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YPG Mayoral Forum, 4.24

Candidates Cyndi Lamm (left) and Leirion Gaylor Baird address questions on Wednesday during the Young Professionals Group mayoral forum at 1867 Bar.

The two city councilwomen vying to be Lincoln's next mayor talked up technology plans, 5G wireless internet capabilities, a dedicated music district and their environmental preservation plans in pitches to a group of Lincoln's young professionals Wednesday night.

Both Republican Cyndi Lamm and Democrat Leirion Gaylor Baird said that ensuring Lincoln has affordable housing will help attract and retain a young, skilled workforce. 

But each had different strategies to accomplish that end, they told a crowd of about 50 members of the Lincoln Young Professionals Group gathered at the downtown bar 1867. The general election is May 7.

Gaylor Baird believes community land trusts, in which nonprofits own land to keep housing affordable, are worth exploring here. 

Lamm disagrees, saying she doesn't support that interference with competition in the private sector. 

In her eyes, city fees drive up the costs of homes, and those costs, along with tax increases, make Lincoln less attractive, she said. 

Drawing new businesses and young workers to the city is enhanced by a community that generates a buzz, Gaylor Baird said. 

"One of the ways that we attract highly qualified and talented people is to create a place where they want to live," she said. 

Safety and affordability are important, but trails networks also are important, Gaylor Baird said.

She pitched the creation of a dedicated music district as a way to enliven Lincoln and build on what she described as a robust music scene. 

Addressing a question on innovation, Lamm said attracting the investment needed to bring a 5G wireless internet to Lincoln is a must, lamenting a failed bid by the city to gain Verizon's 5G access planned for 30 cities in 2019. 

"If we want to have driver-less technology, we need to have 5G. If we want to spur innovation in businesses throughout the community, we need to have 5G," she said. 

Ramesh Laungani, a 38-year-old ecology and conservation biology professor in attendance, said he'd be listening for each of the candidates' ideas on preserving the environment and supporting sustainable initiatives. 

"Climate change is not simply something that happens on the coast," Laungani said.

Chief among the city's environmental needs, said Gaylor Baird, is securing a second water source. 

That need became more evident in March when flooding on the Platte River near Ashland led to city water restrictions, she said.

Shoring up a second water source will be a costly infrastructure investment that's already being planned for with fee increases, but it will take continued support from city leaders and residents, she said.

"We're not going to get there in one bond issue," she said. 

Lamm and Gaylor Baird agree that the city could benefit from an analysis of its resiliency to a changing climate.  

Clean air and clean water are important, and Lincoln's citizens should be good stewards, Lamm said. 

"We should not be slaves to our environment," she said. "We have to make sure that we are also serving the community in the best way possible."  

She believes the city should offer incentives for its environmental issues, not mandates. 

To foster a diverse city and inclusive climate, Lamm said her administration would continue to support efforts to aid refugees and immigrants with job training and hosting ethnic and cultural festivals.  

She'd also work to keep discourse civil, where all voices are welcome at the table, said Lamm, who has drawn criticism online for her past views on LGBT rights.

Gaylor Baird, in addressing the same question, touted her support for anti-discrimination policies that protect the rights of LGBT people. 

To her, they're not only policies on "the right side of history" but also a key to the city's economic success, she said. 

"If we want to compete as a city and a state, if we don't want to be flyover country, we've got to say we welcome everyone to land here," Gaylor Baird said. 

Q&A with Lincoln mayoral candidates

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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