24 candidates get Westside exposure

       A total of 24 city election hopefuls participated in a candidate forum sponsored by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) Feb. 24 at the Westside Community Center.

Many of the roughly 200 in attendance discuss issues during a break at the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) candidate forum Feb. 24 in the Westside Community Center gym.
Rioux Jordan photo – special to the Westside Pioneer

       Attended by roughly 200 people, the event was deemed a success by OWN President Welling Clark. He said he's also heard positive feedback from Westsiders, for whom the forum was the only one scheduled in their part of town before the April 5 election.
       “On the whole, all the people I talked to that weren't campaigners were very appreciative.” Clark said. “They got some answers and specifics. And we were pleased with the tremendous turnout of people.”
       The questions asked were picked from a list of more than 20 that OWN had sent in advance to the candidates to give them time to prepare. “We didn't want to do a stump-the-candidate thing,” Clark said. “We wanted them to understand the problems, and we want voters to make informed and educated decisions.”
       The breakdown of candidates on hand was as follows: 8 of the 9 running for mayor, 14 of the 16 seeking the five available at-large council seats and both people who want the District 3 council seat.
       The election date is April 5, but because it's a mail-in election, ballots will start being sent out to residents as early as March 11, according to the City Clerk's Office. (For voting and registration details, see story, Page 5.)
       Each candidate at the forum was asked three questions that allowed 50-second answers and two that called for yes/no answers, after which each got to deliver a one- minute concluding statement.
       The setting for the forum was the Westside Community Center's Hughes Gymnasium, the floor of which was set up with folding chairs for about 160 people. Those seats were mostly filled, with 40 or so people standing, Clark said. Around the sides of the gym interior, several candidates had tables with posters and handouts.

At the candidate forum Feb. 24 at the Westside Community Center, moderator Jim Bensberg starts to read the first question to the mayoral hopefuls, (seated from left) Dave Munger, Kenneth Duncan, Tom Gallagher, Brian Bahr, Richard Skorman, Buddy Gilmore, Mitch Christiansen and Phil McDonald.
Westside Pioneer photo

       During the event, the candidates went up in pre-assigned groups onto the raised stage facing the audience (they were seated, but stood with a microphone when it was their turn to speak).
       First up were the two for District 3, then the eight for mayor, then seven of the at-large candidates, then four more at-large. By that time, about 7:45 p.m., three other at-large candidates had arrived from another political event, and Clark agreed to let them go on stage and have the same opportunity the others had had.
       The forum presented no new initiatives, major gaffes or bickering. In an easy-going way, moderator Jim Bensberg kept people from rambling past the allotted time or answering outside the limits of the questions. At one point, when people in the audience were getting a little raucous, Clark interjected with a request that people not boo or make catcalls, and this request was mostly followed from then on.
       A moment of humor was provided after one mayor candidate, Mitch Christiansen, who was breathing from an oxygen tube while awaiting his turn to speak, explained that his need had resulted from a recent bout of pneumonia. The next speaker, Phil McDonald, then joked that he had moved his chair on top of Christiansen's tube.
       On Westside issues, all the candidates expressed at least some degree of interest in solving the “No Man's Land” infrastructure neglect west of 31st Street, supporting a Westside historic overlay zone and moving ahead on a new Cimarron/I-25 interchange.

Westside Pioneer article