This past Saturday I attended the first of what will hopefully be many more candidate forums for the office of mayor of our fine city. This forum was hosted by the Cumberland County Citizens United organization in western Fayetteville, which originally formed to fight Fayetteville's "Big Bang" annexation a few years ago.
Needless to say, that was a failed endeavor.
The overall turnout was disappointing. Some estimate about 100 people showed up to hear the candidates; when you take out the five mayoral candidates, their families and the media, I'm not sure the turnout was all that impressive. Maybe about 60 people.
However, I was pleased to see two Cumberland County Commissioners there, Billy R. King and Ed Melvin. I have always felt that Fayetteville would benefit from a closer relationship with Cumberland County officials.
In any case, all five mayoral candidates did show up present and accounted for. That, in the end, was the real problem for me. In attendance were the three serious mayoral candidates: Val Applewhite, current city council member, Air Force veteran, businesswoman and mother of two; Kirk deViere local business owner, business man, community volunteer and past chair of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerc; and Nat Robertson, lifetime resident, local businessman and former two-term city council member.
The other not-so-serious candidates present were CCCU founder Charles Regan and past city council member Paul Williams. Both of these gentlemen will be on the ballot for mayor but by their own volition only serve as posers* (*short for impostors, i.e. posing as something you are not) since neither are serious mayoral candidates.
Combined, their responses, statements, postures and positions on issues facing the City of Fayetteville would have been comical and even laughable if the circumstances were not so serious. Their performance on Saturday begged the question: What were they doing there?
Honestly, both these candidates have come out and declared that they are NOT serious candidates for the office of Mayor of Fayetteville. Neither has any intention of actively campaigning or soliciting for the position.
So why are they taking up space at a citizen forum dealing with serious issues concerning the future of the City of Fayetteville? After all, just because they can scrape up $24 in sofa change to pay the filing fee does not entitle them to make a mockery of this democratically protected American right - or to create a distraction to the process that many feel is vitally important to our city's future at this very moment.
This mayoral race (or any electoral race) should not be used as a buffoon's personal platform to draw attention to themselves by creating a continuous eight-week rant just to get their name in the newspaper or an invitation to a radio talk show to promote a business or for creating their own personal public forum for whining, complaining, criticizing and pontificating over circumstances and situations for which they have no remedy or intention of solution. Sad.
In any case, it is my opinion that these types of shenanigans are not needed or wanted in this race where loyalty, honesty and ability will come together to define the type of person capable of providing the residents of the City of Fayetteville a mayor who can effectively lead our city. There is no place for Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello or Dumb and Dumber. We all can look elsewhere for our comic relief.
With that being said, what is the solution? Easy. Don't invite them! That's right. If, through their very own words and deeds they have admitted they are not serious candidates then they should not be invited to participate in the forums. The hosts of these forums should invite only the serious candidates (Applewhite, deViere, Robertson) and let the time and efforts be wisely spent educating the public on how they plan to lead and improve our city. People who attend these forums want to hear what they have to say about crime, jobs, taxes, roads, transportation, PWC, storm water and the other important issues facing our community, all of which I deem serious.
A $24 filing fee does not give these irreverent posers the right to waste the valuable time of our voters by distracting and confusing the issues when we have so much of importance to talk about. For what it is worth, here are a few other comments and recommendations about future forums:
1. Have closing comments. Each candidate should have a chance to make a final statement.
2. Ditch fluff questions. Pose hard, fair but relevant questions on serious, relevant subjects that demand specific answers.
3. Let the audience ask questions to specific candidates then give other candidates an opportunity to comment.
4. With a moderator, let the candidates pose questions to each other. Hey, this could be where the real fun is.
I'll close by thanking you for reading Up & Coming Weekly and by congratulating and saying "thank you" to Val Applewhite, Kirk deViere and Nat Robertson for taking up the challenge to serve and improve our city. Vote!