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Mayoral Forums Dumb, Need New Formats

Mayoral Forums Dumb, Need New Formats

The forums seem like a bad summer sitcom where the same episode is replayed over and over.

Do you hear the whispering? An election? Where? When? Who is running? What do they stand for?

Someone says there is a mayoral election in Albuquerque, but with eight weeks before election day, most Albuquerque residents don’t seem to know about the election or what the candidates stand for. Whose fault is that?

I don’t blame the candidates. Trying to get a message out to the public is difficult on a good day. The problem is elsewhere.

The first problem I see is in the forums. Almost none of the forums so far have provided an accurate and effective way to question the candidates. The forums seem like a bad summer sitcom where the same episode is replayed over and over. For the most part, all you get from forums is “I love Albuquerque,” or “My family has lived here since the West Mesa volcanoes were erupting.”

Most of the forums do not provide the back and forth, think-on-your feet dynamics that would make this election exciting. And the way most of these are set up, where candidates are given two minutes for an opening statement and a minute to 90 seconds to answer questions, just don’t allow the candidates to really say anything.

At a recent, 90-minute forum, each of the eight candidates got 13 to 15 minutes of actual talking time. Even a used car salesperson needs more time than that.

And when forums are put on by special interest groups, you can bet the candidates are going to say whatever they think sponsors of the forum want to hear.

Future forums please take note and do something exciting because the current formats aren’t doing much to actually inform the people who show up to listen to the candidates. And they do almost nothing to engage the people in attendance. They basically force the candidates to give canned statements. There should at least be time for followup questions, especially when the candidates don’t actually answer the questions, which is often.

There is some hope, though. ABQ Free Press contributor Pete Dinelli reported the following about a forum held on July 29:

“I attended the North Valley-Downtown Mayoral Forum sponsored by Bernalillo County Democratic Wards 11 and 17 with about 125 attending. It was one of the best formats I have seen. The audience was broken down into five separate groups, and each candidate spoke separately to each group for 15 minutes answering as many questions as they could.

“For the first time I saw the candidates speak more spontaneously without canned answers. Attending the forum were Brian Colón, Michele Garcia Holmes, Tim Keller, Gus Pedrotty and Susan Wheeler-Diechsel.”

Almost no media coverage

Then there’s the big problem with the mainstream media not reporting much about this campaign so far. It’s the media’s responsibility to cover these events and inform the public as to what’s going on. One candidate told us that when he knocks on doors throughout the city, at least 40 percent don’t know who he or the other candidates are, or that there’s even an election going on.

That’s kind of insane.

And without real media coverage, we’re going to be left learning about the candidates through their 30-second TV and radio commercials. And we all know how worthless those are when it comes to conveying real information.

Let me provide two recent examples of KRQE, KOB, KOAT and the Albuquerque Journal failing to do their jobs.

Mayoral candidate Ricardo Chaves’ campaign manager, Bob Corneilus was arrested on July 25 by Albuquerque police for outstanding traffic warrants from Mora and Harding counties. That is news. It’s also news that Cornelius was driving on a suspended license. So why didn’t any mainstream media cover this?

More news that was missed by the mainstream was candidate Michelle Garcia Holmes boycotting the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce’s forum on July 27. Garcia Holmes held a press conference in front of the Chamber’s doors where she demanded that Chamber CEO Teri Cole be fired by the organization’s board of directors.

That’s big news! For a potential future mayor to place the blame for some of Albuquerque’s economic stagnation at the feet of Cole, who has managed the Chamber since 1983, is a bombshell. So where was the mainstream media?

The same evening Garcia Holmes demanded that Cole be fired, KRQE’s newscast had a story about, and I am not making this up, “Dozens of crawdads mysteriously show up in Albuquerque neighborhood.”

So, the news director at KRQE believes that crawdads in Albuquerque are more important than the long-term CEO of the Chamber of Commerce being told she is part of the problem in Albuquerque, not part of the solution, and that she should be fired.

I have written that the mainstream media in Albuquerque believes we are all stupid, but KRQE took it to a whole new level of dumbing it down.

And what about the police department and crime? ABQ Free Press has demanded specifics from the candidates regarding their vision for APD, but so far, I’ve seen nothing from other media outlets. What are they waiting for? Early voting starts in September, only six weeks away.

Albuquerque, you need to get excited about this mayoral campaign. The issues facing this city at this moment in history are huge. The next mayor will either turn the ship around or sail us over Niagara Falls (I would say Rio Grande falls but there aren’t any down here).

It’s time to get informed and enthusiastic about this election. In four years we can either be living in an Albuquerque that is a diamond in the desert, or in a town known as Albuerqistan.

In other words Albuquerque can continue being run by a powerful few who have regulated our city to one that looks and acts like a Third World nation, or we can become a first-class city.

Are you excited yet?

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

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  • KevinU
    August 1, 2017, 3:21 pm

    One example you cite in your critique of news coverage, the arrest of that campaign manager, seems petty and gossippy. You should be giving us details about each candidate’s positions, instead of whining about why you’re not getting that information from other news programs and papers.

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Lex Voytek is a nervous wreck and reading quiets the noise. Reach her at books@freeabq.com.