Story about a Debate

This is a story about Amsterdam’s mayoral debate held October 25, 2011, in the conference room of Riverfront Center.  With questions and answers covered extensively in the local media and many tuned in to the live broadcast, this story is about what you didn’t hear.

The Recorder sponsored mayoral debate was a disappointment.  Nothing was gained in terms of useful information about the candidates that had not already been revealed.  The canned questions posed by Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel did not reflect what the actual voting public wanted to ask, instead were crafted by editorial staff of the Recorder, none of who live or vote in the City of Amsterdam.

The structure of the planned event leaked to the public weeks ago as described in my blog here.

This information irked Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel who attempted to dispel the information in Tim Becker’s blog Pars Nova here.

The event was exactly as described before. Only the two candidates appearing on the ballot were allowed to take part.  Questions were limited to Recorder staff only.  The event was not open to the public, but limited to 20 invitees each from the participating candidates. It was broadcast live by WCSS.

I attempted to get an invite to cover the event early in the process to no avail.  I made a last-minute appeal on the WCSS Facebook page to get a seat at the debate.  About 5:30PM yesterday, 4th Ward Alderman candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler knocked on my door informing me that I had a seat because of a cancellation, that I should get to Riverfront Center at 6pm.

Arriving at the WCSS station, I saw Charlie and Rebecca chatting inside.  Kraebel glanced in my direction through the glass and then executed an eye roll towards Rebecca.  I ducked my head in the room and asked if this is where the debate was to be held. I was told it was in the conference room just down the hall and did not start until 7PM.

Arriving at the empty conference room, I saw some tables set up at the far end of the room with 40 chairs lined up in front of them, only filling up half of the room.  A newly employed security guard stood at the entrance.  WCSS employee and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel walked by. I asked him about the cancellation and was told he has no say in who attends; it was up to the Recorder staff.

The security guard was handed a list of invited guests and was told to only admit people on the list and the press.  She was specifically told that the man in the plaid shirt (me) was not a member of the press. I was not alone in my predicament as others who were told to come as replacements were also left out.

The candidates soon appeared, each with their political posse.  It seemed as if the entire staff from the Recorder attended.  When it was clear that the 40 seats were not filled, those of us waiting were allowed in.

Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary introduced the event, reading from a prepared speech on his iPad he never made eye contact with the audience.  He is much smaller in stature and demeanor than I anticipated from the limited contact I have had with him through emails.  In sharp contrast, the physical appearance of the Recorder’s light-hearted humorist and Executive Editor Kevin Mattison is larger than his words.

The space agreed to by Recorder and WCSS staff was just not suited for a debate.  Although there was enough amplification, it was difficult to see the candidate’s faces. The two candidates sat behind a table at the same level as the audience. Some elevation would have helped. A good part of communication is taking in visual clues from facial expressions. This is one reason people are often misunderstood in blogs.  Personally I am much more adept with photography and visual communication than the written word, but most of you already know that.

The two candidates answered questions posed by Kraebel who sat at an adjoining table next to Rebecca who represented WCSS but remained silent during the debate.

Kraebel was robotic in posing the questions and never really probed deep enough.

Joe Emanuele has a poker face.  Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red power tie with pumpkin, he answered the questions calmly with very little hand gesturing.  He did not react when confronted or criticized.  Thane dressed in a tweed business suit with modest jewelry and toned down makeup. Thane’s facial expressions while Emanuele spoke were very telling as she often smirked mockingly at the audience.  When speaking, Thane frequently gestures with hands and arms flailing, at times self-consciously pulling her arms down to her sides. Thane tends to be very emotional when speaking in public, sometimes choking up as if about to cry. I have noticed this behavior in past speeches and was clear during her final statement.  If you have never tried it, public speaking can be very difficult.

There was applause at different points in the debate for both candidates.

The one redeeming factor of this debate is that we heard Joe Emanuele answer questions about his candidacy. Other than his first mayoral announcement that I recorded here, we have not heard much from this candidate.

The third mayoral candidate who was not invited by the Recorder to take part in the debate is William D. Wills.  Not supported by either major political party, write-in mayoral candidate Wills was given equal time by WCSS and went on the air immediately after the conclusion of the Recorder’s debate, to answer the same questions posed to the other two candidates.  With the support of his wife and daughters present during the broadcast, Wills entertained each question read to him by his daughter.

While I feel that Wills is the best choice for Mayor of Amsterdam, he may have hurt his chances with his off and on again campaign and refusal to accept campaign contributions from political parties. He was the only candidate to answer questions I posed to all three.  Those questions and his answers can be found here.

It is no secret that I openly support write-in candidate William D. Wills for Mayor. While I appreciate the fact that an attempt was made by the Recorder to present Amsterdam with a mayoral debate, I cannot get past the fact that Wills was excluded.

The last Mayoral debate held on November 6, 2007, did include a write-in candidate not supported by a major political party.  I would also liked to have heard answers to some questions posed by some actual residents of the City of Amsterdam.

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5 thoughts on “Story about a Debate

  1. Alayne

    Perfect snapshot of the debate details! From body language and facial expressions to apparel. LOVE IT! Thanks!

  2. diane

    Thank you for the great photos Jerry. I would agree, it would have been nice to have some audience participation to hear what they are concerned about. Thank you for the narrative of the event too.

  3. I ran for Mayor in 1996 as an Independent representing the Progressive Change Party. I learned much, mainly from John Duchessi, John Bintz, Mario Villa, Joe Sise, Danny Kielbasa on how to conduct a campaign and debate. I enjoyed the opportunity to get that far. I ran–I lost–I learned. The show went on. Two years later, I sat on the GASD and sponsored the Resolution to hire Ann Thane (shortly after the retirement of Mary-Margaret Gage at the Walter Elwood). Had I known that financial skills and abilities of the hired were going to run that place into the red, that would never had happened. Here’s the real challenge concerning any debate with Gerry Thane—throw away the notes, put down the answer sheet someone already prepped for you..Better yet, debate blindfolded..It would be a f’in gigglefest. Nice display of the American Flag also, sitting on a desk…Go to a Veteran’s Commission Meeting and get a clue, lady. Any non truth to that? Evil vindictive people running City Hall, and their followers are just as dirty.

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