As I stated in the April issue of Life in Naples this is the second part of a two part article.
All I ever asked for in all of the campaigns that I have participated in which have been many is a level playing field when it comes to campaign events that involve the candidates. Although the event organizers generally mean well there are no rule books written with guidelines for hosting candidate forums and each forum was a challenge for me. It’s January and up to now the campaign has been relatively benign.
With the election 10 weeks away and from Park Shore to Port Royal, property owner associations wanted to host candidate forums and debates. Add to that list The League of Women Voters and the Naples Daily News and my schedule was full.
As soon as an invitation for one of these events was received I would contact the person in charge and ask them what the format was. Some even asked me for guidance because they had never done one before. Now you might wonder where I’m going with all of this and what’s the big deal but as far as I was concerned if every I wasn’t dotted or T crossed it was going to be an advantage to one of us. There were three of us running for Mayor. It was important to know how much time was allotted for our opening and closing remarks, how was it going to be determined who goes first and does the person who gives his or her opening remarks first
get to go last. How was the seating order determined because sitting in the middle was strategically an advantage? Would there be a timekeeper and would we get a 30 second or a minute warning to let us know when our time was up? Would there be written
questions from the audience and who was going to monitor those questions to make sure they weren’t stacked, and, if they were live who selected the people to ask the questions?
I can smile now that this campaign is over, but there were some memorable moments that raised my blood pressure because of the unfairness. I’m not accusing any foul play, but there were certainly some questionable calls. I had helped an individual who was hosting an event and I had suggested and she had agreed that the fair way to arrange the speaking order was to write number one, two and three on separate pieces of paper, fold them up, and have the candidates draw them out. Easy, right? One would think that when all three candidates arrived they would draw the numbers out, but that was not the case. I arrived at the event and was greeted and shown the glass that the numbers were in and was told that one other candidate had arrived before me and had already drawn and there were two numbers left and of course number three was the one that was picked. I drew number two and of course the last candidate that arrived had to go first, definitely not the fair way to do it.
The next event was another property owners association candidate forum and up until the night of the event we had no knowledge of how long we were going to be able to speak. This always made it difficult because it makes a difference of what I could say in two minutes versus three and whether we would have closing remarks or not. Well the president of the association made it very clear that we were going to be allowed three minutes and if we ran over that time limit she would have no problem telling us to stop immediately. I always heeded those warnings and made sure I didn’t run over. I spoke first that evening and used my allotted time with no penalties. The next candidate did the same, and I was using my timer on my iPhone just for my own edification.
When the last candidate spoke and the timer went past the three minute mark I glared at the time keeper and she just let him keep speaking for an extra 54 seconds. I would never say anything because then it’s perceived as being a crybaby but it was just another example of unfairness.
My final smile-able memory was on February 29th, at the Old Naples Associations Candidate debate. They had the event at the Norris Center and it was our last debate before the election. They had a sold out audience and I will say in all fairness to them that
they tried their very best to make it an evenly balanced night. They even spiced it up to make it different from all the other debates
and forums we had faced. They had a lightning round of true and false questions that we had to answer and the order was supposed to be mixed up. However our moderator decided after about 45 seconds of doing this that he couldn’t keep track of whose turn it was so he said that I would just go first for the rest of the rounds. The questions were difficult and some I just guessed at because they never did say whether the correct answer was true or false so it really didn’t matter. It was fun and by the time this debate was finished so were we with being on the campaign trail.
In two years when there will be a City Council Election I am volunteering right now to any group that will be hosting forums/ debates that I will help each and every one of them that asks me to make sure they are fair for all candidates.
Well, I guess you know by now that I was elected to serve you as your Mayor for the next four years. I am honored to be back and the bar has been raised and set for myself, the newly elected Council members, and our current sitting Council members. The voters sent a clear message and on behalf of all of us we will strive to live up to your expectations.
The other piece of good news is I will keep writing in Life in Naples which as you know I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to a continuing literary relationship with all of you. Yes, I will keep my sense of humor as well!
You may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org I do respond!