I have been chomping at the proverbial bit to make this announcement, but we had to get our ducks in a row.

They're lined up and quackin' (metaphor alert!).

Our friend David at GreaterFalls.com is taking the lead on a DEBATE for the City Commission and Mayoral Candidates. It will be sponsored by the Great Falls bloggers, and we'll be getting a great deal of help from the CMR Debate Team.

Here's the cool part. Not only will the questions come from you, the readers and the commenters, but there will be an actual winner of the debate. How, you ask? The audience will vote. And not only will they vote with their heads, they will vote with their pocketbooks.

Each attendee will be required to cast one $10.00 vote for the candidate he or she thinks won the debate. The candidates who receive the votes will also receive the money for their campaigns. Pretty interesting, isn't it? The Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices has already approved this voting method.

The exact format of the debate is still being worked out (again with the help of the CMR Debate Team) but will be some sort of modified town hall format. With local attorney Channing Hartelius serving as the moderator, the whole event will be designed to allow the audience to really get to know the candidates and how they perform under pressure.

If you have proposed debate questions, please leave them in the comments or email them to me. We'll then go through those submitted and select our favorites for inclusion.

Mark your calendars: October 17, 2007, at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $15.00, $5.00 for admission and $10.00 for the vote. It will be at the Northwest Center, 2201 Northwest Bypass.

I think that the local blogosphere, readers and writers, represents the most informed and interested members of our electorate. We're counting on you to prove that.

Please plan to attend.


Anonymous said...

Well done Geeguy!

Great for the community at large.
Will reservations be available?

Thanks, Will Z.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this style of vote going to show less who won the debate and more of who can pack the most supporters into the venue? How will it show who wins if each candidate just gets as many people as they can to pile in and make sure they "win" regardless of the substance?

GeeGuy said...

That's a fair question, but this is a democracy.

The people choose. Hopefully there will be enough independent people with interest to prevent any such stacking of the boxes.

mary jolley said...

Do I get in for free?
I'll show up even if I have to pay.
Thank you all so much for doing this.

Might we ban all candidates from having any notes with them?

Anonymous said...

Independent people willing to pay $15.00? If I were a candidate, I'd likely tell as many of my supporters as possible to fill the seats and vote for me, so I can later say how I "won" the debate by having the most votes. But those people were going to vote for me any way, right?
Sorry, but I think this debate format encourages only organization, not substance, and the idea of having a "winner" seems completely misleading.
Do you really expect that the majority of attendees for this will be anything but candidate supporters?

Anonymous said...

the best part of the whole scenario is the losing voters get to support the candidate they don't support with $10 of their very own money!

GeeGuy said...

Mary, I can see no reason to ban notes. It's not like successful candidates cannot have notes with them at meetings.

Anonymous said...

Stebbins and company will make city employees show up or else. Likely comp the entry fee as well with funds from the humane society.

Why should we expect anything less from this criminal syndicate?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, 7:52.

Nice attitude. These guys are trying to do something good and you sit back and anonymously shoot holes in it.

$15.00, isn't really all that much money, is it? Sounds like a lot of it will just be a donation.

Instead of bitching, why not try and get all the independent people you know to attend and vote.

I tell ya, the people in this town...

Anonymous said...

I love the idea. To squelch the naysayers, while not fool proof, you could ask those who attend the debate to declare which candidate they support in advance of the debate (as they arrive) via a quick survey. Then, compare the survey numbers and votes cast. This way, you'll know in advance if the house is stacked. Again, not fool proof, but may be something to consider.

mary jolley said...

I think folks have made some good points as to why the money raised should not go to candidates.

Another, some candidates have declared that they would not spend more than $500.00 on their races. Winning the debate might put them over the 500.00 bucks and cause them to file more paperwork than they had inticipated.

I think people might be more willing to come if it was free or 5 bucks to get in with no money going to candidates. I for one would like the money to go to a charity of my choice if I win.

And geeguy you did not answer my first question. Do I have to pay to get in.

GeeGuy said...

Mary: No, candidates do not have to pay to get in.

