ypsi mayoral debate recap

I don’t feel like writing anything. It’s intolerably hot right now and the palms of my hands are melting into the surface of my laptop, like grilled cheese sandwiches forgotten in a Foreman grill… I did want to close the loop relative to the Ypsilanti Mayoral Debate, however. So, here I go, typing fast, like I’m running barefoot across white-hot asphalt.

As I mentioned the other day, it went pretty damn well, especially given how politically charged our current environment is. In the days running up to the debate, I’d been vacillating between two scenarios in my mind. In one, only the candidates, and a few elderly people looking for free cookies, showed up. (In this scenario, the candidates would invariably be pissed at me for wasting their time.) In the other, it was absolute mayhem. (Imagine the Rolling Stones show at Altamont.) There were gangs of hired goons, multiple incidents of slander, and the deployment of SWAT teams — you name it. The reality of it, as is typically the case, was somewhere right in the middle. The house was packed, and no blood was shed. What’s more, none of the candidates either went after one another, or, for that matter, even raised their voice to interrupt.

I wished that there were more back-and-forth between the candidates, but, I guess, as I’m the one that read them the rules, and since I told everyone in attendance that they shouldn’t vote for candidates that either ran long or interrupted, I share some of the blame… Next time, however, if we do this again, I’d like to set it up so that there’s more give-and-take between the candidates. (Of course, that means that fewer questions can be asked in the same amount of time though.)

Another thing I’d change, if we did this again — I’d ask a seemingly lighter question, like, “Would you vote legislation allowing people to keep chickens in the city?”, earlier in the evening. After that question was asked, the mood of the debate shifted somewhat toward the more honest and unscripted, and I think we should have asked it half-an-hour earlier.

Other regrets? Again, it’s a matter of time, but I wish we would have given our moderator the power to interrupt candidates half-way through some of their answers to say, “We asked for two examples and so far we haven’t heard one.” We’d gone out of our way to craft questions that would get to concrete examples, and the candidates still found a way, for the most part, to talk around the issues. I was particularly let-down by the responses to the question, “You’ve heard Dr. Fallon, the President of Eastern Michigan University (EMU), say tonight that he was open to partnering with the city. What’s the first thing you would ask that EMU do to help turn things around in Ypsilanti?” I’d expected to hear about things like programs to incentivize the University’s faculty to live within the city, or free consulting services offered by Business School students to local retail establishments, but we heard nothing. Not one idea was suggested by anyone on the panel. They all just said that they wanted to work more closely, as though that means anything.

The fact that we didn’t hear many criticisms afterward tells me that we did a pretty good job of staying “fair and balanced,” but there were a few. I read one comment on another website that said we should have made sure that a question was asked concerning the encouragement of EMU student involvement in local life. For what it’s worth, I agree with the criticism. I think, given the fact that we were at EMU and had students in the audience, we should have probably taken the question concerning the involvement of children in civic life out of the mix, and replaced it with the one we had concerning college student involvement. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

The only other kind of negative comment that I’ve heard was from a candidate for City Council who wished that we would have kept the tape running to capture the two-minute stump speeches given by the non-mayoral candidates. And that’s probably my fault. When I asked Sam to do our audio/video, I told him that we only needed the mayoral debate. If we had it to do over again, I would have lobbied to have done it differently. I would vote to either drop the non-mayoral piece altogether (to make more time for the debate), or somehow do more to incorporate them (like adding them to the podcast). (My concern is that if we have events go longer than 2-hours, that we’ll see turnout drop precipitously.)

Anyway, those were the only two negatives I’ve heard thus far. No one, to my knowledge, has suggested that we skewed our questions to either favor, or unnecessarily skewer, any specific candidate. No one has suggested that we blew an opportunity to initiate substantive dialogue. A few people commented that they didn’t hear a lot of content from the candidates, but they didn’t seem to hold us responsible for that.

I’m tempted to edit the audio into some kind of news piece, drawing attention the most telling exchanges, but I’m afraid that doing so might tip my hand as to who I’m voting for, and, in the current environment, where it seems like everyone is lobbying on behalf of their favorite candidate or slate of candidates, I’ve decided to stay mum… I don’t know how long I can keep this little promise to myself, but I’m thinking that I’d like to stay outwardly impartial when it comes to local politics. Sure, I might be able to help sway a person or two if I jumped into the fray, but I think that there’s a value to having a place or two online where there isn’t necessarily an agenda operating behind the scenes. And, I think that if we decide to continue doing things under the “YpsiVotes” banner, impartiality is important.

So, if you want to know which candidate took responsibility for the Water Street fiasco, or who made the assumption that our prostitutes are black, or who answered “the gay question” disingenuously, you’ll have to find out elsewhere. I’m not going to tell you.

If you’re interested, several other local bloggers were present. You can find their posts at Loose Tea, Ypsi-Dixit, and East Cross. And, if you want to listen to the whole thing and draw your own conclusions, the audio is on Sam’s site.

Ypsialnti is facing one hell of a hard fight in the months and years to come, as revenues dry up and as the multiple, sever cuts begin to take their toll, but the good news is that those of us who live here are beginning to engage at a level we hadn’t before. I’d like to think that it speaks well to the democratic spirit being alive and well in Ypsi, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that we’re so close to the brink. (Nothing motivates people like the prospect of not having a Fire Department.) Whatever the reason, it’s an exciting time to be here and I look forward to working alongside all of you to find creative solutions to our problems… Ypsilanti is the little lifeboat that Linette and I chose for our family, and I intend to do everything that I can to make sure that it stays afloat.

Oh, one last thing… During the debate, I mentioned the fact that we wouldn’t be able to ask every question submitted by the citizens of Ypsilanti and challenged the mayoral candidates to come to the YpsiVotes site and address the concerns of their neighbors. To my knowledge, none of them, however, have taken the time to do that over the past few days. I realize that they’re busy knocking on doors and looking for votes, but I think they should at least do us the courtesy of stopping by the site and commenting on a few of the questions. And, over the next few days, I plan to write a formal letter, restating the challenge, and asking that they all take five hours between now and the August 8 primary to leave their comments… I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

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10 Comments

  1. Ted Glass
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Any chance you might ge the video up on YouTube?

  2. ol' e cross
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’ll go.

    On creative solutions. Our lifeboat is leaking. We need creative solutions, but at the rate we

  3. Jennifer
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Mark,

    To your idea regarding interrupting candidates who don’t answer questions properly/completely… …I think you’re underestimating the audience, who probably came to their own conclusions. We know when candidates aren’t answering the question asked or are skirting the topic.

    There. I lurked; now I comment.

    The debate went very well! The committee did an outstanding job. I was very impressed with the timeclock.

  4. mark
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, but we did not make the timeclock.

    And, as for your comment Ol’ E, someday soon I will tell you all how to vote, but I will do so under the pseudonym “David Kircher”.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    incentivize?

  6. mark
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Yes… Don’t they use that word where you come from, Taint? Is it all sticks and no carrots down there where you are?

  7. mark
    Posted July 31, 2006 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    (Brett has great images of Kurcher and everyone else up on his site now.)

  8. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know that it really qualifies as a press release, but Steve just issued something on the subject of Google.

    Google Coming to Ypsilanti?
    (Ypsilanti, Michigan – August 1, 2006)

  9. schutzman
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    …a candidate for City Council wished that we would have kept the tape running to capture the two-minute stump speeches given by the non-mayoral candidates.

    Be careful what you wish for:

    Audio of the non-mayoral candidates’ speeches

  10. BrianR
    Posted August 1, 2006 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    That is so sweet.

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