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Letter to the Editor: PCA Candidate Forum Canceled

Piedmont Civic Association cancels Nov. 29 forum, cites rumors that caused candidates to drop out

The Piedmont Civic Association (PCA) Candidate Forum on Nov. 29 was to be an informational event to give candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves to Piedmont voters and allow voters to hear their positions on issues and pose questions. The forum was canceled because of false rumors that caused candidates to drop out.

Rumor: League of Women Voters objected to the forum. Fact: The League responded positively to the idea of a PCA forum. Although the president declined to co-sponsor the PCA event because of a planned LWV forum in January, an email to PCA confirmed the League had no objection to other candidate forums.

Rumor: PCA forum moderator, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Andrew Cheng, had endorsed a Piedmont candidate. Fact: Judge Cheng had not and could not endorse any candidate because of his position as a judicial officer. PCA chose Judge Cheng as moderator because of his qualifications, objectivity and neutrality as a Judge. 

Rumor: The Forum would not be neutral. Fact: The City granted PCA use of the Council chambers and agreed to have KCOM broadcast the forum because it would be completely neutral, open to all candidates, free of any editorializing or endorsement of any candidate.  PCA does not endorse candidates. The forum’s format was provided to all candidates and is posted on the website: www.piedmontcivic.org.

Rumor: Only 1 candidate planned to participate. Fact: 3 candidates responded enthusiastically to the Forum invitation. One questioned participating in both PCA and League’s forums. Three did not respond immediately. Suddenly, the tide turned.

PCA regrets the lost opportunity for voters to hear from candidates early in the election process. They now must wait until January, after absentee voting has begun and endorsements made.

