A few weeks ago, I blogged about why Green candidates should be included in ALL debates. While our Mayoral Candidate, Alex White, was excluded from televised debates, all five city candidates were invited to forums held by community groups. It's evidence that residents are tired of the status quo and they are hungry for a new direction that is not based on trickle-down economics.
I'm writing to share my observations about the two forums that took place that included the City Council candidates.
The first one was hosted by the Maplewood Neighborhood Association. The cafeteria at Aquinas High School was close to full. Because of the number of candidates (11, I believe) we had 2 minutes to introduce ourselves then we would answer questions written by the audience on index cards. The interesting party about it was that for each question, one incumbent and one challenger would be allowed to answer - at the moderator's discretion. An interesting solution for having a large number of candidates.
The next day, another forum was held for the Northeast Quadrant, this time it was at the Polish-American Club on Joseph Avenue. That forum was packed as well. And this forum included not only the City Council candidates, but the Mayoral ones as well. Again, that was a lot of candidates. This time, we had the two questions ahead of time and had two minutes each to answer each one.
My take on what was said was the same for each forum. I was proud of the Green Rochester candidates. Even though we didn't have time to go into detail with our answers, we showed a coherent, thoughtful antidote to the business-as-usual attitude of the incumbents.
In both of the forums I made sure to thank the incumbents. Being on City Council, serving the community, is not an easy job and I acknowledge that. No one on the Green Rochester team is accusing anyone in City Government of being bad people. But there is a clear disagreement as to how our municipality should be run. They had no defense for the millions and millions of dollars we've given away to developers and at these forums we made sure to point this out.
At the same time, we proposed solutions, in as much detail as we possibly could in the time allotted. Drew Langdon talked about cooperative businesses and participatory budgeting. Dorothy Paige focused on crime and quality of life in our impoverished neighborhoods. I tried to tied it all together, with my concept of using vacant land to use development money to create locally-owned, for-profit urban farms as well as other local businesses around them - in the neighborhoods, not downtown.
In the days before the Primary Election, the local media continued the drum beat of whoever wins the primary will "likely" win the General Election. The same media who shut our our Mayoral candidate from their debates. But from what I saw at these forums, people are tired of the same old, same old. As newspaper profits continue to plummet and local news ratings go down, they are missing out on an opportunity to engage citizens (or consumers in corporate-speak) at an unprecedented rate.
Real, serious alternative solutions were discussed at these forums and I hope that for the General Election there will be more forums and debates for ALL the races.
I am really looking forward to this campaign season.