Another Desperate Attempt to Rewrite History This “Forum” is STILL Theater

Another Desperate Attempt to Rewrite History:
This “Forum” is STILL Theater
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

My goodness, but these folks are desperate to convince voters that this “forum” event is something other than theater.  I stand by everything I’ve said about it.  My comments are not false, and they’re certainly not “innuendo.”  In fact, I’ve been very direct.  But, let’s talk about it a little more….

They still won’t tell you who is behind the event.  It’s true that Bob Heckman met with Paul Walden, Jim Duffy and Al Angell, but Heckman couldn’t answer the most basic of questions about the event.  Jim Duffy asked Heckman directly who was organizing the event, who the sponsors were, who picked the format, who picked the date, and who picked the people who would be screening the questions. Heckman had no answers.  He promised to get these important questions answered, but he never did.

Walden, Duffy and Angell learned who the sponsors were when they received the deceptive postcard in the mail.  You remember, the one that falsely stated that all candidates would be at the event, despite the fact that at least two had already declined?  To this day, Walden, Duffy and Angell have still not been told who organized this event.

A serious and legitimate event would have included all six candidates in all aspects of the planning, not the least of which was the date.  That didn’t happen.  That confirms that this event is not a forum, it’s a political event for the incumbent candidates, disguised as a forum in the hope that the public will place undue emphasis on their rehearsed performances.

The unilateral choice of date remains inexcusable.  How can anyone legitimately try to excuse the failure to even check the availability of Walden, Duffy and Angell?  It is indefensible, and yet, these folks again try to justify it.  Now they’re arguing that it was OK to ignore Walden, Duffy and Angell because the Addison Business Association only gave two weeks’ notice of their event.  That’s absurd.  And, I guess they’ve now abandoned the prior argument that this was the only night on which the Addison Conference Center was available?  The tangled web is woven…

None of it changes the fact that when Walden, Duffy and Angell received Heckman’s March 13th email, two of the three had scheduling conflicts, and there was absolutely zero effort made to accommodate these candidates.

This event has been held sporadically and has been plagued with issues.  This event hasn’t been held every year for seven years.  It’s been held sporadically and has continually been plagued with issues.  I for one have protested the deceptive format since the event was resurrected in 2014.

The event was first held in 2009.  That year, the organizers falsely claimed that it was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  Well, the League of Women Voters was pretty upset about that and created a fuss. Most candidates avoided the event.  So, when these folks say that “we’ve always done it this way,” bear in mind that this claims starts with the abject failure of the 2009 event.

My information is that there was no event in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  I’m uncertain of 2013, but I know that 2014 was when Meier injected himself squarely in the middle of it all.  At the time, Meier supported three candidates and opposed two incumbents.  Despite his obvious bias, he initially injected himself as one of those who was set to screen audience questions.  Does that sound as problematic to you as it did to me?

Prior to the 2014 event, I wrote to the Addison Business Association and the Metrocrest Chamber, expressing my deep concern about Meier’s involvement and the deceptive format of the event.  I pointed out that providing the questions in advance allowed candidates to rehearse their answers, and yet the event was presented as if they were answering extemporaneously.  That gave a false impression to the unwitting attendees.  I voiced the same objections in 2015.

You’ll note that this year, both the Addison Business Association and the Metrocrest Chamber are not involved.

All of this is hardly a sparkling history that justifies some claim that “we’ve always done it this way.”  The truth is that this fake “forum” has always been a deceptive enterprise.  More to the point, its troubled history certainly doesn’t justify excluding half the candidates from all aspects of the planning, as was done this year.

The opportunity to submit a (CENSORED) statement.  It’s also true that Walden, Duffy and Angell were offered the opportunity to submit a statement.  But then they were given all sorts of rules and limitations on what could and couldn’t be said, and what subjects they could and couldn’t address.  As you might guess, their views about the format of this event and their exclusion from all aspects of its planning were not on the “permitted” list.  All of which made the “offer” to submit a statement nothing more than lip service.

What a PR scam!!  It’s really quite a scam when you come right down to it.  You exclude the candidates you aren’t supporting, refuse to tell them anything about how the event was organized, and give them no input into who will choose the questions or what criteria will be used.  In other words, you hope they either have a scheduling conflict or the refusal to include them or provide them with information will cause them to justifiably decline the invitation.

Then, you claim it’s a real event, berate the excluded candidates for not attending, and use the opportunity to smear them.  It’s a sophomoric PR scam.

If it walks like a scam and quacks like a scam, it’s a scam.  Look, these other folks can write all they want to try to justify the unjustifiable.  It won’t change a thing.  The Ethics Commission says that if all candidates aren’t given the “same opportunity” to participate in a “forum” then it’s not a forum at all.  It’s a political event for certain candidates.  In my view, you can’t exclude half the candidates from every aspect of the planning process and come anywhere near showing what it necessary to meet the Ethics Commission’s standards.

This is just more of the same deceptive tactics that have brought us 30% higher taxes, a tax rate above the rollback rate for the first time in history, and continually overspending of the budget.