AUSTIN EDITION - Residents pepper mayoral candidates with questions

By Roxana Orellana

Phones rang off the hook at the KSMQ studios Tuesday night.

Question after question came in for Austin mayor candidates Bonnie Rietz and George Dahl from viewers at home watching the televised forum.

Crime was the first issue brought up, and it reappeared again and again during the evening.


"We been talking so much about economic development (that) we forget about public safety," Dahl said. "I've talked to a lot of people who are afraid to walk at night."

Dahl didn't have an answer for how to solve or deal with the problem that he believes is caused mostly by illegal immigrants. One thing he does know: It's illegal to hire illegal immigrants.

"He often mentions the illegal immigrant and that's an issue that at the local level we have no control over," Rietz said. "The issue of illegal immigrants is a federal issue."

Rietz sees the changes in diversity as a positive for Austin. "Having the people come in is wonderful for our city. Our schools have finally turned around and are growing, businesses are growing and people are buying homes," Rietz said.

A series of questions revolved around the recent floods and what the city had done and plans to do.

"Instead of talking about what we can do about the floods in the future, I like to reminisce about what we've done for the floods in the past, which is almost nothing," Dahl said.

Rietz disagreed. "We have worked very, very hard for many years." The work began even before she was involved in government with a group of citizens, she added.

The local meth problem was also a popular topic. Dahl said the problem was huge and the task force Rietz started this year would help with the problem. He said Austin ranked as the 11th worst meth city in the country.


But Rietz was quick to disagree. "I certainly have never seen a statistic like that," Rietz said. At a meth meeting earlier that evening, Rietz said she talked to a state meth official who had not named Austin. "I would respectfully ask that be checked upon because I don't believe is correct," Rietz said.

Rietz said she still believes the economic development remains the top issue in the city because of what it can bring to a community.

Other questions from viewers involved economic development, JOBZ, technology, transit system, Hormel Food Corps and tax increment finance districts. Many questions were left unanswered because of the limited time.

Dahl concluded by saying if people like the way Austin is headed, he is not the man for the job. Rietz said she was excited about the future of Austin. She urged people to get out and vote Nov. 2.

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