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Thursday, September 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Huckleberries Online

NIC Trustee Debates: Howard Vs. Nilson

  • Ken Howard will be debating Ron Nilson first tonight; Luke Malek will be moderator of Kootenai County Young Professionals.
  • Ron Nilson has on dark gray suit & red power tie; Ken Howard has on lighter gray shirt and earth-tone green tie. 40 people present at Post Falls City Hall. Program will run again of public access Channel 13 at 8 p.m. Wednesday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Or be available on demand at city of Post Falls Web site. Questioners will be Maureen Dolan/Press, Taryn Hecker-Thompson/former SReporter/Inlander free-lancer, and Fatima Madrid/NIC VP.
  • Opening statement: Nilson has a habit of referring to himself in 3rd person and asking himself questions to which he responds. Says he's running for "students and ALL taxpayers of North Idaho." He points out that he's the leader of a consortium of 47 businesses and considers jobs the biggest issue b/c good jobs begin with education.
  • Opening statement: Howard considers the college to be the heartbeat of the community.
  •  1st Q (which capital project is needed next): Nilson: 1. cleanup of expanded property, and 2. parking. He launches into criticism re: lack of plan for Education Corridor. He points out that the college partners for NIC haven't offered any money to help build capital projects. Howard: We have had 37% increase in student populations in recent years. We need to be nimble and react to growing needs of students.
  • 2nd Q: (What would you do to put "community" back into community college?): Howard: Not sure the community isn't there now. (BTW, this is one of Nilson's favorite mantras for campaign.) Nilson: Sez he was NIC's No. 1 customer in 4 of last 5 years. I'm not the only one saying there's a disconnect. 47 other CEOs are saying that, too. Questions starting classes that have no practical relevance to the community.
  • 3rd Q (If forced to choose between pro-tech program and one in drama, which would you cut?): Nilson: North Idaho ranks last among 3 community colleges in state in pro-tech programs. I have to make decision on present jobs that are going unfilled. Howard: My instinct is to say I'd favor professional technical. Drama seems to be superfluous. But that's too superficial (of an assessment). There are many factors involved. It's not just about job opportunities but job opportunities that offer decent wage.
  • More below
  • Question 4: (Biggest difference with opponent?): Howard: Hard to say because I don't know him well (Joke: He's better looking than I am ... I have a mustache and he doesn't). In capacity as lawyer, I've been a mediator & arbitrator & taught lawyers ethics. Nilson: He wants to get engaged in this community, I am already engaged. I make the toughest decisions every day in my business in balancing the budget. I'm forced to be transparent to our customers.
  • Question 5 (If programs fall short, what is the cause?): Nilson: KTEC was an example of bringing business, community, & education system together. The best thing to do is to show these kids is that education has a purpose. You need to show kids how math, for example, is important in technical skills that they'll need for a job they want in future. Howard: We need to provide second chances for students who change their minds 1 or 2 years into college. Need broad curriculum to provide opportunities for 2nd & 3rd chances.
  • Question 6 (Should NIC instructors be allowed to express political views even if counter to conservative culture): Howard: I'm for free speech generally. But there should be some restrictions. If they're using there position inappropriately to promote political agendas, there may be restrictions. All colleges have rules & regs that you have to abide by. Nilson: I agree that we need freedom of speech. I also believe these teachers have to be sensitive to fact that conservative student has a right to speak his or her mind, too. Have to be careful that conservative student doesn't get persecuted. 
  • Closing Statement/Nilson: I believe in transparency & accountability. I'm approaching retirement age in 5 years and I want to turn things over to educated students. I will represent values of taxpayers. I will treat students as customers. (Nilson is now reading Coeur d'Alene Press's enthusiastic endorsement of Press.)
  • Closing Statement/Howard: My children left this area to find adequate paying jobs. They've been able to move back after they got experience. We have a challenge to marry educational needs of community with the job opportunities and promote concept of a living wage. We need to provide the jobs so our children can be part of this community. I have skills to listen, keep an open mind, and skill to seek solutions that a broad spectrum of people embrace not just a narrow segment of community.



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D.F. Oliveria
D.F. (Dave) Oliveria joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently is a columnist and compiles the Huckleberries Online blog and writes about North Idaho in his Huckleberries column.

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