Candidates for Minnetrista mayor and city council took part in a virtual forum hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters on Sept. 15.

Incumbent Mayor Lisa Whalen and city council candidates Cathleen Reffkin and Damian Young fielded questions on their top priorities for the city, what the city’s role in combatting COVID-19 should be and how they will balance Minnetrista’s burgeoning growth with its current Lake Minnetonka charm and rural character.

Mayoral candidate Shannon Bruce had declined the invitation to participate; attempts to reach council candidate Ann MacGregor by phone, email and letter were unsuccessful, according to LWV moderator Patty Robles.

Infrastructure and Internet were the biggest touchpoints Sept. 15, making the top three priorities list for each of the candidates and shaping the next 45 minutes of the forum. Taxes and public safety, particularly as balanced against city growth, were also big topics.

Throughout the forum, council candidate Young emphasized the importance of community engagement, both from the top down and from the bottom up, and said HOAs could be helpful go-betweens for residents and their local government to get information. 

Council candidate Reffkin urged that good city management requires the scrutiny of its budget, efficient allocation of its funds and strong relationships with county and state agencies that may have grants available that could benefit Minnetrista.

Whalen drew upon her experience as current Minnetrista mayor and pointed to her leadership over the past six years as having brought about more transparency and community engagement in local government.

The full forum can viewed on the League of Women Voters Wayzata-Plymouth Area (LWVWPA) website at lwvwpa.org under the “candidate forums” tab. 

DEBATE OVER WHETHER TO HOLD FORUM

Leading up to the Sept. 15 forum was a question of whether the forum should take place at all. Current Minnetrista council member and mayoral candidate Shannon Bruce had alleged on her website that the LWV was not following its own rules by hosting the forum for the mayor’s race when only one candidate, incumbent Lisa Whalen, would be participating. 

Bruce had posted the set of rules once followed by a state LWV and which stated no forum would be held for races in which only one candidate responded. That led LWVPWA President Rebecca Hawthorne to issue a statement on the local League’s website.

“These rules do not pertain to the LWVMN [League of Women Voters Minnesota]. Every League throughout the nation determines their own rules on how they conduct forums, based on their local capacity and in accordance with state and local laws,” the statement reads. “Guidance may be set by a state League to ensure compliance with nonpartisanship or state law, but otherwise local Leagues vary in their specific procedures.”

The League’s forum rules, as outlined specifically for LWVPWA and also posted to the website, state that “If an invited candidate is unable or decides not to appear at a scheduled event, the event will still be held. This is the case even if only one candidate appears, except as noted above when FCC or FEC rules apply. Unopposed candidates may appear alone.”

Hawthorne noted in her statement that the rules Bruce had uncovered were part of the handbook for the Greater Cleveland chapter but that “the rules cited in that particular handbook from LWV Greater Cleveland are outdated.”

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