Piedmont Civic Association www.piedmontcivic.org

Conna McCarthy November 28, 2011 at 05:37 PM
The only undisputed fact is that six of the seven candidates currently running for public office declined an invitation to participate in a PCA sponsored forum. Instead of responding to rumors, PCA leaders should have picked up the phone, reached out to each candidate and asked them why they chose not to participate. Instead, candidates were told PCA would set up name placards in front of empty chairs in an attempt to embarrass any candidate who didn't show up. Several candidates are still being harassed and reprimanded by PCA leaders for declining to participate. Perhaps we can we all agree that mistakes were made, Piedmonters are not well served by this behavior and move forward.
Denise Bostrom November 28, 2011 at 06:45 PM
It's unfortunate that in our tiny city we haven't been able yet to allow different opinions to be voiced without undermining one another's credibility. We need to hear all perspectives - not only those of the PCA, or the Piedmont Post, or The Piedmonter, or other news outlets. A democracy needs all opinions to be aired without threat of intimidation, or name-calling, or public humiliation. Let's get on with the very hard work ahead of us, folks, like grappling with paying for our city's pension obligations for starters.
Denise Bostrom November 28, 2011 at 06:47 PM
With much respect for you and your outstanding work, Conna, I believe that, in fact, four candidates responded positively to the debate request by the PCA.
Ryan Gilbert November 28, 2011 at 06:56 PM
As a campaign manager for a school board candidate, Ms. Carthy is surely aware that PCA didn't have an opportunity to respond to the false rumors until it was too late, because the candidates who declined or didn't respond to the PCA's invitation chose to take their concerns to the City Administrator rather than PCA. It's not unusual for candidates who think they are front-runners in a campaign to decline debate invitations for fear of losing ground. What's unusual here is that the City Administrator spread the rumors of low participation through official channels and thereby prompted two candidates who had already accepted to drop out of the forum. As Treasurer for Tim Rood's City Council campaign I believe that the real loss here is the voters', who won't have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of all the candidates until after early voting has begun.
Conna McCarthy November 28, 2011 at 07:45 PM
oh for heavensakes, enough already....there was never any verbal communication or coordination of this event between PCA and the candidates. A press release announcing the forum was distributed before most candidates had responded yay or nay. No one intended to embarrass PCA. For a variety of reasons, it simply didn't work. I am sugggesting that if PCA wants candidates to participate in their sponsored forums in the future then stop arguing against rumors and ask the candidates directly why they chose not to attend. Reflect on what went wrong, and work with candidates to correct it.
Ryan Gilbert November 28, 2011 at 10:12 PM
I think you make a very good suggestion. How about arranging a meeting between the PCA and a rep from each campaign for Council and the School Board. We can agree a model for a the PCA forum and set something up before election day.
Conna McCarthy November 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Thank you Ryan, I appreciate your enthusiasm. My personal contact information is in the Student Directory. I will look forward to hearing from you when you have something organized.
Lynn Dee November 29, 2011 at 05:17 PM
Why did 6 of 7 candidates decline this invitation? Why were there FALSE rumors? Why would anyone think the Piedmont Civic Association is biased when they tolerate the extremely biased PIEDMONT POST every week??? I believe there was fear and resistance to discuss Blair Park, and this is the reason the City and candidates cancelled the forum. Ms. McCarthy is the campaign manager for Andrea Swenson; she is also a Director of PRFO and is part of the law firm advising the City on Blair Park. The City is taking special counsel on Blair Park from Proponents lawyers. Conflict of interest? Yes, and not for the first time. It is a pity the voters of Piedmont were denied an opportunity to see the candidates and hear their views on the most controversial and costly project Piedmont has ever put forward. Politics.
Conna McCarthy November 29, 2011 at 06:09 PM
1. PCA does not know why 6 of 7 candidates declined their invitation because PCA never called the candidates to ask why they declined the invitation. 2. Unfortunately, PCA responded to false rumors because they never called the candidates to ask them directly why they declined their invitiaton to participate. 3.The Piedmont POST doesn't sponsor candidates forums so their bias isn't an issue. PCA sponsors forums so bias or partisanship is an issue. 4. Andrea Swenson is a candidate for PUSD School Board; if successful she will work for the PUSD; she will have no authority over City of Piedmont issues, including Blair Park. 5. I am a director of PRFO and my husband is helping pro bono. Yes, I am biased. 6. Your insight into the PCA forum is interesting. Candidates were never told the forum was purposefully scheduled a week prior to the city council vote in order to provide a platform for Blair Park discussion.
Lynn Dee November 29, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Here you go again with your #6- of course the forum was not purposefully scheduled to include Blair, but really, how could it not come up? Is this not the biggest, controversial, costliest, divisive topic Piedmont has seen? Again, I am sorry Piedmont voters missed out on a group discussion by the candidates. Perhaps another venue can be arranged before the election and mail in voting starts. I would love to hear everyone's views on Blair, employee benefits, city budget cost cutting measures, parcel and sewer tax concerns..the list is long!
Conna McCarthy November 29, 2011 at 06:46 PM
If you want another venue for group discussion then make it happen. If PCA wants candidates to participate in their sponsored forums in the future, ask the candidates directly why they chose not to attend. Reflect on what went wrong, and work to correct it.
Lynn Dee November 29, 2011 at 11:18 PM
As Andrea Swenson's campaign manager, can you tell us why she declined the invite to speak at the PCA forum? I think all you campaign managers ( with the exception of one) blew it and should now arrange to get something organized.
Conna McCarthy November 30, 2011 at 12:16 AM
1. May I again suggest that PCA leaders, as a nominal gesture of respect for candidates who are currently running for Piedmont public office, call each of the 6 candidates who declined the invitation to participate in the PCA forum. Following those phone calls, PCA leaders must engage in a thoughtful conversation about why their forum failed and determine what they can do better going forward. 2. It would be inappropriate for me to organize a candidates forum because I have a known bias and partisan interest in the outcome.
Susan Kahn November 30, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Re your #3, just because the Piedmont Post doesn't sponsor candidates, that does not indicate or prove that it is not biased; the Post is extremely biased towards this project and towards PRFO. Their bias IS an issue - a very big one. The Post does not present all points of view. It is not a NEWSpaper; it is an OpinionPaper. Also in #3, you say, "PCA sponsors forums so bias or partisanship is an issue." There is no linkage or logic between sponsoring forums on the one hand, and bias or partisanship on the other. That statement is completely nonsensical.
Conna McCarthy November 30, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Ms Kahn, ~The PCA sponsored a forum and 6 candidates declined to participate. PCA will never know if there is " linkage or logic between sponsoring forums on the one hand, and bias or partisanship on the other" if they don't ask the candidates why they chose not to participate. ~ PCA published rumors and then blamed City administrators for circulating rumors. PCA has taken no responsibility for the failure of their forum. I am truly baffled why no one from PCA at any time, from scheduling the forum date, to scuttle butting mistaken endorser listings, ever called a candidate. From an organizing perspective many mistakes were made that are easily corrected going forward. I am suggesting that PCA stops blaming others, considers their own foibles and makes improvements. (on another note, a 3:38 AM posting on PATCH cannot be good for your well-being or disposition, get some rest...there are greater problems to solve than this)
Susan Kahn November 30, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Ms McCarthy: First you say, "PCA sponsors forums so bias or partisanship is an issue." You purport in that sentence that there is a linkage. I point out that there is no logic in your statement. I will be more clear: the word "so" in your statement is a conjunction, with the meaning "therefore" or "consequently." There is no therefore THERE. Yet you reply, "PCA will never know if there is 'linkage or logic between sponsoring forums on the one hand, and bias or partisanship on the other' if they don't ask the candidates why they chose not to participate." You have truly muddied the waters here by adding, "PCA will never know if there is linkage ...," because that idea was never even contained in the words I was commenting on; you have changed the subject. And even further, you go on to say what the PCA should do, in order to determine whether the bias or partisanship that You claim is in existence, is in fact there. You are commenting on something going on in your head, not on something I wrote. Please check your logic circuits. (on another note, I it appears that you know what people you don't know should be doing, and when, as well. And what is important and what is not. My well-being and disposition are just fine; thank you very much. How kind of you to express concern.)
Conna McCarthy November 30, 2011 at 09:57 PM
the crowd fell silent... the curtains closed... THE END
Susan Kahn December 01, 2011 at 06:08 AM
As I said, commenting on something going on in your head. But, at least no more suggestions, directions, or "musts." Good. That's better for your disposition and well-being.

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