Letter: SLO County’s election debate a blazing success
To the editor,
SLO County’s first election debate of 2016 was a blazing success! It couldn’t have gone better. The Avila Beach Community Center was filled to capacity with over 100 persons attending and asking questions of our 3rd District Supervisor candidates.
Many members of the media were present, including print, radio and television.
The debate format was unprecendented. The debate was completely unmoderated with no time limits or pre-formed questions. Citizens were able to ask their questions directly of the candidates without having to write questions out to be filtered by a panel and read by a moderator.
When I first conceived of organizing a debate with no moderator, I was told it would be very risky. People might get out of hand, and no one would be present to stop personal attacks between candidates. I was heavily personally criticized by one media outlet and black-balled by our daily newspaper. One candidate refused to participate, calling it a ‘free for all’ format and a ‘farce’.
I was honestly worried about the evening, but I have a lot of faith in our community and the candidates in this election.
It was incredible to see how well the unmoderated format actually turned out. There was not a bit of incivility all evening, and I believe everyone was actually more civil because of the personal working relationship generated between the candidates who had to work together to manage the event cooperatively. Our citizens seemed pleased to be able to speak directly in their own words.
An officer of the League of Women Voters even congratulated me after the event.
I feel very honored that, as just one person, I could put together an election debate that brought our community together for an evening of positive discussion. I work as a firefighter, and I’m just one guy who wanted to do something that ended up costing me two or three weeks of my personal salary. But it went so well, I’m hoping to do it again. I feel that I helped our community.
I wish to thank the candidates and the community for their participation, the Avila Beach Civic Association for use of their facility, and AGP Video for capturing the event which will replay on channel 21 and be available to watch on slo-span.org.
-Activist and debate organizer Kevin P. Rice of San Luis Obispo