Forum Ashland Mayor Rudy Dunnigan was right when he said in a recent “In Your View” letter that with the presidential race, a campaign for an open congressional seat in the Fourth District and other races on the ballot, it is easy for voters to overlook the race for four seats on the Ashland Board of City Commissioners. About the only attention the campaigns for city commissioner have received to date is in the form of yard signs and two ”In Your View” letters.
However, Ashland residents who want to get to know their city commission candidates better and make more informed decisions have their best opportunity to do just that tonight. All six candidates for city commissioner plus Chuck Charles, who is running unopposed for mayor, are expected to take part in a forum at 6:30 p.m. in the teleconference room at Ashland Community and Technical College. The forum is sponsored by the Ashland Human Rights Commission.
Tonight’s gathering is the only time all the candidates for city commissioner are scheduled to be in the same place at the same time and provides an excellent opportunity for undecided voters to hear what the candidates have to say. One would think that would be more than enough to assure a large turnout, but experience tells us that only a small crowd will be on hand for the forum, and most of them will be there to support specific candidates, not to listen to all six candidates to help them make up their minds which four to support.
“You always plan a party and hope everybody shows up,” said Carol Jackson, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission. “Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. The turnout has not been what we expected the past couple of times. We try to get the word out by putting notices in the newspaper and sending notices to local churches. I can say we’ve had success with the people in the community that do come out. They learn a lot about the candidates.”
Having attended previous forums, we can agree with Jackson’s evaluation of their value. We can honestly say that we personally have decided to vote for candidates based primarily on their responses at past forums.
One reason for the relative lack of interest in their year’s city commission races is the shortage of candidates. Only six candidates — incumbents Kevin Gunderson, Larry Brown, Marty Gute and Chuck Cantrell. plus former Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs and Tim Duley — are vying for city commissioner with the top four votegetters being elected to two-year terms on Nov. 6. That means that at least half of the current city commissioners are guaranteed re-election as is Charles, who will replace Mayor Tom Kelley on the five-member commission. The only difference between Charles and the commission candidates is that Charles will be elected to a four-year term.
Jackson is right when she says the forum is the perfect opportunity for Ashland voters to find out more about the candidates running for city offices. “All you have to do is ask,” she said. “We’ll have cards for the audience to write questions on. We may not have time to ask every question, but we’ll try our best.”
If you have an interest in Ashland city government — and all city residents should — then tonight’s forum is a great way to help you make more informed decisions on Nov. 6.