Some field notes I scribbled down during Wednesday night’s candidate’s forum in Aberdeen:
The Master of Ceremonies mistakenly skipped over and forgot to announce the name of city council candidate Bernard DeWitt. Then, as the catcalls picked up in intensity and he recognized his mistake, the MC had to back up, bend over and look at DeWitt’s name tag before finally saying his name over the sound system.
As much as we all want to love, embrace her and support the idea of her dark horse candidacy, why oh why, did the first 5 words out of 19-year-old mayoral candidate Nicole Burlew’s mouth have to literally be “I don’t really know anything…”?
I was surprised to see every mayoral and city council candidate in attendance Wednesday and I mean EVERY – Steve Johnson, wearing a nice sports jacket, was seated on the periphery with the rest of us who will not be appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot. Recently invalidated as a candidate because he doesn’t reside within the municipal limits of Aberdeen, Johnson, according to the rules of the forum, wasn’t even permitted to submit a question for his one-time fellow candidates. I wonder what he might have asked?
With 10 city council candidates (sorry Steve) and 3 mayoral candidates, the goal of the night was for the contenders to differentiate themselves from one another. The most successful at rising above the middling pack were Burlew (by default), incumbent mayor Fred Simmons, city council candidate Rick Denu, DeWitt, incumbent councilwoman Ruth Elliott (through sheer willpower), incumbent councilman Mike Hiob and city council candidate Ruth Ann Young. Everyone else had their moments, but is it wrong that my best recollections of city council candidates Alfred Bell and Bruce Garner were that one is an “avid basketball player” and the other admitted to reading off Elliott’s notes? By a show of hands, how many of you would have guessed mayoral candidate Mike Bennett would be the one copying from someone else’s answers?
The moderator only made it half-way through the cast of candidates on their very first question before having to call “time, sir” on DeWitt for extending beyond his designated allotment. That set off a chain reaction of about a dozen or so consecutive “time” violations. Hiob and Young were far and away the best at stopping when called for running over their time limits. Young replied each time with a quiet, “thank you,” and returned to her chair, but Hiob went a step further – at one point apparently stopping mid-sentence, if not mid-word, at the request of the moderator. As expected by anyone who has attended an Aberdeen City Council meeting or two, Elliott was the most egregious perpetrator of the overflow speech. Hand on her hip, voice raised and face flushed, Elliott several times continued on for another half-minute longer than allowed by ignoring the moderator’s repeated pleas of “time.”
– Opening a second Boys and Girls Club on the west side of the city: incumbent council man Ron Kupferman
– A certified public accountant or city finance director should create and control the budget, not the city manager: Denu
– With 39 churches in Aberdeen, the city shouldn’t have as many problems as it does: city council candidate Janice Grant
– Charging fees to those using city roads to get to Aberdeen Proving Ground, implementing a percentage-based reward for those who can find waste in the city budget (Hey, I just found such a waste – a percentage-based reward for those who can find waste in the city budget) and a call messaging system to inform Aberdeen residents of goings-on: Burlew
These are totally unfair, but good fun. In most cases, your guess as to what they are talking about is as good as mine:
“I’ve been to some hot places,” incumbent councilman Dave Yensan.
“I’m gonna die here,” Kupferman.
“I’ve learned to live with almost nothing; live in a hut,” Grant.
“We have to be jugglers,” Denu.
“Cultural conditioning must be eliminated in Aberdeen,” Elliott.
“I don’t mind playing as long as the game is clean,” DeWitt.
“Water, infrastructure…I’m just reading off Ruth’s notes,” Garner.
“They didn’t really think about that when we thought we’d be speaking Japanese or German one day,” Simmons.