Of age high school students are no exception. Norwalk High School students gathered Tuesday for a debate between Mayor Rob Duncan, a Republican, and Independent candidate Ryan McDonnell. They addressed several pressing issues including jobs in Norwalk, the drug epidemic and marijuana, dirty politics and same-sex marriage.
Regarding the city’s budget, Duncan took the opportunity to discuss some of his successes as mayor for the past four years.
“Our carry-over was $1.6 million,” Duncan said. “We've been able to (increase it) every year during my term, which is of course important to the police and the fire department.”
Duncan said he has also done a few things to help encourage more jobs for the community.
“We’ve created different incentives,” he said. “One of the big things we can all do though is to make sure we have a friendly community. One of the big problems is employees (who) can’t pass a drug test, so we’re still working with that.”
“Jobs in this area is a huge issue,” McDonnell started out saying. “We want you educated … and I'm not interested in being one of the safest (cities); I'm interested in being the safest. We can set ourselves apart. This affects all of your lives.”
McDonnell, who said he is “not interested in being popular,” feels there should be no limits when it comes to achieving a safe city.
“I’m not worried about budgets,” he said with regarding the way he would address the drug epidemic.
“Drugs are destroying and killing both our children and our adults. Go outside if you want to have drug problems, but don't come back here. There are different grants that are available and non-profits. But … Mayor Duncan, I’ve never once heard you come out with a plan about how this is going to be addressed.”
Duncan assured the students he has had a plan and has taken action against the drug epidemic.
“We’ve added a detective … to the bureau,” the mayor said.
“We’ve created a video we plan to show in the high schools about a girl who passed away (who was) on drugs to address this problem. … It all begins with education, which depends on budget. And of course there are the non-profits that we work very closely with. There’s the Starfish Project and the Teen Challenge program. We’ve done something things behind the scenes.”
When it came to same-sex marriages, the two candidates had a disagreement of whether it was right to follow one’s conscious or the law.
“People under the law have that right to be married,” Duncan said. “But I feel my conscience will not allow me (to wed same-sex couples). I’m not sure it is (morally correct). I will not be performing any marriages if re-elected.”
“Don't we want someone in office who is following the law?” McDonnell said.
The mayoral candidate said that if it ever became the law that mayors perform same-sex marriages that he would do so/
“This is America. I will follow the law,” he said. “I don’t want to (perform same-sex marriages). I have my beliefs, but I’m over it because it’s the law and I’m going to do it. I’m not going to step down. Why do I have to force my beliefs upon them? I’m just here to follow the law. My opponent has once again stated that he will not follow the law.”
McDonnell held the same view for the legalization of marijuana.
“I’m (not for) legalizing any drug. It impacts your ability to perform,” he said.
“As an Independent (candidate), people say, ’Well, you got to be careful of that.’ I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about doing my job. I’m not for the legalization of marijuana, but if it is the law I will follow it.”
“We may finally agree on something,” Duncan said in response. “Marijuana does impair and there have been instances with people steering off the highway because of it. I don't want someone going off the exit and hitting another one of my kids.”
The letters that were anonymously sent out exposing Duncan’s police record also were brought into the debate, with the question as to whether it was “fair game or dirty politics.”
Both candidates agreed the move was dirty and lacked integrity.
“It was definitely dirty,” Duncan said. “Anyone can accuse anyone of anything these days and I’ve got a lot of insight into that. It was dirty politics.”
McDonnell agreed, but seemed to also place some of the blame on the mayor.
McDonnell advised the high schoolers not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“This was dirty politics. I don't want anything to do with it. It’s about doing the right thing. If don't have integrity in office, how are you going to lead? How are businesses going to respect you?
”I coach kids and I know I need those children to know that they can trust me and respect me,” McDonnell said.
“I can give you this one guarantee. Yes, anyone can accuse anyone of anything, but you will never find dirt brought into my life that’s not mine.”