[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff. The writer of this Letter has contributed to and campaigned for Burien City Council candidates Cydney Moore, Krystal Marx and Patricia Hudson.]
Candidates for elected office who no-show for Community Forums: Your disrespect for voters and the democratic process does not go unnoticed.
I attended the only two candidate forums I know of for local elections in Burien; one for City Council candidates, held at the Burien Library on Tuesday evening, October 3 (view video here), and the other held October 10 for Highline School District Board candidates (view video here).
The forums were held by a widely known, deeply respected non-partisan institution in our American democracy – the League of Women Voters. The League does not endorse, or rank, any candidate, in any election, ever. All candidates were invited, and given plenty of notice (August 23rd). The forums were held in a neutral setting (a community library) and after having the candidates answer just one question posed by the League, the majority of the 1.5 hour forum time was dedicated to having the candidates answer spontaneous questions directly from voters. Time limits were strictly adhered to, and the audience was not allowed to speak or applause except for the individual questions asked. Applause was allowed at the end. No candidate is declared a winner or loser.
The forums were informative, well run, and many community members expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet the candidates in person. No recordings were allowed except for the official recording by a volunteer videographer, which has been posted on the League’s website for those who missed it, or to re-watch by any attendee.
The only thing missing? Several of the candidates. At both of these forums.
Three of the six candidates for Burien City Council showed up: Patricia Hudson, Krystal Marx, and Cydney Moore. The other three – Linda Akey, Alex Andrade, and Kevin Schilling – did not. Nor did they provide the League with any statement explaining why (there could be valid reasons – perhaps somebody had COVID?), nor did they take the League up on their offer to have a representative attend in their place. They even declined to have a statement to the voters read out by the League (or their representative).
Similarly, three of five candidates for Highline School Board showed up for that forum: Michael Lewis, Carlos Ruiz and Stephanie Tidholm. Of the two who did not – Melissa Petrini provided a statement that she declined to attend because the League failed to answer her questions about the recording of the forum, to her satisfaction (no further details provided). The second no-show, Azeb Hagos, though running unopposed, missed a golden opportunity to directly communicate with voters.
Why do these candidates think that this is in any way acceptable? Their blatant disregard for the democratic process, and a (free!) public space to speak to and hear from Burien residents, is hard to fathom. These two events were the only (to my knowledge) non-partisan community forums held in our city, a rare chance for the candidates to talk directly to voters, and answer important questions about their plans to address critical community and public education issues.
A number of attendees, including myself, expressed profound disappointment at not being able to hear from and compare, in real time, ALL the candidates as they answered questions important to their constituents. The absence of the no-shows certainly doesn’t help persuade us to vote for them. And kudos to the candidates who have the courage and honor to show up and answer hard questions from their voters.
– Colleen Hinton
We reached out to the three Burien City Council candidates mentioned in this letter for a response, and here’s what they told us:
“I let the LWV know when they asked me that I had another commitment related to my campaign. It’s not a rumor. I have a busy campaign.”
“I was invited to attend the League of Women voters but only after I had committed to another two events. One of which is WA Community Alliance WA for Equitable Representation and More Equitable Democracy. The invitation came by way of a woman currently in politics (will remain unnamed since she wants to remain neutral) and I committed to this. In doing so, I invited Linda. The timing is unfortunate but I feel that this has been spun as a negative. Our whereabouts or prior commitments should not be turned into a negative/political thing especially when it’s selective. We are out in the community and talking to a diverse group of people and proud that we can do this.”
“When the League of Women Voters began planning their forum and asked if a date would work for a forum, I informed them their selected date wasn’t good for me as I have had a previously scheduled educational seminar on the topic of public administration ethics at the University of Washington. I repeated the issue of timing directly to the local chapter president when I spoke with her at the farmers market a few weeks before the event. They did not offer to change the date to accommodate the conflict. I tried to coordinate a statement, but, as many in our community know, folks are busy themselves.
“I try to attend as many events as I can, and attend all that give ample time and coordination for scheduling. For example, I’ll be attending a meet and greet at a labor hall Thursday, a meet and greet at a senior living facility Friday, the Burien Wine Walk on Saturday, and many more events throughout the rest of the election season.
“I attended the Latino Civic Alliance forum in the primary (a forum the writer of this letter to the editor did not attend herself) and the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce Candidates night during this general election. I’m available for a scheduling of conversation over coffee, or a discussion after every council meeting with anyone interested in speaking with me about the issues of the day with anyone who would like to have a civil conversation. I’ve also personally knocked on over 5,000 doors speaking to the public about a range of issues, and regularly visit businesses, schools, neighborhood and community groups to speak with members of the community.
“If you are interested in my positions, please give me a call (206-948-0381).”
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