Any candidate who does not want the money voted for them, can certainly donate it to the charity of his or her choice. I will be glad to handle that to ensure that there is no problem of the candidate 'touching' (exercising dominion or control over) the money.

And there has to be an admission. The venue is not free.

Anonymous said...

Two questions. Is donna gonna show? And here's my first question. The current mayor had Stuart Lewin REMOVED from the podium for using the word "doubletalk". By what stretch of the imagination could this POSSIBLY be permissible under the guarantees of the first amendment of free speech? And why SHOULD the mayor disallow the comments of anyone? And WHY are no SUPPORTERS of the coal plant ever forcibly removed! Whoops. That was more than two. Sorry. But as far as the debate goes, BRING IT ON!, and to hell with the format. Any will do.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that people vote for their friends or vote for whomever their friends tell them is the best candidate. Therefore voting with a pocketbook is a great way to tell people who is a great candidate.

It is great to see youth getting involved in a fair and balanced debate program that consists of real world experience. They can meet candidate first hand without undue parental or teacher influence.

Scoop Montana said...

Geeguy - I'm watching from Missoula with much interest.

Great idea and good luck.

david said...

To all the naysayers: do you have any better ideas for assembling all of the candidates under one roof and having them explain their positions to a non-stacked audience, with questions that haven't been "vetted" by the Trib or KRTV?

Of course this isn't perfect -- but we never claimed that it would be. This is just ONE forum, ONE way to expose the candidates to a larger pool of people and voters.

Anonymous said...

Has KRTV and/or Tribune prepared any campaign coverage of sponsoring forums, debates? They were all over it with Tester and Burns...so will they be on top of it here when it really counts for
local politics?

Anonymous said...

We are paying the candidates to debate? That's what this comes down to.

Instead, why don't you charge the $5, and then distribute the $10 fee amongst those whose questions were chosen?

THAT would get a lot of questions submitted.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a great idea! A grassroots debate. Here's another question. WHY are there cops at the city council meetings? I want to know IN SPECIFIC DETAIL why lotten and the mayor feel that it is necessary to have cops at the meetings. Just WHAT precipitated the need for a police presence? And isn't it really just an intimidation tactic? And I would also like these candidates to speak at leangth on free speech and how it relates to public meetings. And I ALSO want to know why we were NOT allowed to vote on the coal plant?


WolfPack said...

Geeguy, I hope there is not going to be any time limits on audience participation/free speech. Looks like LK will need at least an hour to get his questions and follow-ups dealt with.

GeeGuy said...

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether the Tribune or the television stations cover this.

As far as the various format suggestions, I think I am staying put. I wanted to do a 'winner take all' approach, but the Commissioner of Political Practices office said "no." So, we're doing it the way we're doing it.

As far as paying the candidates to debate, I guess I look at it as paying the candidates to debate well. At least I hope so.

And Wolfpack, I am looking at LK's questions as "topic areas." :)

Shane C. Mason said...

Interesting idea. Good deal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Gee Guy. Topic areas are good. But in light of the current crisis is city government, I think that a basic understanding of the Constitution and the rights it guarantees to all citizens should be a prerequisite for anyone wanting to serve on the commission for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the city could be laible for a HUGE lawsuit for illegal arrest if the mayor continues to push the envelope by having people removed for using a word as innocuous as "doubletalk". And I guarantee that there are people willing to challenge such abuses. (myself included) We need people in there that are going to allow the democratic process to work. That's all. And that's my biggest concern. The people of GF have effectively been taken out of the process. No vote. Time limits. Arrested or dragged from the podium if the mayor doesn't like what they're saying. Democracy is all about fairness. Therefore, we need people in there who can assure that these major decisions are arrived at fairly, with full public participation. We currently do not have that with a mayor, city manager, and commission so fearful that they must use the p.d. for backup and intimidation. Is it so wrong to demand that our elected leaders do things fairly? I say no.


Anonymous said...

This stinks. I'll lay odds that this entire thing was set-up by Stebbins or those in her camp.

Controlled questions. Payment for debate. Use the resulting PR of a packed house to show the voting citizenry that "the people like me, really, they do! And here's the proof."

