MINNETONKA — Minnetonka City Council candidates hoping to be elected or re-elected spoke and debated in the Minnetonka City Council chambers Tuesday, Oct. 1, during a League of Women Voters candidate forum.

The candidates gave opening statements and then were asked eight questions by Peggy Kvam, the president of the League of Women Voters-Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Hopkins chapter. The forum ended with each candidate giving a closing statement.

The candidates tackled questions on taxes, the environment, diversity, affordable housing and transportation, among other issues.

Kvam asked the candidates about diversity and Minnetonka residents who feel out of place in the city because of the color of their skin or their income.

“I think it's important when it comes to welcoming other demographics, whether its gender, race, socio-economic demographics that we give people who aren’t like me, that aren’t like the Council that is seated right now, a voice," candidate Rebecca Schack said during the forum. "We need to re-examine how we are selecting folks to interview for and sit on our commissions. We need to constantly look at how we are hiring staff.”

Kissy Coakley is the only City Council candidate of color. She spoke about living in Minnetonka and not seeing anyone who looks like herself.

“When I see Minnetonka, it is a beautiful place to live,” Coakley said. “It's very nice, you feel included. But when you see Minnetonka and you are looking on your street or you are looking in your child’s classroom or you are looking for someone at the park that looks like you — you don’t see it, and you’ve been here for 11 years. It’s hard. I know it's hard for my children. I know it's hard for me.”

Candidates were also asked about transportation options in the city, whether or not there is enough transportation options and the incoming light rail.

“In my opinion, it's a function of community engagement,” candidate Brad Schaeppi said during the forum. “What does the city want? In the city of Edina, they have a transportation commission where voices are regularly heard, ‘This is what we need’ versus the city basically deciding for them. So I think long term it’s more citizen engagement.”

Affordable housing, and how or if the city should increase the amount of affordable house, was a hot topic brought up at the forum.

“I guess one of the things I’m struggling with and disappointed in is there isn’t enough focus on owned housing,” candidate Mike Happe said during the forum. “A lot of what we’re going to see in the next few decades is rental housing. There is a lot of merit in society for people to have more owned housing.”

The last question asked of each of the candidates was whether or not they did or would have voted to implement mountain biking trails in Lone Lake Park, a divisive issue within the city that split environmentalists and mountain bikers — some of both identities on both sides of the issue. The sitting City Council voted 5-2 on Aug. 26 to approve the bike trails. 

Each candidate explained why or why not they would or wouldn’t vote for the trails. Here is a list of whether each candidate would have supported the trails or voted against them:

  • Susan Carter, an incumbent who voted yes.
  • Kissy C. Coakley would have voted no.
  • Mike Happe, incumbent who voted yes.
  • Jonathan Kerslake did not attend the forum.
  • Brian J. Kirk would have voted yes.
  • Paul J. Lehman would have voted no.
  • Rebecca Schack, an incumbent who voted no.
  • Bradley Schaeppi would have voted no.

Frances Stevenson is a reporter for the Lakeshore Weekly News, covering the communities around Lake Minnetonka.

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