Really, there is no other word for it. I have been to three mayor debates now and the format is insulting.
One of the fundamental concepts of the strong mayor system is for each candidate to formulate a vision for the city and to articulate that vision. That person in essence draws a strategic plan for the city and if the public agrees with the plan, elects that person mayor. The current format of the mayoral debates precludes the candidates from saying anything more complex than a sound bite. Each candidate has 30 to 60 seconds to reply to the question. And the answers closely resemble the old child’s game of telephone, where a sentence is told to the first child in the line who repeats it to the second, who repeats it to the third, and so on to the last. By the time the sentence gets to the last child, it no longer even resembles that posed to the first. In the mayor debates, often by the third respondent to a question, the candidates are no longer replying to the question asked. Further, there is no opportunity for an understanding of a candidate’s goals, does he really even understand the issues or the nuances of the issues more that an ability to spout a cliché? All that is left unknown by the format of the debates.
What’s left to the viewer is a visceral impression of the candidate. How does he handle himself? Is he appropriate? Does he spar well? Does he leave an impression of self-confidence?
On that basis, here are my impressions: Steve Bach is fading. His says very little, not even taking up the tiny amount of time allotted for his answers. His self-confidence clearly is in need of a boost. At the council meeting today, he complained of trying to raise funds to run a campaign to run against a self-funded candidate. Brian Bahr is rising. He seems more sure of himself and so far, has avoided any major gaffs. Richard Skorman is treading water. Running for office is an exercise that should be an exhilarating experience, and yet Skorman seems oddly detached from it. Gallagher is always hard to get a read on; yet somehow, he always over achieves. Gillmore is an interesting person, but for now, I still have him in the middle third.
There will be more debates. Hopefully they will offer more time for candidates to respond to a question. Give them five minutes to answer a question and see what happens. Can they string more than two sentences together? Can they hold the interest of an audience that long? Will we ever know, before it’s too late?