When Lisa Neulicht of the Reduce Jet Noise group wanted to organize a Town Hall meeting with the port candidates about the future of our airport, she ran into some unexpected resistance. Both Republican-endorsed candidates, Dan Robbins and Ken Bell (read my interview with him here), balked at the idea of a “debate.”
Bell was crystal clear about his position. “I am keenly interested in a discussion and hearing what you and the residents of Whatcom have to say about the impacts of the airport. I am not interested in another debate.” He wrote to Leulicht.
Robbins echoed Bell’s position. “I also agreed to attend a meeting to hear about your concerns about the negative impacts at the airport from your point of view.”
Leulicht made it very clear that she was modeling the event after the Tea Party debate, which was attended by all the candidates for port – yet the idea of another debate in the public eye caused both Bell and Robbins to threaten to drop out.
Stymied by their reluctance, Leulicht brought in the moderator of the event, Columbia Neighborhood president J.R. Johnson to reassure the skittish conservatives. “My job as moderator is to make sure there is no back-and-forth, but a simple question and answer session so everyone can make more informed choices. I hope this, as well as the other organizers’ responses alleviates any concern on your part.”
It just makes me wonder what is so terrifying about having an open discussion about the issues facing the port. Especially this year, when the County Council races are taking up so much of the public’s attention, I would hope those running for port would welcome an opportunity to elaborate on their ideas in an open debate- yet Bell and Robbins are limiting these opportunities.
By comparison, Renata Kowalczyk and Mike McAuley both agreed to attend the Town Hall without any demands or restrictions.
UPDATE: Ken Bell has responded in the comments, please take a look to see his response.