This is NOT democracy when we pay those running to debate well, preselect the questions and charge the public to attend.

What this does show is just how far their moral compass has been corrupted and compromised in order to obtain what they want by labeling this under the guise of "town hall-like forum" and charging so that only the few can and will attend.

Anonymous said...

Re Anonymous said...

6:03 AM, September 25, 2007

and Anonymous said 8:30 AM, September 25, 2007

Are you really that out of touch with how GeeGuy has run this forum or are you some kind of plant like a Holy Hal?

Your comments are interesting so could you rationally go through your thought process as to why you see things the way you do?

Just wondering.

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with this setup is that the "winner" of this debate will be able to go out and advertise how they "won", implying they had the best ideas and are the best candidate.
However, the only way that would be true is if the audience was restricted to undecided voters. Since it won't be, and the candidates are free to bring as many supporters as they can so they can obtain the braggin rights of having "won" the debate, I would expect all the candidates to get as many of their supporters there as they possibly can, not only so they can "win" the debate but to obtain the funds they'll receive, not from giving the best answers but from bringing the most people.
I think a debate is a great idea, but let's not pretend that the "winner" means the candidate who performed the best. All it will show to me is the candidate who was able to organize the best attendance of their supporters.
I would rather the Tribune report what the candidates say as opposed to reading about who "won" the next day.
This may make me a naysayer, but no one has yet said how I'm wrong about this. Let's just have a debate without the need to proclaim a "winner" based on numbers of supporters in attendance and let individuals decide and debate who they thought the winner was based on their substantive answers.

Anonymous said...

Well, let me just add that I've BEEN to lots of debates sponsored by the league of women's voters and the Fibune, and I found the debates to be PATHETIC! But I have never been to a homegrown, grassroots debate like this one. My gut feeling, for what it's worth, is that it will be much better than those other debates. I'm intrigued by the idea. And let's face it, if anyone is up to asking tough questions, it's Gee Guy. I fully trust him to ask the type of questions that will definitely show us the nature of the candidates. And that's all I aks of a debate. And I don't personally worry too much bout anyone filling the audience with supporters. I mean, look, if the coal opponents can get one hundred people to show up on the steps of city hall for a protest, I'm sure that they will be well-represented at the debate. Besides, I guess that I'm for ANY format at this point. I just want to see them side by side on a stage. I see nothing wrong with this. And the bloggers are about the most concerned citizens around. Why SHOULDN'T they sponsor a debate? I can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Ooops! Sorry bout the Ebonics in that last post.


Susan Kahn said...

Greg and David, thank you for the effort to organize this event. While I look forward to a debate, I disagree with the pay-per-view concept. I also disagree with the format.

Let’s make this a true and open forum with the only “entry price” being the citizens name on a draw card. Have a random drawing and let the selected citizen ask their question. No pre-screening, let the chips fall as they may.

This is about getting the public involved with their government and having a real voice again. This is the core of my candidacy. The people don’t have trust in their government. Why would they have trust in people selecting the questions in advance?

I’m sure with a little leg work we can find a willing venue at a church or school.

Susan Kahn
Candidate for Mayor

mary jolley said...

If I were trying to get money for my campaign, I would find it easier to just ask my friends for money. I hope there are a lot of people who would like to find out something about those running. I would be happier if many, many people came. Paying $15.00 to enter and vote will limit the number of people who come.

Geeguy might you be able to air a “tape” of the event on your web site, or a live feed for people who want information but might be reluctant to support financially candidates they would not vote for.

I know you spent time thinking about this event and again I thank you but I also fear it might turn into something no one planned. I’m game but will wear my running shoes just in case.

And I will not be trying to get my friends to show up. I also wanted no notes just so I wouldn’t have to prepare in any way except how in the olden days we prepared for our SAT tests – we tried to get a good night’s sleep.

I also don't care where the questions come from.

P.S Three minute law breaker trial on Friday.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous said...9:21 AM, September 25, 2007

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I can understand your thoughts but you give me something else to think about:

1) You say: "winner" of this debate will be able to go out and advertise how they "won", implying they had the best ideas and are the best candidate.

