WMUK 102.1 FM, Western Michigan University’s public radio station is partnering with WeVote, and WMU’s Institute of Government and Politics to host a forum with Kalamazoo city mayoral candidates on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in Schneider Hall.
“You guys could own this city,” said political science professor, Denise Keele, in reference to WMU student’s impact on the Nov. 5 Kalamazoo city mayoral election.
Gordon Evans, director of content for WMUK, will moderate the event.
“Something comes out of every forum that sticks in your head and you say ‘oh I haven’t heard that before’ or ‘I didn’t expect that candidate to say that,’” Evans said.
WMUK first began cosponsoring forums in 2003 when the idea was first brought up by the Institute of Government and Politics. Since then, the forums have become a regular occurrence in the fall.
Participants can submit questions on WMUK’s website or write them down on a notecard at the event. Prominent issues like marijuana legislation, housing, and pedestrian safety are likely to be covered.
“The goal of this forum is, I think, mostly to educate our local citizens,” Keele said. “We’re providing an opportunity for you to ask questions to get a sense of and meet the candidates that are running to represent you in the city of Kalamazoo.”
Due to the low turnout at local elections, a vote counts more than it would at the state or national level. WMU’s student body is about four times the size of the average number of voters who participate in local elections.
“Not a lot of people are paying attention to city commission and mayor, even though it affects every single same part of your life,” Keele said.
A high student participation rate encourages candidates to prioritize issues that are important to WMU students.
“The things that you value in candidates are probably different than what I value or what 65+ age folks value,” Keele said.
WMU is an important part of the city of Kalamazoo, and the city of Kalamazoo is in turn important to Western. This makes student voices an integral part of the local government process.
“There are decisions made at city hall that affect Western and eventually things that affect Western work their way to students,” Evans said. “It's important to know what’s going on.”