Student priorities were brought to the forefront of the city of Binghamton mayoral race at a forum hosted by the Center of Civic Engagement (CCE) on Wednesday evening.

Both incumbent Mayor Rich David and his opponent, Tarik Abdelazim, spoke to more than 100 students and community members at “An Evening with the Binghamton Mayoral Candidates,” held at the University Downtown Center. The College Community and Public Affairs co-sponsored the event, along with the Andrew Goodman Foundation Vote Everywhere program.

Each candidate received 40 minutes to answer 10 questions derived from the original 39 questions submitted by students, staff and faculty. Moderator Jim Ehmke, news director at News Channel 34, offered multiple follow-up questions to each candidate, allowing them the chance to further elaborate on their stances. The questions spanned issues affecting students both directly and indirectly, including student retention in the region post-graduation, tenant-landlord relations and food insecurity on the North Side.

Alison Twang, Assistant Director of the CCE, said that having the first student-targeted campaign forum, and the candidates’ willingness to do so, shows students that they are an important part of the city of Binghamton community.

“Community members who work with students and know students really recognize the value that you bring to the community and want you to have a voice,” Twang said.

Both candidates spent most of their time relaying their views on issues relevant to University-city relations. The University’s assistant to the vice president for student affairs, Randall Edouard, will co-chair the Town-Gown Advisory Board alongside Deputy Mayor Jared Kraham. David said the growth of the University calls for a strengthened relationship between the University and city government.

”I think that for a long period of time there has been this disconnect between the University and the community, and as Downtown continues to evolve into this college town, we need to be proactive,” David said.

Abdelazim agreed on the importance of the committee’s role, but emphasized the importance of diverse collaboration in tackling issues that affect all Binghamton area residents. He often choked up speaking about his childhood in the city of Binghamton, though he said emotions ran high due to his hope for future of the city.

“We really need really bold, imaginative solutions to challenges that all across this country we are facing,” Abdelazim said. “This is where it starts.”

Public safety was also a highly talked about topic during the forum. Abdelazim criticized the idea of a blue-light system and the current administration’s community policing measures. He suggested the University instead invest its money in transforming public spaces.

David said his administration has consistently focused on public safety Downtown and that issues like safety must be treated not as one pertaining only to students but to every city of Binghamton resident.

“When we talk about public safety, it’s not about protecting or focusing on one population more so than the other; it’s everyone,” David said. “I’m the mayor of everyone that lives in the city, whether you’ve been here for a day or your whole life.”

Three student ambassadors were hired by the CCE to represent the Vote Everywhere program and facilitate events like the forum. Samantha Ng, a junior double-majoring in human development and Asian and Asian American studies and the team leader for the Andrew Goodman Foundation chapter at BU, helped to rally students to attend the forum. She said many students, especially those who live on the West Side, should be active in educating themselves on the policies that affect them.

“A lot of rights that students have in themselves aren’t really communicated well, so it’s important for [the candidates] and the Andrew Goodman Foundation to communicate those policies that they should be aware of,” Ng said.

Matthew Dorfman, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and economics, came to support Abdelazim, whom he had been canvassing for with student group Generation Vote. He said he thinks it’s important for all the students, living both on and off campus, to get engaged in civil activism.

“This is our community,” Dorfman said. “We all go Downtown and interact with the people that live here. It’s very important to understand, and the best way to do that is to hear it straight from the source, from the two candidates running for mayor.”