Tuesday, October 14, 2003
One of the challenges voters face is understanding candidates' stances and the pros and cons of election issues before the election.
On Nov. 4, Steamboat Springs voters will choose from 14 candidates for school board and City Council and decide three local issues. And that's just the local races. There are a number of state and water district issues and a community college board of trustees election to be decided, as well.
Trying to bone up on all of the candidates and issues can overwhelm the average person. No doubt, many voters have resorted to guessing on issues or candidates in the past, or worse, making decisions based on inaccurate information.
There are a number of ways for voters to get information before an election -- the media, voter guides and advertising all are helpful.
But there is one outlet that may help voters more than any other -- election forums.
There are several forums being held before the election, including one today sponsored by the Pilot & Today and KRMR Radio.
Today's forums were scheduled at two different times to encourage as much participation as possible. The first is at noon at Centennial Hall and the second is at 7 p.m. at Olympian Hall.
Each forum will open with candidates for Steamboat Springs City Council, who will be given the opportunity to make opening statements and then will be asked four questions each.
After the City Council forum, Referendum 2A, the city's proposed 3.55-mill property tax, will be debated. Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner will speak in favor of the proposal while former City Council President Kevin Bennett will speak against.
The Steamboat Springs School Board will follow the property tax debate. As in the City Council forum, the candidates will make opening statements and then respond to four questions. The School Board's stand on a Montessori charter school will be debated by a representative of the School Board and a representative from Steamboat Springs Montessori after the School Board candidates forum.
A presentation on Referendum 1A, the county's proposed 0.3-mill heritage tax, will close the forum.
It is not possible to cover every aspect of every issue in a two-hour forum. But forums offer a chance to get a personal feel for candidates that isn't available in other mediums. Forums can offer challengers, who have no voting records, their best opportunity to make their case. Likewise, incumbents get the chance to defend their past stances and speak directly to voters.
Forums give voters the chance to hear passionate debates on the issues that can help shape their votes.
We have made the case that the community is best served when as many people as possible participate in the political process by, at a minimum, voting in local elections. But one of the barriers to that happening is residents who don't feel knowledgeable enough about the candidates or the issues. Forums can help break down such barriers.
We encourage residents to make the time to attend one of today's forums or one of the other forums being held before the election. Doing so should enhance turnout on Election Day and make for results that best reflect the will of the people.