Candidates’ night wasn’t worth the time

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To the editor:

If you were lucky, you missed the April 23 election forum at the library auditorium. I only wasted an hour because I skipped the council portion and arrived in time to listen to the two mayoral candidates.

Bob Barr, representing Ocean City Community Association (OCCA) announced that the format that evening would be changed but never made clear what the new format would be or why it was changed. Originally, the candidates were to make a short statement then field questions prepared by OCCA members. At this point, Barr said each candidate would make a 5 minute statement then answer questions.

What wasn’t clear, however, was that the questions would not come from the audience but from individuals, one-on-one with the two candidates as they lingered in the auditorium after their speeches. This is a far cry from a question that the entire audience hears, the candidate has to respond to and is recorded for later broadcast on our public TV channel.

At first I thought the audience was going to be allowed to ask questions and I had already formed a question for Mayor Gillian, “Why are you suppressing the broadcast of the first mayoral debate that you refused to attend and declined to reschedule.”

Since Ed Price had showed up and answered questions from two local editors for over an hour, he deserves to have his performance shown to the voters. And the mayor owes voters an explanation. He has now avoided the first two of only three public confrontations with his challenger with the help of OCCA.

In published comments, Barr claimed the format had to be changed because the OCCA questions had been lost in a member’s computer the previous weekend. This reminds me of a story of a dog and some homework.

As to why the audience couldn’t have been allowed to ask their own questions, Barr expressed fear that we might make speeches or “start yelling.” Now I know why we need watchdogs like Barr — to keep democracy from breaking out. Had we been allowed to go ahead without his guiding hand, undecided voters might have discovered which candidate was deserving of their trust. Who knows, we might even have gone into overtime, as undisciplined as we are.

It’s time to contact the League of Women Voters and ask them to run Ocean City debates with real audience input.

Mac McCarthy
Ocean City

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