Assessing them . . .
Posted 9/13/2007 6:21 AM
Yes, I was there, tucked in the back of the room. Every seat taken and people standing along the side. I talked to some individuals in the audience, inquiring why they came. Most explained they were attending to personally support a specific candidate.
First, I'd like to address the process, after all, it was to be a 45 minute forum . . . 5 minute was used for introduction and forum guidelines, 10 to 15 minutes was appropriately used by the moderator who asked the questions and enforced the protocol. That left approximately 25-30 minutes for the candidates. It is my belief, that wasn't adequate time to fully answer the questions.
The first question asked: What is right and wrong about Palm Springs? The first candidate, Bill Ferra, opened up by addressing the negative aspect of question. He said, "the city'doesn't listens to the people." I thought it would have been better to be more specific and provide 'evidence' that clearly showcased his point. However, considering he only had a minute to respond, I appreciated his emphasis and desire to hear from the residents regarding their concerns. Next was candidate Don Cook, who said 'we need a major clean up!" Huh? Not specific enough Don, break it down for me, that sounds so huge and overwhelming. I get idea that Don felt much change was needed, and considering he only had a minute to speak, maybe that says it all. At this point, the candidates were only addressing the negative aspect of the question . . . that was until candidate, Arlene Battishill opens up and talks about the amazing architecture and beauty of Palm Springs, placing an emphasis and desire to institute and manage smart growth. Wow, that's was good! The articulation of her vision was very refreshing. Now the question is posed to Steve Pougnet and he begins, "the mountains are right . . . the sunshine is right, ( Ahh, I feel myself smile, he's captured the poet in me) the downtown is wrong." In one minute, Steve had responded to both sides of the question . . . I felt his answer represented it all. I liked how his response left me feeling, he created a vision of beauty and articulated a desire to change the downtown so it can add to that. He appeared to have the bigger picture of Palm Springs, which was refreshing. The last candidate to address the question was John Tyman. He said something like . . . "city hall has to be much more accessible, let's build behind those green mesh fences." I wasn't for sure what he meant, but he appeared sincere in his concern to hear from the people.
At this point, I decided to put down my pen and paper. If they were going to say anything that had impact, surely I wouldn't forget it. So I decided to be attentive and see what stuck, what would I remember? Two of candidates were up to date on the city's budget, Steve Pougnet, a present councilman and Arlene Battishill, who referred to it and had a copy in hand (good preparation Arlene). I didn't get any feel from the others in regards to their insight into the budget.
The question that stirred emotion in me, was about what the city should do for the homeless. Words without a specific plan felt shallow and placating to me. I don't remember anything specific, except for Bill Ferra. Although I personally do not agree with his position, I really admired his courage to be open and honest, especially when I believe it may have cost him votes. He said he feels the homeless are not the city's responsibility. Personally, I respect his direct honesty. I believe he inferred he cared for the homeless, but felt help could come through the community and other charitable mediums.
The last major issue that really had impact, was the question about whether Palm Springs is prepared for terrorism or disasters. All the candidates said a little something that I don't recall. What I do remember is that candidate Arlene Battishill quickly pointed out that the city budget only has $60,000 alloted for disaster and prevention. She definitively said that we are not prepared, not ready, and noting we can't count on the Federal government, using the example of Katrina (I'm more optimistic that the federal government has learnt from that). She left me feeling disturbed by the thought of being so vulnerable, she definately had impact on how I was feeling. Then Steve Pougnet pointed out that a lot has been done by the police, fire departments, and first responders. I am sure there's a lot more that needs to be done. But I really appreciate Steve Pougnet comments and the acknowledgement he gave our police and fire departments. Yes, we can alway improve, but please do not disregard the hard work that has already been done. Lets not forget that the police and firefighters are the ones on the line to assist and protect us.
Yes, there were a lot more questions and comments. But for me, this is what stuck. In regards to specific candidates, there were many things said by all of them, but nothing that had termendous impact. I went to the forum with an open mind and walked out a bit more challenged by a few new insights. I appreciated the professionalism and the candidate's respect for the process. Even though the forum was tight on time, it did provide some insight into the candidates and their perspectives. The full risidual effect from the evening is still being sorted out. STILL SORTING . . .
(NOTE: I will write a response to the City Council Forum, some time next week. Regarding my letters of August 20th that were sent to the candidates, I have received seven out of thirteen responses. I am waiting another week and then I will write a blog entry about my thoughts and beliefs as to why some of the candidates didn't respond. After that, I will share my thoughts regarding those who did responded. I sincerely appreciate the candidates who took time to respond.)