On Wednesday Spokane youth listened to city council and mayoral candidates debate topics as diverse as human trafficking and recycling. Afterward, they voted and critiqued.
“I think some of the vaccine statistics were a bit flawed,” said Gonzaga Prep senior Becca Crum.
Crum, whose father is a doctor, was referencing a question City Councilman Mike Fagan, and his opponent, Randy Ramos, were asked. They were asked if parents should be allowed to opt their children out of vaccinations. Fagan disagreed.
“Ask yourself another question,” he said. “ ‘Why are infants being vaccinated against sexually transmitted diseases?’ ”
At another point in the debates City Council candidates John Ahern and Ben Stuckart were asked why there aren’t permanent recycling bins down town. In his response, Ahern referenced Spokane’s four seasons.
“I think it’s God’s country,” Ahern said. “I mean we’re not Seattle, we’re Spokane, Washington.”
After the debate, Gonzaga Prep senior Rick Crum criticized Ahern’s reponse.
“Most of the northern hemisphere has four seasons,” he said.
Still, many students said they were happy with the debate and felt the candidates stayed focused on youth issues.
“I thought most of the questions were very well formed and pertinent to the youth,” said North Central senior Sam Sjoberg. “Overall, I think most candidates stayed on track.”
Students were particularly interested in questions regarding standardized testing, LGBT rights and whether the district should adopt an open-campus policy.
City Council candidate Evan Verduin said he thought an open campus gives students the ability to learn responsibility and engage more with the community, although he said the district would probably have to address it school-by-school.
City Council candidates Karen Stratton and Verduin were asked how Spokane can help LGBT youth. Both stressed the importance of family and community support.
“I think it’s a resounding theme that there are a lack of resources for our youth,” Verduin said.
North Central senior Makenzie Bowman agreed.
“A lot of kids don’t feel like it’s a safe place,” Bowman said.
Organizers said 224 people attended the debate, which was held at North Central High School.
All schools in the Spokane district and Gonzaga Prep were asked to send in questions, said Susan Lane, the executive director of the commission. The commission then culled the questions, finally settling on five for each pair of candidates. Candidates had two minutes to respond to questions and a 30-second rebuttal.
“It was very interesting to see the different opinions,” said Gonzaga Prep senior Drake Zielke.