Ames candidates get another chance to speak to the community


K. Rambo/Iowa State Daily

Candidates prepare to answer questions at the Ames Progressive Alliance candidate forum.

K. Rambo

Cookies, cider and cocoa can be quite the draw. How much of a role they played in Wednesday’s well-attended Ames Candidate Forum, the second of the election cycle, is unknown.

The forum, sponsored by the Ames Progressive Alliance and hosted at the Ames Public Library, once again gave voters in Ames an opportunity to hear from candidates in the upcoming city elections.

Each candidate present at the first forum was in attendance except for Rob Bowers and Amber Corrieri. Mayoral candidates Victoria Szopinski and John Haila were present, as was third ward candidate David Martin and first ward councilwoman Gloria Betcher, who is running unopposed.

Third ward candidate Bowers and Corrieri, the at-large council incumbent who is running unopposed, were unable to attend the forum due to a scheduling conflict.

Attendees had an opportunity to submit questions on cards described by moderator Nathaniel Wade of the Ames Progressive Alliance as a “small way to get you all engaged.”

Ames Progressive Alliance selected nine people of different community groups to ask questions.

Matthew Goodman of Ames Progressive Alliance said the choice was made to bring in voices that would not be heard at other candidate forums.

Representatives of Black Lives Matter: Iowa, Green Umbrella, Ames Adult Education and Literacy Programs, National Alliance of Mental Illness Central Iowa, Ames Pride, Youth and Shelter Services, Youth in Schools Action Team, Ames Bicycle Coalition and Ames Progressive Alliance.

The forum began with each candidate giving a one-minute introduction.

Szopinski focused on her experience, including with Ames Progressive Alliance, and spoke strongly of bringing change to the mayor’s office, stating “I will not be the status quo mayor. This will not be the mayor doing business as usual. I will bring new voices and ideas to local government in Ames.”

Martin, an Ames native, former computer science professor, and business owner said his campaign is “focused on inclusivity, internet and quality of life.” Martin said “we can and must do better” when bringing internet access to citizens of Ames. Martin also said he wants to bring new perspectives to city council.

Haila focused his introduction on his experience in business, Campustown Action Association, and the Ames Transit Board. Haila said the mayor needs to be a “leader and a champion for the Ames community.” Haila also said that it was important to note that he had been asked by his peers to run for mayor. Haila said his top priority is to ensure Ames is a “genuine and welcoming community.”

Betcher opened with a joke about “keeping this brief,” as she is running unopposed. Betcher outlined her focus on quality of life in Ames neighborhoods and her belief that housing is being “somewhat predatorily” purchased to be used as rental properties.

Questions were asked about racial and ethnic disparities, inclusion of queer and trans youth and adults and safe transportation for pedestrians, cyclists and people with disabilities. Candidates also had opportunities to answer questions on mental health services in Ames, adult education, recycling and divesting from fossil fuels.

Candidates commonly referred to a process of public input and collaboration rather than offering specific plans and policies they hope to enact.

“In a lot of ways, they would say things that weren’t that meaningful or they would just sort of state support without backing it up with any kind of policy or plan,” Dana Gustafson, a senior at Ames High School said.

Sean Carlton-Appleton of Black Lives Matter asked a question that requested tangible changes to make black residents of Ames feel more welcome. Carlton-Appleton noted concerns that some African and African-American residents of Ames feel unwelcome.

“The responses I got were not spectacular and I did not really go into it expecting spectacular answers,” Carlton-Appleton said. “I got a lot of the formulaic answers that they gave the other speakers who came before me… It would have been nice if I had got an actual answer that went beyond their personal philosophies or personal feelings and anything beyond one-on-one communications and actually commitments of structural changes or policies.”

Carlton-Appleton also felt the responses given by candidates were not specifically addressing the issues he raised.

“There was maybe too much of an emphasis on kind-of this all-encompassing term of ‘people of color.’ I think that kind of diminishes it in a way. I am talking specifically about black people and their very unique and special situation in terms of everything that has to do with them in this country,” Carlton-Appleton said.

Joel Hochstein, who asked a question on behalf of Ames Pride also took issue with the candidates responses to questions of racial inequity.

“I was probably hoping for more from all of the candidates, particularly around questions around the experiences of people of color in our community. We have all white candidates on the stage and I think that folks can do better in terms of learning more about the experiences of folks of color who are living in our community,” Hochstein said.

Hochstein also noted that Ames Pride had yet to be invited to a forum by any other group.

Lucy Martin, Story County auditor and elections commissioner, made an announcement on voting registration deadlines, absentee ballots and other important information on voting. offers all of the information Martin discussed.