On Monday, Oct. 16, Hope College students groups worked in unison to host the candidates for the upcoming mayoral election in a town-hall style debate of civil discourse in the Knickbocker theater in anticipation of the Nov. 7 election.
Vox Populi, a club organized to encourage civil discourse on controversial issues, Hope Democrats and Hope Republicans brought the event together. Incumbent Mayor Nancy DeBoer is running for re- election against Councilman Jay Peters.
The first public debate was highly anticipated by the public as a wide range of individuals showed up for the evening. Students and community members were invited to submit questions prior to the event with a priority given to the student inquiries. However, the questions both groups submitted stemmed from similar issues.
Since the candidates are running for the mayoral seat, they do not align with a party. Although their leanings are still relatively prominent, both DeBoer and Peters were able to voice their stances independent of those structured organizations.
The common theme for many of the questions revolved around diversity and inclusion concerning the Holland community. Councilman Peters explained that embracing the marginalized voices of the community was his number one priority. He said, “diversity is such an opportunity” and explained plans to capitalize on this chance by creating a diversity and inclusion commission for the city.
Mayor DeBoer emphasized that “the door is open” concerning dialogue about increased discrimination protection against LGBTQIA individuals. This statement she was recently criticized for by Reverend Beth Carroll of Hope Church for not directly addressing the legal and lawful issues of protecting these individuals. The candidates also discussed issues of affordable housing and non- owner occupied and short-term rentals, like Airbnb.
Vox Populi, the student group that was in charge of managing the dialogue between candidates, is headed by Co- Directors Kathleen Muloma (’19) and Joseph McClusky (’19) and advised by Chris Bohle, the Associate Director of Student Life on campus. Other executive board members are Allie Utting (’19), Julia Fulton (’19) and Jason Gomory (’19).
The group emphasizes humility, hospitality, patience, courage and honesty within debate and dialogue. In a recent interview, when asked about DeBoer and Peters’ use of these values at the event, McClusky said they “both stuck to policy differences and did not engage in personal attacks.” He explained that the candidates both embodied patience and did not interrupt each other.
McClusky explained that the group initially saw the event as a lofty goal, but one worth sending a few emails about. To their surprise, everything came together neatly in a span of two weeks. He ended the interview by explaining that the most rewarding part was not any particular moment in the event but the aftermath. For McCucky, the effort was worth it due to the aftermath of Facebook updates, increased conversation between students and heightened awareness of community members that caused the momentum from the debate to continue.