May 24, 2014 8:45 am ET
Wine and cheese aren’t the issues
Source: Candidate Forum Follies
We live in a digital world, folks. After all, you’re reading this on a screen rather than on a piece of paper.
Which makes one (namely me) wonder why the follies that are today’s candidate forums continue to take place. They are “typewriters” in a “tablet PC” world—functional, but very much out of place and, dare I say, klunky.
You might say that those are harsh words and a putdown of the communities and organizations that work hard at giving the candidates a chance to stand before the public and share their visions. Those visions, to be honest, are pretty much all the same—how the candidates are going to achieve the ultimate goal of improving the voters’ lives through good open and honest government representation.
(Yawn) It’s the same old song and dance every election.
But, my goal here is not to criticize the efforts of the concerned community organizations and their members. Rather, I would like to redirect their efforts to more meaningful activities because, frankly, in my opinion (and it is my blog), the forums do not work.
In today’s rapidly growing world of social media, we the voters most likely already know enough about each candidate’s background. So, unless a candidate was involved in a major scandal, the “I have this degree and own this business” spiel that we get at the candidate forum is a moot point.
And, while we’re on that subject, we cops had a saying in referring to commanding officers: “book smart, street stupid.” To explain, owning a business and/or having a college degree does not translate into the quality of leadership or a comprehensive knowledge of the functions of government.
It’s the “boots on the ground” mentality that is needed to actually represent the voters. We don’t need self-serving candidate introductions. We need the candidates to get in the trenches and DEBATE their counterparts. That is where the action is, rather than having everyone stand up and say the same thing that the others have already said, as is the norm at the forums.
A series of debates is the only way to separate the “have’s” and the “have not’s.”
Let me give you an example.
At the Back River Neck Community Forum, Democratic Ron Yeatman stood and spoke out against the development of Fort Howard. Now, interestingly enough, we should know that John Olszewski Sr.—who backs Mr. Yeatman—strongly supports FH and may, depending on the time frame, write the PUD to clear the way for the $500 million + project that will destroy that entire region.
So, when the moderator opened up the floor for a brief time for questions, I made sure to direct mine to Mr. Yeatman. I asked him how he cannot support a project that the political leader who endorsed him profoundly does support.
Mr. Yeatman looked at me rather tersely and asked who I was, as if that mattered. I told him who I was, and he replied that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
What a great non-answer to my question. And, when it is all said and done, I’m sure that Mr. Yeatman’s opinion will stop a mega city in the peninsula.
However, in a debate setting, an opponent would have been able to, oh, what’s the word … oh, yes – DEBATEthat whole point rather than get blown off with a non-answer.
In defense of these forums, I will say that they do give one an opportunity to observe each candidate’s presence and presentation. That does go a long way in the political scene.
But, quite honestly, if I was going to choose someone to succeed my legacy, I would certainly make sure that I vetted that person in every aspect of what it takes to be a leader who represents the people. In my humble opinion, it’s obvious that this was not done in the case of Mr. Yeatman and Mr. Olszewski Sr.
I found Mr. Yeatman lacking in the basic knowledge of county government, as well as lacking the ability to articulate his positions. Most of his comments to the preselected questions were off the cuff and disjointed.
Now, as to the crux of this issue, I have offered ANY candidate the opportunity to write—in their own words—their platform on how they are going to serve their constituents. I told them the words must be their own, which I would publish without any editing in this blog.
Some candidates have taken advantage of this opportunity, while others keep repeating like a broken record, “I’m working on it and will get it right over to you.”
My reply is that I am not the one who needs the exposure. I had hoped that, since name recognition plays a large role in elections, the candidates would realize that the more one puts his/her name forward the better chance to stand out in an especially crowded field. With a small voter turnout predicted, every little bit helps.
I have seen this many times during the 2014 campaign. Just like the forum at the North Point FD, many of the delegate, county executive, and senate hopefuls just stand around anonymously, accomplishing absolutely nothing.
They blend in well—so well that they appear invisible.
If you think this outburst is hogwash and irreverent, and if you trust the voting public to not only understand the issue but also know who the candidates are, then you might want to view this episode from the Tonight Show.
That, my fellow candidates, is what you will be facing at the polls … from those that decide to actually show up to vote.