My thought: Yes. But candidates do that no matter who hosts any debate and no matter what the media reports.

2) You qualify it by suggesting: that would be true is if the audience was restricted to undecided voters.

My thoughts: Not necessarily.

Many people might come because GeeGuy is known for his fair and balanced tack and that in itself makes it restricted to unbiased media or political controls.

It is impossible to claim you are right because until the experiment is put into effect. We cannot know how many undecided people may or may not show up. Maybe more people will come because they are weary of slanted or controlled political sources and this is a new and improved venue from the past.

To exclude those willing to pay or an alleged stacked audience doesn't include an allowance for the change of mind, a flipping, that might happen if a voter finds his/her loyalty to a candidate has been misplaced.

3) You say: but let's not pretend that the "winner" means the candidate who performed the best.

My thoughts, as I laugh out loud: True, Bill Clinton & Jimmy Carter and many others in Great Falls have proven that to be a fact. (giggle.)

Still, every opportunity to perform publicly ought not be denied and stimulating debate among the voters to rally others to decry the slickness of a campaign ought to be encouraged.

Your criticism bears out if it is compared to the media in Great Falls and the political mechanisms that have been in place for years in Montana. But then that GeeGuy is willing to risk and step out in bringing forth a new generation of political outreach ideas should not be discounted so easily.

I think it is a brilliant idea worthy of the experiment. I am sure he and others will learn from it. There will be improvments in future evolutions of his ideas.

If you are consistent reader of this blog you will know that he works to be fair. It would be out of character for him to radically change at the last moment in this new and innovative approach to keep the public informed or to expand public awareness to many political ideas on the table.

Thanks again for your thoughts. You gave me something to think about.

Anonymous said...

On the whole, I'd agree with you that GeeGuy is fair and balanced, but if he's picking the questions, I might be surprised to find any concerning gambling and its consequences on the community. He and his family do have a strong, vested interest in maintaining gambling in this town.

Anonymous said...

Susan Kahn: The parameters of the debate have been set- quit trying to change things up. You're either in or you're out. If you don't like the venue or the structure of the debate then its your choice whether to attend or wait for the Trib to brilliantly report (yawn)on select positions of the candidates.

Ed Mcknight said...

I applaud Dave, G Guy and the bloggers for being pro-active and trying something different. I wish more groups sponsored more events sooner. I would like to see the city sponsor a free event at the civic center. So far this debate is the only public debate scheduled and I accept the invitation.

Ed Mcknight
Quality Leadership in City Government

Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder. Why are the candidates hiding behind a select-ion committee?

Look just like the city commission meetings, no real public participation allowed. Just a pretense of openness.

Wonder which candidates might get to see the questions before the debate? Kinda like the city bid process for the humane society.

I think I will go to a movie and watch scripted acting instead.

Anonymous said...

anon 2:46, who dat? dat you dona? bringing your under cover boys along in case somebody runs over the time or a question gets tough?

whos counting them votes and handing out all the cash? taking checks made out to our choice?

this should be fun.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:24-
This ain't Donna and you are so far off base its not funny. Can a candidate other than Ed McNight unconditionally accept the debate invitation without trying to propose changes?

Anonymous said...

Leaders lead, some follow and others get out of the way.

Jolly & Kahn asked questions of the debate keepers, so they are the nonconformists. Guess we know McKnight is the follower unconditionally going along with the flow. Dona will get the hell out of the way. And that other guy, whats his name? Steele? Get a BOLO issued ASAP.

The city commission never questions Lawton on his projects that come to vote. Yep, we need a pushover to keep the status quo for his hand picked replacement.

Coin toss for McKnight or Stebbins. Might as well keep Dona in place, then we can save money by not changing city stationary or the yes stamp.

Ed Mcknight said...

anon 2:47 PM

Since you claim to know what I am all about and are concerned with leadership and saving money, read this.

You have my phone number, call anytime if you care.

Ed Mcknight
Quality Leadership in City Government