Elizabeth Cook: What would you ask candidates?

Published 12:44 am Sunday, September 6, 2015

You know you want to ask the Salisbury City Council candidates some questions.

The first one might be, “Why are there so many of you?”

Having 16 candidates for city council presents challenges. After reporter Josh Bergeron interviewed all 16 about Fibrant recently, he hammered out a story of more than 3,000 words. That’s a new record for this generation of Post reporters.

And when the candidates gather at Tom Smith Auditorium on Oct. 15 for a forum — sponsored by the Post, the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, Catawba College and WSAT radio — they’ll set another record. For the first time, a Salisbury candidate forum will have to be held in stages, eight candidates at a time.

The details are being worked out.

The Post’s role in the forum is to collect questions suggested by readers. We pass those on to Dr. Michael Bitzer, the moderator. I never know which ones he will choose to ask the candidates until the evening of the forum.

So, please send us questions to ask the candidates. Here’s how to get them to us:

Email them to me at editor@salisburypost.com.

Mail them to me at P.O. Box 4639, Salisbury, NC 28145.

Fax them to 704-639-0003, with my name at the top.

Call them in to my line at 704-797-4244.

I pass the questions on to Bitzer as they come in.

Having even eight candidates in a forum requires some creativity. If the moderator poses the same question to all eight candidates, the subject has been exhausted by the time it reaches the eighth person; it’s hard for him or her to come up with anything different to say.

In this case, the questions will be posed to four candidates at a time. So, for example, Group 1 answers question A and Group 2 answers question B.

What about Group 2 candidates who would rather answer the other question? They can do what they want with their allotted time. Sometimes they opt for the other question; sometimes they manage to squeeze in an answer for both.

Candidates may want to watch a video of a past forum to see how that works. Here’s a link to one from the 2014 county commission race: http://ow.ly/ROyyq.

All 10 of Rowan’s municipalities are holding elections this year, and we’ll be writing about those races. Our goal is to publish stories about all the races before early voting begins on Oct. 22.

That requires our reporters to interview more than 60 individuals, many of whom are very busy. People willing to put their names on the ballot for public office tend to be active in the community already, and it can be hard to track them down. We don’t want to leave anyone out, but if people don’t return our calls and emails, they may miss a chance to get their message out through stories in the paper and on our website and mobile app.

The Post will publish an election guide on Sunday, Oct. 25, that should recap all the contested races and include other information about voting.

Even if getting to know and choose from 16 candidates intimidates you, the sudden jump in civic interest should inspire us all. People care about our city and want to have a hand in making it better. Kudos to them all.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.