By Drew Wemple
Members of the local, student-run environmental podcast Late Night for the Planet had the chance to sit down and talk with two Plattsburgh mayoral candidates in a particularly unordinary fashion.
Late Night for the Planet broadcast their Zoom call with the candidates Sept. 23 via a Facebook livestream that had an overall reach of about 2,000 people. The group usually meets at Olive Ridley’s on Court Street once a month to record its shows, but due to COVID-19, they have transitioned to Zoom calls.
The premise of the talk show is a group of students discussing various environmental issues. This month’s episode was politics and the environment.
The stream began with a brief introduction from all of its attendees before they welcomed on their first guest. Chris Rosenquest, the Democratic candidate, was asked first, why he decided to run.
“I had a strong desire to fulfill my life’s purpose,” Rosenquest said. “I want to contribute to my community in a way that will make a profound difference.”
It became clear that Rosenquest had a very strong connection to his campaign. He said he made the decision while sitting in his car just waiting for a red light to change one day.
“If I didn’t do it, I’d be on my deathbed wondering,‘What if?” Rosenquest said.
After Rosenquest’s response, the group moved into questions surrounding his plans as mayor. He then received questioning about the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The DRI is what the City of Plattsburgh deemed to be a part of a phase one DRI community that would receive $10 million for economic investment. Rosenquest discussed how he would like for the city to invest more in its lake and riverfront areas instead of the city’s initial plan to build apartment complexes on Durkee Street.
The group then followed up by asking Rosenquest about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. Rosenquest, a person of color, doesn’t support defunding the police.
“I’ve experienced racial injustices in my community,” Rosenquest said. “It shaped me. It is time for people in our country and community to be treated equally.”
Rosenquest finished up by discussing the Plattsburgh community relationship to the college community. He advocated for community conversations.
“The community needs to be more welcoming, and the students need to be more engaged,” Rosenquest said.
Then, the group moved into a game called ‘Where is it?’ They shared their screen with Rosenquest, and they began to show him a series of four pictures. He had to guess where in the city each of those pictures was taken. They showed him tiny snapshots of the bird mural on Court Street, an LGBTQ+ flag outside Plattsburgh’s Planned Parenthood, a wall of ivy on the side of the Plattsburgh City library and an airplane turbine alongside the roundabout on Rt. 9. Rosenquest guessed them all right.
After the group finished their line of questioning for Rosenquest, he left the meeting and they welcomed Republican candidate Scott Beebie. The group wanted to ask Beebie the same questions they asked Rosenquest.
“We wanted to have that comparison point,” junior Clarice Knelly said. Knelly was part of the group of students asking the candidates questions. “We wanted debate style questions, just not a debate.”
The group discussed the BLM movement with Beebie as well. Beebie spent 28 years of his career in law enforcement as a police officer. He strongly believes in the community having a solid conversation about the BLM issue.
“We need to be educated and learn from each other,” Beebie said. “Because I can’t talk about what I don’t know.”
Part of his discussed plans as mayor is to host town council meetings on campus to encourage campus involvement. He also suggested that Plattsburgh, “needs a mechanism” to stop people from just traveling through to get to other destinations.
“We need to promote Plattsburgh positively,” Beebie said.
This led the group into asking Beebie about his thoughts on the DRI. Beebie said he had spoken with people throughout the city, and they told him they felt betrayed and lied to. The community felt that the city wasn’t taking their concerns into account with their decision, according to Beebie.
“I want to start at the water’s edge and move inland,” Beebie said, conflicting with the city’s current plan. “We need people to know this environment exists.”
Once Beebie signed off and the show came to a close, Knelly said all of the Facebook comments and questions posted were all surprisingly positive of what the group was doing.
“People were genuinely interested,” Knelly said. She added that Late Night for the Planet’s next talk show will follow a similar trend as they plan to host several city council members.