A forum for Senate District 48 (covering south Minnetonka and most of Eden Prairie) Senate and House candidates was held by the League of Woman Voters – Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Hopkins (LWV MEPH) at the Council Chamber in the Eden Prairie City Center on Thursday, October 1, 2020.
The LWV MEPH describes it format as non-partisan, unbiased and impartial as established by the League of Women Voters Minnesota. The forum followed Minnesota Governor Walz’s COVID 19 GUIDELINES.
The Senate District 48 incumbent Senator Steve Cwodzinski (D) and candidate Jeff Jiang (R) opened the forum with two-minute opening statements. Then they answered questions in one minute which were submitted by the public.
Jiang Opening Statement
Jiang stated that he came to the United States in 1997 from China to study at the University of Minnesota for his graduate studies. Jeff said as an immigrant his hard work has been rewarded with many opportunities and a better life. He and his family have lived in Eden Prairie for fourteen years.
“For us the American dream, and freedoms are real because we have lived it” said Jiang.
Jiang wants to pay back with by serving the community and he has served on many boards and non-profits. He noted that he has over 20 years of business and problem-solving experience. He said he wants to help keep the American dream alive for younger generations in Minnesota and to make Minnesota the best place to live.
Cwodzinski Opening Statement
Cwodzinski shared that his life growing up in the 70’s in Superior, Wisconsin was hard. He hitched hiked his way to Minneapolis in search of more opportunity than that of his father who sailed on an ore boat. He described working his way through the University of Minnesota and being the first of his family to graduate from college. Cwodzinski eventually found his way to Eden Prairie High School to teaching government.
“I spent over 30 years teaching students the importance of participation, political efficacy, civic virtue and the common good.” In 2017, as a newly elected State Senator he said he put those values to practice. Cwodzinski stated he believes in people working together across the aisle for common good.
He stated that “we the people” are being tested today. “Let’s work together and leave this world better than we found it.”
Question: How will you work in a bi-partisan manner?
Cwodzinski stated he is a founding member of the Civility Caucus. He believes in establishing relationship within the senate, listening and finding common ground.
Jiang stated as a community volunteer he has worked in finding common ground. Jiang stated, we can work together to find solutions to our common problems.
Question: How is COVID19 going to affect the state budget deficit?
Jiang remarked that over the next 3 years Minnesota faces a $7 billion deficit. He suggested cutting any new spending and advocated the use of Zero-base budgeting.
Jiang noted we need to justify priorities to find a better future for our state.
Cwodzinski recalled last March when the state was looking at a 1.5-billion-dollar surplus, but now faces a deficit. He detailed there were going to be a lot of tough decisions to be made, keeping in mind that 71% of the budget goes to education or human services.
Noted Cwodzinski, when we make decisions, we have to understand the we are affecting people’s well-being. He suggested raising taxes should not be our first thought but taxes do not threaten our economic security.
Cwodzinski is on the Climate Caucus. He stated that 97% of the scientist believe that climate change is real. Our kids are concerned about climate and we are can do better.
Jiang believes climate change is real, but while we are seeking to make our government better a lot of questions need to be asked. Jiang asked if clean energy mandates could result in energy cost increases for Minnesota families.
Legislature involvement in COVID19
Jiang noted the legislature should be involved.
Cwodzinski stated he believed the governor has done a good job. If the legislature had to take up many of these issues it would have taken weeks or months to come to a decision. By contrast, the governor, using his commissioners, is able to take action in days.
Police Funding and Distrust
Cwodzinski said he spoke with the police chiefs of both Eden Prairie and Minnetonka to find out how what they felt. He shared that both believed that choke holds should be banned. He would like people to respect police and thinks we will get there with effort.
Jiang said we should all work together and the police should get adequate funding to keep families and communities stay safe.
Achievement Gap in Minnesota
Jiang states we must focus the most important factors in education, the teachers, and find out where the failures exist. He strongly urged supporting teachers.
Cwodzinski believes COVID has shown how bad the achievement gap is. He noted seeing the gap during his 30 years of teaching. Cwodzinski said he believes we need more teachers of color in our classrooms. Cwodzinski said efforts to pass legislation to increase the number of teachers of color are ongoing.
Cwodzinski shared statistics noting two-thirds of Minnesota gun violence victims are self-inflicted. He relayed that last legislative session the Minnesota House passed two red flag laws and reasonable background checks. However, the Minnesota Senate refuse to having hearings on these measures.
Jiang stated we all want to feel safer. He said he believes we have to address this issue effectively using education without taking away Second Amendment rights. Jiang noted that it was important to work with local police force to cut down on violent offenders.
Roe V. Wade
Jiang stated that he is pro-life and believes society can work together to save lives.
Cwodzinski reminded people that only 3% of Planned Parenthood services deals with abortion counseling. The other 97%, said Cwodzinski, deals with women’s health issues. Cwodzinski believes this isn’t a man’s decision. He stated that the issue is specific to are women’s bodies and they should have a right to determine their health choices.
Jiang said he believes in investing in public education, and that it was also important to look for areas of waste. Jiang noted early and special education should be prioritized. He also stated that racial disparity is important to address.
Cwodzinski stated 42% of the state budget goes to education and that he is the only career classroom teacher in the Senate. He said the number one issue we face in education is that Civics is not required to graduate from high school.
Over thirty states require Civics education, Minnesota does not, said Cwodzinski. He said, “once student become addicted to this thing called democracy” by shadowing a public official, being an election judge, writing letters to their representative, attending to civic meeting they will be better citizens.
Funding Cities Disasters
Cwodzinski replied, “When the Red River Valley flooded 15 years ago the state helped out. People are distancing themselves from the riots that took place.” He believes we need to rebuild the Ma and Pa business in these communities that teach how you get ahead in the American dream. The entire state needs to step up and help.
Jiang stated, that this is quite sad that we are faced with this question. When we talk about leadership at different levels, “we have so many opportunities to do a better job” said Jiang.
Diversity with-in Campaigns
Jiang has worked with People Fest and the Eden Prairie Chinese- American Association and has worked with different cultures. He believes reaching out to the people fosters community.
Cwodzinski said he attended three Black Lives Matter events in the last couple of months and is working with the Posse Caucus – Black, Indigenous and People of Colors and has their endorsement.
The candidate forums will be rebroadcast several times each week on city cable channels and available on-demand at edenprairie.org/CityTV leading up to Election Day.
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