Debate/forum #3 was held last night by the Oakland Estates Neighborhood Association. Oakland Estates, which is located just north of Huebner Road between Fredericksburg and Babcock Roads, is an extremely old neighborhood with large lots, some with horses.
The debate didn’t start until 7:30 pm, and I warned host Sue Snyder in advance that the timing was a bit late for an old-timer like me, so she should expect only my “B” game. After the event, Sue came up to me and asked if that was my “B” game, and I told her it was “C-.”
Why the low rating? Because I was frustrated by some of the questions from the audience near the end of the event. This was the first campaign event where, after the moderator finished asking questions, the audience was permitted to participate. Although this sounds like a good idea in the abstract, as a practical matter the questions that came from the audience were remarkably narrow and concerned so-called constituency issues – i.e., a constituent is having a governmental problem and wants to know what you are going to do fix it.
The problem for me with this type of question is that to talk intelligently about the issue, you have to be familiar with the government program, and I haven’t had a lot of interaction with government programs, and so I can’t speak intelligently about solving the individual’s problem. By contrast, my opponents appear to have worked with virtually all of the various programs.
One of tonight’s questions was how I was going to fix Prue Road. Apparently, travel on Prue Road is difficult, and not only am I supposed to know that, but I am also supposed to know how to fix it, even though none of the responsible parties in San Antonio government has yet figured out how to fix it. Another question came from an individual with a small, private school who complained that the city was requiring him to install sprinklers because of some mistake that the city made in supplying him with too-low water pressure. And a third individual wanted to know what we thought was the best way to slow down traffic on neighborhood streets.
Obviously, constituent service is important, and if elected I will have to establish a process for providing that service, but I don’t think a candidate should be evaluated on his working knowledge of nuts-and-bolts issues. That’s like expecting a congressional candidate to know how to fix an individual’s problem with his delayed Social Security or VA checks. For some reason, I never received questions like that when I ran for Congress in 2010.
When I discussed this matter with my host Sue after the debate, she suggested that I should simply worry about how to respond to the question, not necessarily how to solve the person’s riddle. Excellent point, and I will prepare with that in mind for next week’s debate at Crown Ridge.
With respect to the other 80% of the debate, I think it went well. Because the questions weren’t provided to us in advance, and because my memory of them is a bit blurred, I can’t now list each question. Suffice to say, however, that I was able to point out on multiple occasions that Ron and Rolando were from the public sector (community organizer and government contractor) and wanted to be professional politicians, while I was from the private sector and wanted to be a citizen politician. I also suggested that a gathering of their campaign contributors would “fill an auditorium.” We discussed Pre-K 4 SA and a living wage for councilpersons, and I was surprised to hear both Ron and Rolando crawfish away from the earlier opposition to the living wage, and now they meekly admit that it is not a bad idea, although they won’t push for it.
While reading about political campaigning, I have learned that political spouses are forced to listen to their spouses stump speech hundreds of times and laugh at the same jokes. I appreciate that concept now that I am involved in a debate/forum almost every week. Although the audience is generally new every week, my two opponents are the same every week and for some strange reason I feel is a tinge of phoniness in repeating the same punchlines to them. They even cause me to change my wardrobe from debate to debate. Weird, I know.