Candidates are beginning to establish their positions | Our Opinion | Oct. 7

If you haven’t attended one of the two candidate forums held during the last 10 days involving the upcoming City Council election, here’s an example of the atmosphere hanging over it.

During the audience’s Q&A session at a well-attended forum at the American Legion Hall, a man in the audience asked each of the eight candidates to give a letter grade to City Manager Brenda Bauer’s performance since she was hired 16 months ago.

Robert Dashiell was up first and he gave her an “A” for finance but a “D” for utilities. Sarah Blossom and Dave Ward followed with D’s, partly because of her handling of what the city should do with the water utility. And Melanie Keenan followed suit, saying Bauer deserved a “D” for “creating more issues” and making decisions “in the back room.”

Anne Blair felt a “C” was  appropriate, while Joe Levan didn’t think grading her was fair and Steve Bonkowski said she was doing OK, but the council was a failure. Incumbent Barry Peters praised the city manager without grading her,  saying, “she’s done what we (council members) have asked her to do.”

The grading exercise, which, by the way, was generally a favorite with the audience, appears characteristic of the candidates’ view of the current state of the city.  Blossom, Ward, Keenan and Bonkowski feel the city is being mismanaged in one way or another; Dashiell is ambivalent, depending on the issue; Blair doesn’t think city government “is broke,” but believes mistrust has grown in the community; while Councilor Peters and Levan, an attorney who has been involved with muncipalities for several years, took the political high road and uttered mostly positives throughout the two-hour event.

While the question was perhaps incendiary in nature, it was relevant since half of the candidates will eventually be part of a body that is Bauer’s boss. And it’s another of many examples of how the candidates have begun to separate themselves from their rivals.

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