Forum takes ‘social distancing’ approach

By: 
Jamie Hult, Staff writer

Ward 3 candidates TJ Cameron (left) and Jack Parliament took part in a forum Monday evening co-sponsored by the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and the Brandon Valley Journal. Carme Dougherty, chairwoman of the Chamber’s Issues Management Council, was the moderator. The forum can be viewed on the BV Journal’s Facebook page, at 7 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday on the Alliance channels 18 (basic) and 21 (digital), and the Chamber’s YouTube page. Photo by Jamie Hult/BV Journal

 

Brandon City Council candidates TJ Cameron and Jack Parliament made their appeals to an empty room during Monday’s candidate forum at City Hall.

Due to concerns of the coronavirus spread, the Ward 3 candidates fielded questions in a mostly empty meeting room while voters and curious onlookers tuned in live on Facebook. (The forum will also air this weekend on the Alliance channel and is available on the Brandon Valley Journal Facebook page).

Cameron made it clear from the get-go that he aims to finish what he started with his first stab at city council in 2018, in which he lost to Chuck Parsons by a mere 35 votes.

“I’ve been committed to serving the community ever since,” said Cameron, who also stressed that he’s running because he’s invested not only in Brandon, but also his childrens’ future. 

Cameron is running on a few platform items, primarily the city’s need for strategic planning, youth engagement and spurring small businesses. He has owned several small businesses and currently runs a seasonable business, Brandon Fireworks.

“I also promise to be conservative with your tax dollars and treat it as my own,” said Cameron, who serves as the director of regional operations for Profile by Sanford Health.  

His opponent, Jack Parliament, recently retired from D&I Railroad after 20 years as its president. 

“I’m running for the city council because I just want to be a voice of reason on the council,” Parliament said. “Seeing Brandon grow from a small community to over 10,000 people … I just plan to use my experiences and business acumen to provide leadership on the council.”

He focused on four areas for improvement. 

“We can provide our residents with good, clean water,” he said. “We can expand our parks. We can repair and maintain our streets. And we can develop these new business opportunities, along with supporting the existing businesses.” 

At the March 23 candidate forum, which was co-sponsored by the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Brandon Valley Journal, Cameron and Parliament revealed that they have a few things in common. Both candidates said their employment backgrounds have familiarized them with multi-million dollar budgets, such as the amount it takes to run a city like Brandon.

“I promise that I will definitely be a great strategic planner for this community, focus on smart decisions for our growth (and) take a conservative approach to your tax dollars,” Cameron said. “I personally have had businesses that have failed. I’ve had businesses that have been successful.”

He and his wife recently purchased The Pickle Barrel in Sioux Falls and owned the Brandon bowling alley, which eventually closed.

“So, we understand the impact for small business owners and small community growth,” he said. “Strategic planning, execution and making smart decisions has been a part of my history and my professional career.”

Parliament also spoke about his ability to develop business opportunities. 

“Developing industrial building sites like the new Rovang site and the Corson area – over the years, the Corson area has grown exponentially,” he said. “We need those things to continue the growth of our community.”

The candidates fielded a series of prepared and submitted questions, addressing everything from fireworks to the city’s role on social media. 

Both men said the fireworks vote, which is on the April 14 ballot, should be left up to the people. The new ordinance would allow aerial fireworks in the city limits.

“Obviously, I have a bias or vested personal interest in fireworks,” Cameron said. “With that being said, there’s nothing more important than the safety of my customers or the safety of our residents.”

He said he didn’t support shooting artillery shells or mortars, which have a recommended 150-foot clearance. 

“I 100 percent think we need to listen to the residents, and I think the vote will be very telling on the 14th,” Cameron said. 

Parliament agreed.

“This issue really does need to be settled by a vote, by the people, so I’m very glad it’s on the ballot,” he said. “The ability to shoot artillery shells all the way up until 11 p.m., and when most Fourth of July celebrations are on a school or a work night – that seems a bit much. So, I think that is something that will probably need to be addressed.”

They also talked about running the city during COVID-19. 

No one could have predicted the virus, Cameron said, “but we definitely could have predicted our infrastructure needs and gotten ahead of that five, 10 years ago, so I’d love to see us do that today.”

“We can do better, and I think with the right leadership, we will do better,” Parliament agreed.

The candidate forum will air at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29 on the Alliance channels 18 (basic cable subscribers) and 21 (digital).

All three polling locations – Brandon City Hall (Ward 1), Brandon Fire Station (Ward 2) and Brandon Golf Course (Ward 3) will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14. Absentee voting also opened March 24, earlier than usual.

The voter registration deadline is March 30. To register, visit brandonsd.org or City Hall.

 

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