Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mayoral Debate Last Night

Paul Foer hosted a debate for Mayoral candidates last night, and you know the rule--when more than 1 candidate is in the same place, we write about it! Paul, realizing that writing about his own debate would constitute "100% bullshit", asked me to write a bit about the event. In return, I promised to keep the BS level to between 20%-44%.

All of the candidates were repeatedly invited. Six of the nine attended: Cohen, Fox, McFall, Pierre, Renaut, and Shropshire. Don't know where Cordle was. Don't know where Sears-Deppa was. Word is that Wayne Taylor was hosting his own meet and greet somewhere.

The debate was much more moderated than the recent HACA forum. Paul asked questions, either of his choice or submitted by the audience, and would interrupt candidates if they answered something that was not the question, or if they exceeded their time, or if they were "grandstanding". (Josh Cohen requested permission to grandstand, to which Paul replied "don't you always?"). The candidates were all able to practice avoiding a question when an audience member asked what they knew about "corporate memory" and "city employee hiring practices". Now, I switched from the business school to the behavioral & social sciences school halfway through college, but I have never heard of 'corporate memory'. The person who asked that question must have been some kind of consultant.

I thought the debate went well, with the first half focusing on general things, and the second half focusing on transportation. The candidates reaffirmed their positions on the city manager, and the budget woes. Regarding transportation, the general agreement was that the bus system, ADA compliance, sidewalk usability, and overall management of transportation was laughable. One could argue that Paul interjected a bit more of his own philosophy than was appropriate. One could more successfully argue that Paul has been building credibility on a wide variety of issues, and mentioned those issues to spur debate. One could most successfully argue that a bit of interjection made the debate entertaining, which is a requirement when listening to 6 people talk about the same thing for 2 hours.

Here's what I thought about the candidates' performances:

Josh Cohen:

Josh was characteristically somber and well informed on the issues. Perhaps in a reflection of his personality, he suggested that the reason the city and county haven't been able to get along is that the city has failed to approach the county in a position of humility.

Best Moment: Candidates were asked to distinguish themselves from the candidate sitting to their right, an apparent attempt to get them to attack each other. Josh was sitting at the end of the table, with nobody to his right, and Shropshire was sitting at the other end of the table. Josh got up and said "Sorry Sam, but you are not to my right". Get it? More liberal? Political humor!

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: Development, Spending, Attitude.

Chris Fox:

Chris is looking more and more comfortable as he participates in more events. He hasn't had as much experience in political-type events, which actually benefits him at these events because he hasn't had experience lying to the public or failing to answer questions. He stuck to the platform he has been developing: let's save money wherever possible, let's bring professional city management, let's bring common sense to government: such as equipping buses with air conditioning.

Best Moment: When asked how he is different from the other candidates, he looked at the other candidates, smiled, and said "I'm the only one here who's guaranteed to be on the general election ballot". The audience laughed, as did the other candidates--certainly a nervous laughter that reminded them of their tough fight ahead.

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: Common Sense Decisions.

Trudy McFall:

In 11th grade speech class, we could win our debates either on content or on "speaker points". I think Trudy did really well on speaker points. She smiled a lot, was engaging, and communicated her vision reasonably well. She made it a point to emphasize 2 things: her attendance and involvement in even the most laborious city meetings, and her experience running both public and private organizations.

Best Moment: "I started my business like most small businesses start--sitting with my co-founder at a desk in a small room with my entire life on the line, determined to make it work".

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: Experience Running Organizations.

Zina Pierre:

Zina does well at these events and this was no exception. She doesn't support the city manager, but made efforts to reassure voters that accountability would be maintained under her administration. She seems to keep locals in mind, making sure to oppose the idea of moving a city ladder truck nearer to Parole, saying that seniors in a nearby 6-story high-rise would be put in greater danger.

Best Moment: When talking about transportation, Zina went on a bit of a tangent. Paul interrupted her, reminding her that the question was about her experience with the bus system. 'Our bus system sucks' was her response, and then she sat down, realizing that no further elaboration was needed.

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: Reform, Revitalization, Reinvestment.

Gil Renaut:

Gil's style is what I envision my style would be were I to run for office. He answers the questions without a lot of flash or puff, and is able to convey vast knowledge of the issues and vast sense in approaching problems. He does well to position himself as a Democrat candidate somewhat unique from the other candidates, perhaps more conservative than his primary election opponents.

Best Moment: When talking about the city manager, Cohen said there would always be politics in local government, to which Gil responded 'I think we can take the politics out of potholes'.

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: Bring People Together.

Sam Shropshire:

Sam was certainly the most grandiose of the candidates, offering passionate and typically idealistic justifications for his policies. In some instances he seemed to stick to his rehearsed views on general topics rather than address the specific questions, even when abruptly interrupted by Paul for doing just that.

Best Moment: An audience member asked about the Market House, saying 'how did this happen? It wasn't just the mayor...the council voted on it', to which Sam replied 'yes, there were 7 or 9 votes for Site Realty, but we were 7 or 9 unprofessionals and we didn't know what we were doing'.

Three Word Summary of Closing Statement: No Tax Cap.


Eye On Annapolis said...

I liked it when Gil looked at Zina when asked what differentiated the two.

It was well done by Paul.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you're back in the saddle.

Brian Gill said...