Thursday, September 13, 2007

Question: How do we get political debates for city-wide elections? And, can the media help at all?

I'm frustrated that there are NO scheduled debates for Pittsburgh's city controller race. Zippo. The Pittsburgh mayor's race might have three debates. We should have 30. Can we get some pressure for media sponsorship so we have debates -- or is this just a lost cause for 2007 local races?

Citizens and the mainstream media have shown some interest in hosting debates for 2008 presidential races. What works in other regions or are candidate debates rare (if not extinct) elsewhere too?

View question as posted at Linked in. (That is my first question with that service.)


Anonymous said...

Kevin Makice wrote:

In Bloomington, there are a few potential forums for candidate events, although I'm sure sure "debate" would be right word.

There is a pretty strong coalition of neighborhood associations, and some of them are inviting local candidates in to answer questions. The neighborhoods benefiting from this, though, are ones already pretty active and connected in the local political network. There are also events covered through CATS, the community-access cable channels.

What I am interested in seeing develop is better candidate use of Web 2.0 tools. Bloomington has a large wiki - Bloomingpedia - that would be a great way to keep track of quotes and position statements. There is also an active traditional forum, a budding Twitter network, and even a few blogging politicos. The wiki, though, has great potential for a sort of communal debate using asynchronous statements of position.

Anonymous said...

Mel Siegel wrote:

... And, can the media help at all?


Read Amy & David Goodman's "The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them". I have long been frustrated by the failure of the media to tell us about what is about to happen -- what changes our executives, legislatures, judiciaries, and authorities are planning -- only telling us what has happened after it is, for all practical purposes, too late to do anything about it. Your frustration with absence of debate in the upcoming local elections -- and, if you are like me, frustration with the rules that make what few debates do occur at any level totally wimpy -- is just another manifestation of the phoneyness of our supposed participation in democractic processes.

Anonymous said...

Tom Kawczynski wrote:

Candidate debates are quite rare for non-executive offices. They also manage to be avoided as often as not in municipalities because the political equation is shifted so far in one direction or the other that one candidate has so much more to lose than to gain that they intentioned sidestep their opponent.

Looking at things from the local level, what you would need to do is agitate reputable, persuasive, and powerful citizen based lobbies to have an interest in sponsoring such a debate and the ability to make consequences for candidates who do not perform at these. Presently, these groups do not exist in any oriented way.

When political institutions come to be independent of a party or a narrow interest, then you'll have a better chance. For the moment, the best you can look for is a coalition of organizations that would want to see the merits of a given issue, and hope they might be persuaded. That said, they will probably want their resources to be allocated in other ways.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I asked a question to 100 or so people on "Linkedin" and tonight the web site is off line -- for service I think.

When it rains it pours I guess.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Dan Randow wrote:

Depending on how soon your election is, maybe you could start an issues forum like ours.


One of the goals of this election cycle is to double my email contact list and begin a new service -- and issues forum -- just like the one they operate in Christchurch, NZ.

Anonymous said...

Larry Kestenbaum wrote:

The media will be no help.

The trouble is that reporting on local and state politics is labor-intensive. Newspapers everywhere have cut back sharply on political coverage to the point where it barely exists any more in many places. All they do is print predigested AP reports about the presidential race, and leave it at that.

(The wound is still fresh here. Our local daily paper, which resisted the trend for a long time, has now ditched most of its reporters; local content other than sports has pretty much disappeared. They dropped the local news section, and even the editorials come from elsewhere.)

Around the country, local electronic media (except, oddly, country music radio stations) has never cared much about local and state politics, and now they have even less reason to worry about it.

Consolidated ownership of media outlets also means the people in control are far away and don't really care what happens in your town. Nor do they have any reason to take any pride in their product. Only the bottom line counts.

Instead of maintaining a crew of reporters and writers and editors, newspapers are shifting toward a model where the local staff just sell ads and fill the unsold space with the opening grafs of AP wire stories.

Mayor? You'd be lucky if any reporters in your town know who the mayor is, or when the election is held. City controller? A bitter joke.

I know, I know -- speaking as a county clerk, I know how critical positions like city controller are in the real world. But you're not going to find local media people who care in the slightest any more.

My county has more than a third of a million people. But when I ran for county clerk in 2004, there was only one forum (not really a "debate") where my opponent and I faced an audience together. And nobody had any questions for either of us.

We candidates have to get out there and reach voters essentially on our own -- that's why campaigns are more expensive now. The media isn't going to give the electorate any clues about who's running or what their differences are.

Best wishes, but you're swimming against the tide.

Larry Kestenbaum
Washtenaw County Clerk/Register of Deeds
Ann Arbor, MI