Council candidates talk about working together
With Rochester City Council members Ed Hruska and Mark Hickey leaving their posts at the end of the year, at least two new members will be elected in November.
During forums hosted by the Rochester League of Women Voters, candidates for Ward 1 and Ward 5 addressed how they would seek to work with a council that has seen division on many topics in recent years.
Ward 1 candidate Heather Holmes immediately cited struggles within the current council, calling the inquiry a “loaded question.”
“Quite honestly, it can be embarrassing,” she said, noting a council in the state’s third-largest city should communicate better.
“I do believe, rather than to go out and attack current city council members, whoever is sitting in those seats, we have to figure out what is happening and if we can get on the right side of an agenda, which should be for the community of Rochester and our ward constituents,” she said.
Fellow Ward 1 candidate Paul Myhrom also pointed to a need for communication, even if at odds with others on the council.
“The biggest thing is to just let others speak and listen, and then vote your conscience, but stand your ground when you need to,” he said, but moments later, he pointed to his past as an outspoken council member and indicated he could face conflicts with a sitting member.
“I would be proud to once again represent the First Ward and citizens of Rochester as the ‘Mouth of the South,’ and I don’t want the balance of our council and city tipping to the People’s Republic of Wojcik,” he said, pointing to Council Member Michael Wojcik.
Ward 1 candidate Patrick Keane said he doesn’t think there is as much infighting on the current council as the question implies.
“I actually think most of our council members are collaborative problem-solvers,” he said, noting the best option for voters would be to continue electing people willing to work together.
Fellow candidate Kim Sin, however, said he does see a problem with the current council and wants to change that.
“Seeing the city council having disagreement on certain things is kind of embarrassing,” he said. “We are supposed to be serving the community and not having (special) interests.”
During the Ward 5 forum, candidates continued to point toward a need for communication and building relationships.
“For city council, our relationships between one another are really important, and how we communicate with one another should reflect a level of professionalism that is a higher standard than one might think,” Brittney Marschall said.
Fellow candidate Shaun Palmer said listening with respect is key when disagreements occur.
“Communication is a tricky issue, and passion gets played into making decisions,” he said.
Byron Clark said his goal as a Ward 5 council member would be to be open and honest.
“Working with people is all about relationships,” he said. “It’s about listening and it’s about understanding; it’s not always about agreeing. Sometimes we just might not agree, and it’s OK to not always agree with what everyone else says.”
Fellow candidate Mike Walters pointed to his experience as an attorney to show the ability to disagree and still work toward a solution.
“I think it’s important for all of us to conduct ourselves in a professional manner, and that’s something I have experience with day to day,” he said, adding that transparency in local government helps keep council members accountable in times of conflict.
Candidate Judy Hickey also said the new Ward 5 council member will need to work with others on the council in a respectful way, but acknowledged decisions regarding council members are in constituents’ hands.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to decide whether a council member is doing the job or not and whether they will tolerate the council member’s behavior,” she said.
Voters will choose the top two candidates in each race, along with the mayoral election, on Aug. 14. The top candidates from the primary election will be included on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.