By Joshua Kalil
The Fetzer Center at Western Michigan University’s Hayworth College of Business was host to 14 of 17 candidates campaigning for a seat on the Kalamazoo City Commission.
The Western Student Association and WMU Institute for Government and Politics hosted the forum, which was moderated by WMUK anchor Gordon Evans. Issues discussed included city ballot proposals, affordable housing, university-city relations and budget concerns.
The two ballot proposals include a non-discriminatory request to include sexual orientation and gender equality to the list of protected classes. The ordinance would prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
Bobby Hopewell, Mike Kilbourne, Terry L. Kuseske, Hannah J. Mckinney, Stephanie Moore, Anna Schmitt, Louis Cloise Stocking, Karen Wellman, David Anderson, Don Cooney, and Barbara Hamilton Miller support the non-discrimination ordinance.
Aaron Davis, Nicholas Boyd and Kai Phillips oppose it.
“I’ll be voting no, even though I’m happy that it is on the ballot,” Boyd said. “It’s more important to focus on the budget and try and stem the job loss.”
Davis was even more adamant about the ordinance.
“I don’t think men should be able to go in the women’s bathroom,” Davis said, adding even more questions about the ordinance.
“Nobody’s ever been pulled over for being gay in Kalamazoo.”
The rest of the candidates who were asked their views about the non-discriminatory ordinance sounded much more in favor of it.
“I will be voting emphatically yes,” Moore said. “It’s an issue of fairness, anything short of that is oppression.”
Wellham, the last person to be specifically asked if she supported it, tried to sum up the result of passing the ordinance.
“I like to see the community united. I think this will help, not separate, but unite,” Wellham said.
Another issue that generated a lot of questions was the budget, which had many candidates including current commissioner Miller trying to explain.
“The single largest issue is our budget,” Miller said. “In terms of how we spend it and keep it at the level we are at now. We need to be very frugal with our money.”
Moore was asked a similar question during the forum, wondering what essential services would be cut. “We have to do everything we can to make sure [the budget is] safe.” Moore said. “We may have to look at some infrastructure like roads [to cut]. We have to pull our resources and be extremely creative with what we’ve got.”
Other issues that were raised ranged everywhere from the proposed downtown arena to legalizing marijuana in Kalamazoo. Still, the main message from the candidates was clear, as six-time commissioner McKinney put it, they were all there to campaign.
“You have seven votes Nov. 3, I hope you use all of them,” McKinney said. “I hope I would be one of them.”