On Thursday evening, several candidates running for Ypsilanti City Council will be participating in a “meet and greet” sponsored by the Jaycees. The event, which I was initially led to believe would be formal a debate, is set to take place at the Mix Marketplace (200 W. Michigan Avenue). It’s scheduled to run from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, and it’s my understanding that a majority of the candidates running in the August 7th Democratic Primary, for both the Ward 1 and Ward 3 seats, will be in attendance. The candidates running are as follows.
– Tyrone Bridges
– Steve Pierce
– Lois Richardson
– Mike Eller
– Pete Murdock
– Ted Windish
In advance of the event, the Jaycees sent out a number of questions to each of these individuals. All but Pierce and Eller responded. You can find the collected responses here.
And, here, for those of you who are interested in such things, is an exchange that I just had with David Palmer, one of the organizers of the event. (It appears with his permission.)
MARK: As I understand it, Thursday evening’s event was originally promoted by the Jaycees as a debate. From what I’m seeing now, though, it looks as though it’s being referred to as a “meet and greet.” Why was it decided to change the format?
DAVID: I don’t recall the Jaycees ever promoting the event as a “debate”, in fact I’ve tried not to use that term. It’s been promoted as a forum, and a meet & greet. If debate slipped out in a post somewhere then it was more out of habit then out of intent. People generally like to refer to these events as debates.
“Debates” are never really debates, at least in my experience.They tend to be more like panel discussions where candidates bring their people and questions get submitted to try and torpedo the other candidates in front of the crowd. In my experience few unaffiliated members of the public show up to “debates”, and they take an extremely long time to complete, which helps keep attendance numbers low.
We (Jaycees) went with the meet & greet format because we think it is important for voters to actually meet the candidates, engage in conversation, and ask direct questions. Thus, the survey was compiled from questions submitted by actual voters, and there will be an opportunity to exchange questions and ideas at the event. I only edited out the obvious duplicate questions and made corrections for minor grammar issues.
Over 400 hundred likely voters in Ward 1 and Ward 3 received post card invitations to the event last week, and several hundred people have been contacted via Facebook. I am hopeful that there will be a nice crowd.
The event opens at 6:30 PM. Copies of the survey will be made available at the door. At around 7:00 PM the presentations will begin. The Jaycees will do a welcome and a quick presentation highlighting our 75 years of public service in this community. Next each candidate will be invited to take five minutes to address the crowd. We will be distributing cards to the attendees to submit additional questions, which I will review and present after the candidates speak. When the speaking stops, the intention is for the candidates to go to their literature tables and engage the voters in small groups, or one on one.
Ted Windish, Mike Eller, Steve Pierce and Tyrone Bridges have confirmed they will attend. Pete Murdock has only said that “maybe” he will attend.
Lois Richardson declined to attend the event in favor of going to a labor union convention instead. She did not complete the survey, but instead sent a letter, which I used to answer the first survey question.
MARK: Of the questions that were sent, by the Jaycees, to each of the candidates running for City Council in Wards 1 and 3, I notice that two individuals – Steve Pierce and Mike Eller – did not respond. Did they give you a reason as to why they refused to comply with your request?
DAVID Steve Pierce and Mike Eller did not give reasons for why they did not answer the questions. I took the liberty of inserting their contact info at the end of the survey. This info was obtained from the Washtenaw County Elections website.
As far as I am aware, this is the only public event scheduled for this election. I expect reporters from the Ypsilanti Courier and AnnArbor.com to be in attendance. I’m not aware of any candidate survey sent out by either publication, so this is also likely the only candidate survey for this election as well.
No other candidates from other political affiliations will appear on the November ballot, so this is the only chance voters have to decide who represents them unless a write-in candidate files for the November election. Given the prevalence of straight-ticket voting in this area, a write-in campaign would need to be incredibly well organized to have a shot at beating the winners of the Democratic Party Primary.
As I mentioned to David after this exchange, while I disagree with him on the value of debates, as well his assertion that people don’t attend them, I very much appreciate his efforts, as well as those of the Jaycees, to get these individuals in front of voters. In an election where, at least to me, it seems as though many of the candidates are hesitant to state what they actually believe publicly, in favor of addressing people one at a time, and giving them sometimes very different answers to the same questions, I think this is a big step forward. Still, though, I would have liked to have seen a little give and take between candidates.
Speaking of campaigning without publicly stating what you believe in, have you seen Steve Pierce’s campaign website? It just says “call me.”
It might be a great strategy for winning, but, as an inquisitive voter, I find it lacking. But, there are other things in this year’s City Council race that I find more worrisome… like a certain candidate’s apparent association with a John Birch Society front group… Hopefully all of this and more will come up tomorrow night.