As the 2012 Election season heats up, local candidates are discussing and debating issues that matter to Patch readers at local public forums.
Patch attended the Oct. 4 public forum of Terri Bonoff (DFL) and David Gather (GOP) vying for MN Senate District 44. The forum was hosted by Wayzata/Plymouth Area League of Women Voters at Plymouth City Hall.
The two candidates were asked questions submitted by the audience, collected by Girl Scout volunteers and given to the moderator throughout the forum.
Each candidate was given two-minute opening and closing statements, a minute response to questions, a minute rebuttal with one rebuttal each and 15-second responses during the lightning round.
Among the variety questions asked, topics included: reforming education policy, the state's role in providing healthcare and transportation/transit.
Bonoff touted being a "strong champion for education reform," she said.
"This excites me more than anything because the upside is so great," Bonoff said. "We lead the nation with scores, but our achievement gap is the second worst in country, we need to make significant changes."
Being outspoken on this issue, Bonoff spoke about teacher performance being looked at and leveraging technology to engage every child in new ways.
Gaither emphasized how education reform is very important to him. Gaither who also talked about looking at the achievement gap, said it wasn't a revenue conversation, but about subject matter.
"We must look at the educational models we have," Gaither said. "We should promote a kid when they master a subject not when they become a year older...move through a curriculum as they master a skill."
Answering the question about the state's role in providing healthcare, Gaither said he has a fundamental belief that the system is flawed.
He said he knew more about when his own deck needed work, how much work it needed and what it would cost then he did when he need work on his own knee. He said this was because there is a need for a better direct relationship between those who provide healthcare and those who receive it.
Bonoff said Minnesota has a nation leading healthcare model. She spoke of Minnesota Care, which helps those with their healthcare needs based on a person's ability to pay, she said. Its a private market that provides service to low income individuals, Bonoff said.
On transit and transportation, Bonoff and Gaither differed more, especially when it came to looking at the Southwest Lightrail project and expansion work on Interstate 494.
Bonoff said she supports the lightrail project and doesn't see a choice having to be made between the lightrail and widening or adding lane(s) to 494 in Plymouth.
"Widening 494 is an immediate need and we have a plan in place, but it's not moving fast enough," Bonoff said. "The lightrail is an economic imperative to our future."
Talking to secondary education providers and local businesses, Bonoff said she continues to hear the need to bring better transit to keep companies competitive and help with job growth.
Gaither said he sees a clear distinction between supporting the lightrail for the area and providing more with roadways like 494.
He said the lightrail is 20 times more expensive to construct than the work needed for 494.
"Lanes before trains," Gaither said. "The notion of cost is clear and the utility is obvious."
Bonoff countered that Gaither's providing misinformation about the lightrail to make it a choice between the lightrail and 494.
"Priorities must be set for what makes the most amount of sense for the most amount of people for the best cost," Gaither said.
In their closing statements, Gaither pointed out that MN Senate District 44 voters have a clear choice with two candidates that have two different perspectives with different sets of experience to choose from.
"I'm really invested in this community and what happens here matters to me," Gaither said.
Bonoff said her work as a Senator has been a direct correlation of the relationship she has built wih constiuents in every sector and from every area of the community.
"We're getting stuff done and making the changes needed to get things done," Bonoff said.
Wondering about more questions answered by the candidates? The forum was videotaped and will be replayed on Northwest Community Cable Channel 12 on the following dates and times or you can watch the video attached to this story: 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12; 3 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13; 11 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.