By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 10/09/07
Despite misgivings by some Milton City Council candidates about the site of a public debate, the forum received high marks after it was over.
Post 4 candidate, incumbent Neal O'Brien, confessed that he was a little concerned about the debate being held at Birmingham United Methodist Church."I thought it was fun," he said. "I have no complaints. I thought the questions were fair and relevant."
Some candidates were uneasy with having the forum at the church, where one candidate sometimes worships and another is active, not to mention that the debate was organized by someone who filed an ethics complaint against O'Brien that was thrown out.
"I was relieved it was such a welcoming atmosphere," O'Brien said.
The format was structured by the League of Women Voters, who had officers present to allay candidates' worries.
Four of the six candidates for the three posts on the Nov. 6 ballot went in pairs to the podium in the sanctuary with its wood and stained glass. Questions vetted by the league were read by Senior Pastor John Wolfe.
District 6 incumbent Rick Mohrig was unable to attend because of follow-up, minor surgery to his back, said Councilwoman Karen Thurman, who saw him earlier. Not wishing to be entirely absent, he submitted a statement. His opponent, Alan Tart, made a three-minute speech and then Wolfe read Mohrig's prepared remarks.
The audience of about 150 people sat attentively in the pews, following instructions not to applaud until the end of each round. A number of people wore T-shirts supporting their candidate.
Kimpy Edge, a 64-year-old homemaker, said she believed most of the people there already had their minds made up, but she said she came to learn something about the candidates.
"I think I know who I'm voting for and that's why I came," Edge said.
Curtis Miles, Zahner Bailey's appointee to the Planning Commission, was obviously supporting her, but was uncertain about the other two races."I liked hearing them articulate their real ideas," he said. "I liked the diversity of the questions. They covered a broad spectrum of areas. My mind is made up on two of them, but not on one."