[media-credit name=’SUNDEEP MALADI/Herald Photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′][/media-credit]University of Wisconsin students Ashok Kumar and David Lapidus faced off in a debate Tuesday evening in an effort to endorse their candidacies for the District 5 Supervisor seat on the Dane County Board.
The debate, moderated by student radio station WSUM, covered a variety of issues on which both candidates had the ability to articulate their views.
Lapidus, a UW freshman, opened the debate saying he was a non-partisan candidate working to unite district constituents with his solutions.
"I'm trying to be a candidate for real solutions for real Dane County problems," he added. "I'm trying to be a non-partisan candidate … that will allow the Dane County Board to make policy that will really affect this district in a powerful and responsible manner."
Kumar, a junior, emphasized his vast experience of working at the grassroots level on campus, saying it would give him an advantage if elected to the Dane County Board.
"I've been an activist around this campus … for years now," he said. "I've worked on a lot of issues and the issues that I've worked on at the grassroots level are the things I want to do at the County Board level."
Kumar and Lapidus discussed a variety of issues that the County Board deals with, highlighting the differences in opinions between the two candidates.
Speaking on the subject of public transportation, Kumar supported construction of a light-rail system, while Lapidus did not.
"I back the light-rail system, I think it's great," Kumar said. "A substantial amount of funding is coming from federal government, [so] why should we not back that?"
But Lapidus countered Kumar's support, calling it a "dead idea," and said there will not be enough money to fund such a system.
"Mayor Dave [Cieslewicz] said he will not put a penny of the city's money into a light-rail system," he said. "At the same time, the federal and the state government are not going to put money into this, they have their own budget problems right now."
The candidates also had differing views on policies for city incarceration.
Lapidus said the best solution is to expand the jails, but added he believes the court system should be "very lenient" in dealing with marijuana-related offenses.
"The right way to go is to save this money and keep people who really aren't detrimental to society … out of jail," he said.
However, alternatives to incarceration for people with non-violent drug offenses would be a better solution rather than expanding jails, Kumar said.
"If we find alternatives to incarcerations, you don't need to expand the jails," he said. "I really think we need to find alternatives … that will really benefit the community and benefit taxpayers."
Kumar also noted Dane County has the worst incarceration ratio of black to white people in the state, and Wisconsin has the worst rate in the country; Kumar added he feels the Board should hold police officers accountable.
But both agreed serving as a student representative on the Dane County Board would require a lot of work to gain respect of the other supervisors on the Board.
Kumar said if elected, he would take off a year from school to devote time to working on the Board, and Lapidus emphasized the importance of doing proper research to give the right input on student issues.