Coalition to hold forum for mayoral candidates and will not be open to the general public.Bad for us.
This is a public election with a public process and public candidates and some in Pittsburgh figure that they should hold meetings to talk in very broad ways without the public. Go figure.
I don't think it is wise to hold closed-door debates.
Sure, hold meetings and limit the number of people who can attend. Have a lottery and allow a limited number of people, even if it is a dozen. Or, allow each member of the association be able to bring one or two friends.
I don't want a bunch of folks to go into the HYP Club, the PAA nor the Duquesne Club and have a meeting that excludes others and have a debate.
Even when the P-G has its "endorsement meeting" and the results are put into the newspaper, I like to -- from time to time -- drop in and witness the conversations. The P-G doesn't have room to accept even five extra visitors. But, the P-G does grant access if possible.
So, my advice to the Pgh Civic Design Coalition, a good group, is to make that invite to the architects, planners, civic leaders and a limited number of city voters on a RSVP basis.
Furthermore, it is great that WDUQ is going to air the debate. Well done on that front too.
Another weird thing that occurs from time to time at debates is the exclusion of the candidates who are speaking. I always rant about debates that exclude candidates that are on the ballot as I feel that should never occur. However, some event organizers will have a debate of sorts (more like a forum) and insist that the candidates go into what amounts to a 'sound proof room' while the other candidate(s) speak.
This has happened to me twice -- against my strong objections. PUMP and some others did it ONCE way back in 2001 in an event hosted at the downtown library auditorium. In 2006 the same type of goofy format was used in an event held at Club Cafe hosted by some 'friends of Bill' (i.e., Peduto-heads).
The floor is given to "candidate A" while "candidate B" is not allowed to be present nor listen.
Being mayor and being an elected member of city council is not about being 'secret.' It is a public job and, like most of life, it is an 'open book test.'
Furthermore, if you want honest answers from the candidates, make certain that the opposition candidate is present. It helps if video cameras and audio are recording too.
It was in this closed, private setting that Bruce Kraus opened up his heart and told the progressive audience that he is gay -- so we came to understand. In turn, Bruce got the 'endorsement' from that group. That 'news' leaked beyond the walls of that meeting over the weeks to follow but didn't really hit the spotlight until his next election, a year later.
I'm not interested is events where being hoodwinked is more possible -- yet alone probable. When candidates say one thing to one group and then another thing along an opposite theme to another group -- I worry. That's double talk. It happens with neighborhood groups. Say something to folks on the South Side Flats and say something else to folks in Allentown. Say something to a veterans group and something else to peace protesters. Say something to union workers and something else to business groups.
Of course this happens all the time. But it will happen less and less as meetings with public candidates are open to the public. And, turn on those cameras too.
The final ironic spike in the news of this debate is that the gathering is going to be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center -- a public building of grand scale, costs and debt. The debt is resting on the backs of the public. However, the public isn't able to attend. I think a couple extra rows of seats can be made available for those Jane and John Q. Public.
Update on July 18, 2007:
Pittsburgh Pist-Gazette: Get Them While They're Hot: Judith said attendance is by “invitation only” because the coalition wants to make sure they do not exceed room capacity and have adequate refreshments for the crowd, etc. She did add, however, that anyone interested in the issues of civic design can request an invitation by forwarding her their mailing address. Judith can be contacted at:
Judith A. Kelly, Judith Kelly Associates, LLC, Chamber of Commerce Building