by Ralph Routon
If you ever wanted to see how a pre-election candidates forum should work, you should have been among the 160 or so people who crammed into the Westside Community Center on Tuesday night for an event sponsored by the Organization of Westside Neighbors.
It wasn't perfect, but it was definitely enlightening.
The forum covered the mayoral race as well as the City Council at-large and District 3 battles, with a few candidates missing. Steve Bach was the only absentee among the mayoral group, with the other eight filling the stage. Of the 16 vying for five at-large seats, only Tim Leigh and Dawn Lloyd couldn't make it. Leigh had a representative there, handing out fliers and saying Leigh was in Florida.
Lisa Czelatdko and Michael Merrifield led off, with the OWN sponsors squarely in that district. Both made their usual points with no real surprises. But one recurring question, asking everyone whether they would support collective bargaining for city employees, separated the two. Czelatdko answered "no" while Merrifield hedged, as others did later.
From there, though, the at-large Council candidates (who took the stage in three groups) and the mayoral crowd provided some interesting comments and quotes.
Among the at-large campaigners:
Newcomer Brandy Williams did a nice job selling herself as a civil engineer who could bring needed expertise on Utilities issues.
Sean Paige, calling himself the "accidental Councilor," said the city was not business-friendly anymore.
Bill Murray, who recently served on the Memorial Hospital citizens committee addressing ownership issues, said, "I'm not accidental. I'm here on purpose."
Helen Collins, part of Douglas Bruce's gang, answering the question of whether she would want to revise the local Taxpayer's Bill of Rights: "I have to be a TABOR supporter." Really.
Jan Martin made more than a few people gulp by saying, "This is the first time all of us have met as a group, and it's just three weeks until the election." Meaning, of course, three weeks until mail ballots go out, but that's still scary.
Then came the mayoral field. Some highlights:
Mitch Christiansen talked about "18 years of steady decline" in the city, which he called a "rudderless ship."
Phil McDonald, who's never held public office: "This is no time for on-the-ground training of a new mayor."
Kenneth Duncan: "We need to unite and stop the madness," saying he'd take less than the full salary of $95,000-plus and pay "50 percent of the health-care insurance."
Richard Skorman: "I'm the Reform Team. Not them."
Who won? Who lost? That depended on whom you liked going in, most likely. From all indications, not many minds were changed. But from the size of the crowd, it's obvious the level of interest is high.