A variety of divisive issues have split the Rochester City Council in recent years.
The three women running to serve as the council’s next president say they want to bring a change to the process in order to work through conflicts or stop them before they occur.
“Split votes happen because there are tens of thousands of unique people living in our community who see issues differently, but they also happen because of our process,” candidate Brooke Carlson said, adding that changes can be made to help find common ground.
Candidate Vangie Castro also pointed to the need to find ways to effectively communicate as complex issues are raised
“I think that treating the residents of Rochester with respect and dignity when it comes to gaining their support on issues community members may oppose or have ambivalence toward takes diplomacy and empathy,” she said, adding that the same approach is needed among council members.
A community organizer, Castro also said it’s about looking at all sides of an issue.
“To make the most-informed decisions for the greater Rochester population, one must take in all the facts, data and information,” she said. “My career has been focused on outreach and education, and that is the skillset I use to build consensus and support for policies and mandates that help protect and advance the health and vitality of the city.”
Carlson, founder and president of North Sky Health Consulting, also pointed to her career experience in helping others find common ground and work together. She said the council president must find ways to connect with the other members to avoid divisiveness.
Candidate Kathleen Harrington has said changing the culture of the council is one of her goals.
While the president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce was unable to reply with a video response in time for this article, she did outline her views on the subject Thursday evening during a forum held by In the City for Good, a grassroots community organization.
“I want the culture of the council to be one where people can have robust debate, but it is respectful, it is civil, people understand everybody’s expertise and respects it,” she said.
Honing in on a disagreement during a council meeting earlier this year between a council member and attendee, she said she might have ended the meeting.
“Disagreements do not have to be disagreeable, disagreements do not have to be signs of moral superiority,” she said. “Disagreements can just be that.”
Carlson indicated she’d first look for a way to move forward.
“I’m not afraid to call out bad behavior, but I’d prefer to facilitate a resolution and avoid one bad experience infecting all of what we do,” she said.
Castro also noted the council president has a greater responsibility as an at-large council member.
“As the president, I represent the entire interest of all Rochester residents and not just one individual ward, so my vote should reflect that,” she said.
The three candidates are on the Aug. 11 primary ballot, which will narrow the race to two candidates for the Nov. 3 general election.
Video responses to the question regarding working with a divided council are available online at www.postbulletin.com/tags/ELECTION_2020.