Friday, October 05, 2007

Political Forum Unnerves Milton City Council Candidates

By DOUG NURSE / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 10/05/07

Some Milton City Council candidates say they feel like they're walking into a lion's den for a political forum sponsored by the non-partisan League of Women Voters.

The forum is being conducted at a church where some candidates attend, the church's pastor is asking the questions, and it's being organized by volunteers who are already supporting some candidates.

Some office-seekers find the set-up a bit unsettling, even if it's sanctioned by the non-partisan League of Women Voters.

"I don't feel like it's a level playing field," said Roger Santi, who is campaigning against Julie Zahner Bailey, a member of the church. Santi, as well as some other candidates and their supporters, say some office seekers have a home field advantage in the forum.

For example:

• The forum is being held at Birmingham United Methodist Church, whose membership includes a council candidate who runs the church youth program and Milton's mayor, who is supporting some of the candidates.
• The moderator is the church's senior pastor.
• The event is being organized by two supporters of candidate Zahner Bailey.
• One of those supporters, Leon Cole Jr. , filed ethics complaints with the city, and then with the state, against one of the campaigning city councilman. The city ethics board threw out the complaint. The state complaint is still pending.

Santi said he was attending the forum because he has no choice politically. "We felt like not showing would give us worse press than going and getting ambushed," he said.

One sitting City Council member, Bill Lusk, called the League and unsuccessfully argued for a change of venue.

Bob Bearden, of the League of Women Voters, said candidates need not worry. The moderator has strict rules to follow. He said all questions, including those from the audience, will be phrased or vetted by league officials, none of whom live in Milton.

Some of the candidates' concerns stem from long-standing rumors that some candidates were tipped off to the questions in advance during a similar forum last year. Bearden says the rumors are unfounded.

No one local will see, pick or handle the questions until they are handed to the moderator just before the event, Bearden said. While candidates for one post are taking questions, the other candidates will be sequestered so they can't hear what's being asked.

And Bearden said the League of Women Voters often conducts forums in churches, usually because they have the facilities to handle the crowds.

Cole said he tried to schedule the forum at Milton High School, but the auditorium was booked up. Middle and elementary schools were considered but rejected because acoustics often are poor, he said. He knew the church was available and willing, so he chose that option.
Last year a television anchor was the moderator. But with time running short, Cole turned to the church and asked Pastor John Wolfe. The pastor, Cole said, was initially reluctant but eventually agreed.

Cole said he has no interest in knowing the questions, and said he took on the task because no one else seemed willing to. He said he turned to the League of Women Voters because they would ensure a fair forum.

Cole said his complaints against O'Brien shouldn't make him feel ill at ease.
Bearden said he plans to be at the forum, just to ensure nothing untoward happens."Things are so tightly controlled," Bearden said. "Our goal is to inform voters, so they leave the forum knowing more about the candidates and their choices."


Anonymous said...

They don't call them,

"The Plague of Woman Vipers" for nothing..............sounds like a set up to me.

Anonymous said...

LMAO...Lusk wants a change of that because he is afraid O'Brian, Mohrig and Santi might be exposed for what they really are. If one of these lose there will not be a famous four....will be famous three in minority. MoM is going to be upseeet and over the top upset if all three lose!

Don't think ambush will materialize, but just in case the "posse" will be there and if necessary Kemo Sobe and Tonto will assist.

Anonymous said...

Roger you sound like a cry baby!!!

Anonymous said...

to the first comment... what's the setup? It's a forum .. and thank goodness for it. Glad the candidates can be heard and the people get to know them better.

Anonymous said...

ok...that made me laugh! At the end of the day- we all need a little funny to get thru this!

Thanks for that!


Anonymous said...

I should clear -up what was was LMAO..# 2

Anonymous said...

For cryin out loud, If you are scared to show up and answer questions then don't. Plain and simple. Everyone will have the same questions. Your answers will predicate how you will be perceived, not the venue site or who is asking the questions. Quit whining and show up and state your answers or just stay home and watch Dancing With the Stars or some reality TV on Fox.

Anonymous said...

OMG, did you have to mention Fox. How about CNN for a change of pace in Milton.

I'm starting to wonder if by watching CNN, according to Santi and all the ones that think like him, you know all the ones with signs right next to his - I'm of the minority here in Milton.

If I watch CNN, does that make me a Democrat?

Anonymous said...

Just received info that Lusk proposed having it in amphitheatre and when Julie, Bert and Alan are speaking, Roger's plane will fly over and drown them out...will not happen while Roger Boy, Morerig and O'Brain are speaking.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it

Anonymous said...

LMAO!! I would not put it past them.

Anonymous said...

If they are so against it, let them have it in their own church!
Lusk calling and trying to "change the agenda" is just typical of all the crap these people try to stir up. No wonder the city of Milton looks so bad.

BTW, is it true that Lusk is a card carying Democrat?

Anonymous said...

No question, those that have sold their souls would rather not come to church for a debate.

Anonymous said...

Why is Lusk even concerned? He should just stick to keeping his mouth shut for the next 2 years, it would serve him well...

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of crap the Mayor has had to put up with from day one with these buffoons.

Anonymous said...

The best thing for Lusk to do...resign, take his flagpole and disappear into the wild blue yonder!!

Anonymous said...

Roger doesn't think it's a level playing field to have forum in this church and states his opponent is a member there. Highly reliable source states she does not belong here, to the contrary she belongs to another church outside Milton.

It is difficult to have a level playing field when some player(s) are not on the level.

My question to you...Is Roger on the level?

Wanta bet, someone will say she belongs to both and will also add she has never been a corporate executive and should be disqualified because she does not belong to church inside Milton.

If all else fails, JJ may have to introduce and support legislation to change Charter.

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