Edit on 1/31 to add update at the end of the original post...
I was going to try to write a complete summary of the forum, but there were too many candidates and too many questions for me to keep up.
However, on many issues, the candidates' answers were similar, so let me sum those up -
School district unification? Some supported, some opposed, some were neutral - all said it was an issue to be decided by the voters, not the the City Council.
Taxes? Hate 'em.
Neighborhoods? Love 'em.
Businesses? Need more and buy local, too.
Quality of life? Yup, that's important, too.
And so on... :)
For more detailed info on a candidate's positions, visit their website -
...While I couldn't do justice to all of the answers given by the candidates, I can give some impressions/evaluations of the candidates' performances.
Note to the candidates and their supporters: While some of these evaluations contain criticisms, none of the criticisms are personal, or even are content-based. All of the candidates seem as if they are civic-spirited Tempeans who genuinely want to serve their community.
There were no bad candidates there last night, though a couple of them should work on their performances.
Anyway, on to the good stuff -
Corey Woods was easily the most polished and comfortable candidate on the dais. He spoke directly and firmly and his answers were direct, pertinent, and well-thought-out. There were a couple of minor mistakes, but they were more in the "picking nits" category than the "major gaffe" category. Combine tonight's performance with a solid ground game (*lots* of walking and knocking), and he has a good chance in March.
Hut Hutson was very solid. His positions and answers mostly hammered home the successes of the current council (he's an incumbent). There was one question, asking what the candidate considered to be the most pressing environmental issue facing Tempe. He hit that one out of the park. He answered with 'water' and proceeded to show that he had an understanding of the nuances and 'beyond Tempe' facets of the issue. Overall, he'll be tough to beat.
Mark Mitchell, also an incumbent, did a good job with the content of his answers, but his presentation of those answers left a lot to be desired. For example, he tended to shift his gaze over the audience while he gave his answers. However, the event was also televised on Tempe's Channel 11 and what works well with a live audience will look like hell on television. He didn't have to look at the camera, but he should have focused his answers on one of his tablemates and let the camera find him. His style works better in small group and one-on-one interactions and in forums that are more "live audience" oriented.
Julie Jakubek, a neighborhood activist and small business owner, did OK for a relative novice, but she told the audience about how she and her husband won an award for their home improvement project, and she told us four or five times. She did an excellent job at projecting her energy but should be careful not to become a single-issue candidate (neighborhoods). "Signature issue" = good; "sole issue" = not good.
Daryl Jacobson-Barnes, also a neighborhood activist and small business owner, spoke clearly but too many of her answers were of the "I need to say *something*; hope nobody notices that I don't have a lot of specifics" variety. However, she did a better job than
Joel Navarro, a Phoenix firefighter and Tempe community activist. While it was obvious that he cares deeply for Tempe, most of his answers were rambling generalities. He came across as passionate but unprepared, and that isn't a good combination with the campaign season peaking.
Rhett Wilson, former town councilor in Kearny, AZ and currently working on economic development issues for ASU, did a solid job. His answers demonstrated his knowledge of the issues (he had a few 'non-answer' answers, but not so many that he could be called 'unprepared.') His delivery was occasionally a little dry, but also occasionally showed great passion. In addition, he was the only candidate to directly challenge another candidate. He called out Hut Hutson. Hutson cited his record as a tax-cutter during some of his answers, and Wilson brought up a council vote from 2005 (I think it was 2005, anyway) that belied Hutson's claims. Not being familiar with the nuances of Tempe's recent political history, I have no idea if the barb hit the mark.
...Having said all that, everyone, even the candidates that I've criticized or complimented here, should remember that municipal elections are won on the ground. Walking neighborhoods, talking to residents, and speaking to community groups get the job done in local elections. There were less than 100 people in the live audience and an unknown (but probably very small) number watching at home. Tuesday's forum didn't lock up a win for or lock out anyone's candidacy.
There are seven candidates for the three openings that are on the ballot in March, so four of these candidates will be disappointed. However, they are all fairly young (with the exception of Hut Hutson, who's been in Tempe longer than I've been alive :) ), and I expect that, win or lose in March, most of these candidates will be staying involved in elective politics, whether in Tempe or in more regional campaigns (lege?). It will be interesting to watch their growth as campaigners.
Lastly, all of the candidates should be complimented. They're taking time out of their lives and risking public criticism and ridicule to win a job where, no matter what they do, they'll tick off someone.
At home, they'll get late night phone calls, emails, and letters. At work in the council chambers, they'll face a steady stream of people stepping up to the podium to rail against everything they do.
They know all this, and yet they're still stepping up to serve.
Edit to add:
In the aftermath of the forum, the Tempe Chamber of Commerce (one of the sponsors of the forum), announced their endorsements in the Tempe City Council race.
From the Arizona Republic -
The Tempe Chamber of Commerce is endorsing City Council candidates Joel Navarro, Corey Woods and incumbent Mark Mitchell.
Congrats to all three...