They may be opposites on the political spectrum, but the two candidates for City Council in Ward 2 agreed on almost every issue, taking an unusually pro-student stance, in front of a crowd of students in a debate at Mary Markley Residence Hall yesterday.
Republican candidate Tom Bourque and Democrat Stephen Rapundalo addressed Michigan Student Assembly representatives on their positions on student issues, but the so-called debate, moderated by MSA President Jesse Levine, turned into a discussion of similar viewpoints from the two candidates.
Among the topics of discussion, both candidates voiced their opposition to a potential city couches-on-porch ban and expressed the need for more residential housing on South University Avenue. On the new Oxbridge parking ordinance passed this summer, a measure that is unpopular among students, both candidates agreed that it should be supported.
But despite agreement on the topic, the two candidates expressed different degrees of concern on the Oxbridge parking ordinance. The ordinance requires students living in the Oxbridge and North Burn Parks area to pay $40 for parking passes, when previously parking in the lot has been free. Under the new ordinance, group homes such as fraternities and sororities are allocated three parking spots in the lot.
MSA leaders argued against the ordinance, saying that fraternity houses and other large student houses are disproportionately left at a disadvantage because there are generally more residents in a house with a need for parking permits than the ordinance allocated.
Bourque, however, pushed the parking issue aside, saying, “I don’t see why students would need a break on parking that citizens don’t get.” Bourque added that he went without a car for most of Law School at the University, and parked far away from campus when he had a car.
Rapundalo expressed more receptiveness to changing the ordinance in the future. “We should give this parking restriction some time and see what needs to be fixed or not.”
On why he would be a good representative on student issues, Bourque said he would use his abilities as a trial lawyer to analyze Ward 2 residents’ concerns and respond with “common sense,” if elected.
“My bottom line, is, does it make sense?” he said.
Rapundalo countered that his experience in government and record of getting things done makes him an ideal candidate for the Council seat.
“I will make sure that you guys have a say in city government,” he said, citing his proposal to bring seven students and two Council members together to bridge the communication between University students and the City Council through a joint committee.
Levine said it was important for students to hear the positions of the two candidates.
“It’s important that we as students have the Council members on record as being against the couch ban and in favor of postponing the vote on parking legislation,” Levine said.
Except for the issue of the Oxbridge parking ordinance, Levine said, “We got relatively pro-students stances on issues that matter to us.”
Levine said that he intended to educate voters in Markley before the Oct. 8 deadline to register to vote, which he believes will make a difference in this year’s poll turnout.