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Seven city commission candidates differ on issues facing Fargo

May 14th, 2014 by Danielle Teigen

The seven individuals who are vying for two available seats on the Fargo city commission offer a variety of viewpoints on the most pressing issues facing the city.

The candidates gathered on Tuesday at a forum hosted by The Chamber.

Here’s a breakdown of the candidates and their stance on important issues:

  • Vern Bennett: 80-year-old current Cass County commissioners who supports the diversion as the only viable option for the area; he also believes the issue of a convention center should be decided by the people and should meet needs 20 years in the future. Bennett supports the expansion of the Renaissance Zone as a way to emulate the success of downtown.
  • Mara Brust: 24-year-old lawyer who wants to help the city maintain its current momentum and believes the diversion offers stability for future growth. She supports a convention center being located downtown, the heart of the community; she also supports expanding the Renaissance Zone strategically.
  • Tony Gehrig: 30-year-old North Dakota Air National Guard pilot who is running again on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He does not support the diversion but would rather see the focus shift to inner-city flood protection; he also believes a new convention center is not necessary and should not be paid for with taxpayer dollars but rather private investments. He supports lower taxes and would offer a “different perspective” than the current commissioners.
  • Tim Mahoney: 65-year-old incumbent who has helped guide the city to its current situation and believes the diversion is the best option for protecting the city.  He agrees with the Fargo Dome Authority on having a convention center at the dome and said funding could potentially come from the city’s escrow account. He supports the expansion of the Renaissance Zone as a way to increase the tax base and offer additional housing opportunities.
  • Dave Piepkorn: 53-year-old businessman and former city commissioner who supports lower taxes and reduced government regulations. He supports permanent flood protection that involves completing dikes and levees using local contractors rather than a diversion that would be built using federal contractors. As far as a convention center is concerned, Piepkorn believes the dome is a viable option but a downtown location should require a majority vote. He also supports expanding the Renaissance Zone if it makes sense.
  •  John Strand: 58-year-old co-owner of the High Plains Reader and current Fargo Public School Board member who wants prudent metro area flood protection and supports a convention center that makes sense when considering the need for a new city hall. He believes the Renaissance Zone success can be replicated in other neighborhoods to drive additional growth and success.
  • Scott Wagner: 44-year-old with 12 years of experience as a Cass County commissioner who believes the diversion offers the flood protection the city needs and would like to see the convention center issue more fully explored in terms of location and funding options. He believes the Renaissance Zone has “improved the overall health of the city” and could mean success for other areas.

You can watch the entire debate online. The replay will also be broadcast on TV Fargo 12 at the following dates and times:

  • May 14 at 7 p.m.
  • May 16 at 8:30 p.m.
  • May 20 at 9:30 p.m.
  • May 28 at 9 p.m.
  • June 5 at 6 p.m.
  • June 9 at 9 a.m.

The election will be held Tuesday, June 10. Find your polling location by visiting the Secretary of State’s website or by calling the Cass County Auditor’s Office at 701.241.5600.

The Chamber is also hosting the Fargo mayoral candidates Thursday, May 15 and the West Fargo city commission candidates on Tuesday, May 20.


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