Appalling Ground Rules for Coral Gables Candidates Event

Large cattle-call events are never a very good way to figure out who to vote for. Even so, tonight’s Coral Gables Commission candidate event at UM seems to have been expressly designed to be about as awful as possible.

Consider this trifecta of horribleness:

  • The candidates have only sound-bite-size times to speak.
  • The candidates are discouraged from responding to each other: the event is “not designed or intended to be an opportunity to engage and debate your fellow candidates”.
  • Candidates are expressly encouraged to pack the meeting with partisans — and their responses will be monitored in real time with electronic clicker-style devices.

This is a recipe for a circus, not an meaningful moment of civic deliberation. Clicker rating of candidate statements makes sense if you have a panel of representative voters but not if the sample is biased by who bused in the most partisans (read, who has the most money to spend).

Shame on the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce for emphasizing the superficial and making meaningful discussion not just unlikely but nearly impossible. And shame of then again for going for glitz over meaningful data.

Here is the text of the ground rules circulated by the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce for the event tonight at the University of Miami Field House.

Based on the large number of candidates who have qualified, we will be modifying the format of the Forum slightly from our original plan. The new format is as follows:

1) Group III, which has 5 candidates, will take part in the first session, commencing at 6pm
2) Group II, which has 3 candidates, will begin at approximately 7:15pm
3) Group I, the mayoral candidates, will begin around 8pm

There will be a short break in between sessions to allow for re-set of the dais. Coral Gables TV will be televising the program, live to tape.

Each candidate will have one minute for his or her opening statement, 90 seconds for closing remarks and one minute to answer each question posed by the moderator. We strongly encourage candidates to use their time to promote their platforms and to share their ideas and experiences. The Forum is not designed or intended to be an opportunity to engage and debate your fellow candidates.

Each candidate is encouraged to invite his or her supporters to attend the Forum. We have included the event invitation for you to post and share (attached). Each candidate will also be provided a 6-foot table outside the venue to place campaign literature. No distribution of campaign materials will be allowed inside the Field House.

Appropriate decorum from all candidates and their supporters is expected at all times. Any disruption or outburst takes away from the seriousness of the occasion.

We invite each candidate to submit one question that will be asked, without attribution, to all the candidates in your Group. Please submit your question by Friday, March 22nd at 4 pm directly to Patrick O’Connell at [email address] for inclusion.

Our moderator will be Perry Adair, Incoming Chairman of the Chamber and Managing Shareholder of the Coral Gables office of Becker & Poliakoff. It will be his responsibility to make sure the candidates abide by the rules of the event, and in particular, the time allotted to each candidate for opening/closing statements and to answer each question. The moderator will have the authority to ask follow-up questions. If he does so, he will announce the time allotted for the candidates to answer the follow-up question.

This will be an interactive event. There will be real-time audience participation in the Forum via a “clicker” system. Much like the “ask the audience lifeline” we are all familiar with, members of the audience will be given wireless devices that they can use to give their input. For example, on some questions, the audience will be given an opportunity to indicate which candidate’s answer to the question was the best. At the beginning and end of each session, the audience will be asked to indicate which candidate they are leaning towards supporting.

Coral Gables deserves better than this.

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3 Responses to Appalling Ground Rules for Coral Gables Candidates Event

  1. Gablesgirl says:

    It is easy to yell from the bleechers when you have never been on the field. Suggest next time you check your facts. Most of this is incorrect. Being an academic you should know better.

    • Ross Hancock says:

      As a participant in the forum, my fear going into it was that it would be difficult to make an emotional connection as well as address actual issues within a one-minute framework. It was very ambitious to present ten candidates in three hours. The forum itself was very professionally conducted. We should ask ourselves as a community what we need to do in order to know more about the people we are voting for. The mailers I am seeing are pretty noncommittal and nonspecific. Could there be a forum in which “engaging or debating your fellow candidates” was encouraged, rather than prohibited? Otherwise, we don’t get to see how candidates really think and discourse until they begin their four-year terms.

    • Maria Anderson says:

      I’ve been both on the bleachers and the field, and this debate was a poor excuse of a public forum. Clickers, really? What’s the purpose on a question about the current commission decorum and relationship to the City Manager have to do with the current crop of candidates qualifications for audience?

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