
He said, “Standing in solidarity with outside agitators and protesters is not an example of supporting law enforcement. When we have issues that come up in the community, they need every bit of support that we and leadership in this community can give them.
Seminary rebuttled with, “I stand for the law enforcement professionals every single day.”
In closing statements, Mayor Seminary brings home the point that he is a positive, proven public servant. Bakken notes a culture change needs to happen in the city, and Afoakwa is ready to take on the challenge as mayor.
“We can’t continue to procrastinate. We can’t continue to say that we’ll do it tomorrow. When you vote for me today, I will get it done. So, give me more time. There is no time. Bismarck needs progress now,” said Afoakwa.
Debates concluded after an hour – leaving residents with a sense of who these candidates are.
And the race will continue up until the June 12th primary elections.
Before the mayoral debates took place tonight, city commission canidates had their turn at the podium. It was less heated than those running for mayor, but the canidates brought up many of the same concerns.
Up on the stage: Beth Nodland, Mark Splonskowski, Greg Zenker, and Nancy Guy – who is the incumbent seeking re-election. Topics of debate included special assesments, behavioral health, and job attraction and retention in the city. The candidates agreed on much of the issues.
The four candidates will be running for two open seats on the Bismarck City Commission come the June 12th primary.