Two Downtown campus student organizations hosted a political discussion highlighting a former ASU president and two District 24 senatorial candidates Monday evening.
The event, Downtown Decides 2012, was a way to introduce students and community members to local candidates and inform them about voting issues through a non-partisan discussion with former ASU president Lattie Coor and Senate candidates Augustine Bartning and Katie Hobbs.
ASU Downtown Alive! and ASU V.O.T.E.S., two student organizations that connect students to the downtown community as well as encourage civic engagement, partnered to produce the discussion at Fair Trade Cafe.
The candidates “get to see what ASU downtown is while we get to hear what their ideas are for our community,” said Vaughn Hillyard, president of Downtown Alive!.
“It’s a good meeting of the minds…and we get to see how (the candidates) interpret our community and our future here in Arizona to be,” he said.
Coor opened the event by sharing information gathered in the Gallup Arizona Poll — a poll designed by Gallup and the Center for the Future of Arizona, for which Coor is chairman and CEO.
The poll was used in a report for the Center’s initiative, The Arizona We Want, which aims to create an agenda for Arizona based on citizen opinions.
The top two points the Gallup poll presented, in Coor’s opinion, were that Arizonians have “high attachment” to their state, but “low connection” with one another and that, “Arizonians agree on more than they disagree on major policy issues…but they don’t think much of their elected officials.”
Following Coor’s presentation, Bartning and Hobbs were asked to answer questions developed from the report’s findings.
The questions covered topics of how to increase community engagement and what state legislature could do to help Arizona students prepare for jobs, make healthcare more available and affordable, increase the number of quality jobs, build infrastructure and become more energy independent.
Bartning is the Republican candidate for District 24’s senate seat and new to the political scene. Hobbs is currently a Democratic state representative for District 15.
The candidates agreed on several topics, such as legislature needing to invest more in mass transit and pre-kindergarten and K-12 education as a focus in Arizona’s infrastructure. However, disagreement was obvious in how many legislative topics should be carried out.
Hobbs said she would like to focus on investing in schools and healthcare and give bidding preferences to businesses that hire locally in order to help increase the amount of quality jobs.
Bartning said he’d like to accomplish the same goals through providing more training for jobs already in existence and attract companies by keeping taxes low.
Also, both candidates agreed that solar energy is an obvious source that should be considered.
“In Arizona we need to play to our strengths,” Hobbs said. “We should be the solar capital.”
Bartning acknowledged the importance of solar energy but said, “there are still some complications at the mass-scale level when it comes to solar.”
Bartning said he supports solar initiatives for residential and business units, but at a larger scale, energy costs need to be evaluated for the most practical form. He mentioned that if nuclear energy is more affordable and meets environmental standards, then it needs to be recognized as a way to keep utility costs lower.
The final question of the discussion came from journalism freshman Travis Arbon, who spoke about private sector job increases and public sector job cuts in last couple years.
“Because the economy requires the stable interaction of the public and private sectors, how can we restore confidence in our public sector and kind of return these people, who are very important services to our community, back to their jobs?” Arbon asked.
Hobbs responded that the cutting of government jobs and relinquishment of government oversight of institutions to outsourced companies, as in the case of Arizona prisons, is hurting the public sector.
She said she believes that even government jobs are contributing to rebuilding the economy as much as private sector jobs.
“Not just cutting government for the sake of cutting government, but really looking at the value that government jobs bring to the economy and to the communities” is important, Hobbs said.
Bartning responded to Arbon’s question by saying it comes down to efficiency.
“If you’re able to do a task more efficiently in the private sector then I think that’s a route that we may want to take,” he said.
Bartning said he sees a public/private partnership existing. He gave the example of both publicly and privately owned Motor Vehicle Departments where a customer can pay more at a private MVD to receive faster service, or can pay less at a public MVD where he or she may spend more time waiting on service.
Around thirty students and community members attended Downtown Decides 2012. The audience was encouraged to continue the discussion beyond Monday’s event.
Coor said the discussion that was held does two things.
“It embeds in the mind of candidates … that ASU, the Downtown campus, is a place they should be aware of, a place that cares about them and a place that pays attention to them,” he said. “Secondly, I think it says to all of us on this campus … that we are a part of the community, and so as you think about all of these constituents, that as a candidate for office you deal with, think of us too because we believe we are an important part of the community.”
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