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Roswell debate called off due to lack of participants
by Joan Durbin
October 23, 2013 01:18 PM | 2458 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Additional reporting by Rachel Kellogg

A debate scheduled for this evening has been canceled due to a lack of participation from three of the six candidates.

Former Roswell city councilwoman Lori Henry, who spearheaded the organization of the debate, sent out an email over the weekend explaining the cancelation.

“I would like to thank you all for your interest in and support of our endeavor. Unfortunately, the Roswell Candidates Debate for Wednesday evening Oct. 23rd has been canceled. Though we received enthusiastic response from the largest HOA’s in Roswell, it was determined by all involved that there is little to be gained by having yet another candidate ‘forum’ particularly with only three candidates in attendance.

“We encourage everyone to make plans to attend one of the [other] forums,” she said in the email.

Before the group decided to forego the forum altogether, Henry had expressed her hope that the three candidates who couldn’t attend would rearrange their schedules.

“The reasons that were conveyed to me were scheduling conflicts,” she said

“For the sake of the residents I hope that they are able to resolve their scheduling conflicts. I have never heard of a candidate declining the opportunity to inform and educate the residents of Roswell regarding their positions on the issues at hand.”

Two weeks’ notice

Henry said invitations went out to all candidates on Oct. 10, less than two weeks prior to the debate.

Council incumbent Kent Igleheart and candidates Kendra Cox and Eric Schumacher were planning to be at the event.

Post 6 incumbent Nancy Diamond cited a previous commitment this evening.

“Had I known a little sooner, I certainly would have it on the schedule. The other two debates were scheduled long ago. I remember hearing about the one at city hall in July,” she said.

Harvey Smith, who is challenging post 4 incumbent Kent Igleheart, said he was unable to rearrange his schedule to accommodate this evening’s event. “I’m not running from my opponent. It was the late invitation, nothing more, nothing less,” he said. “You’d think we would have gotten more advance notice.”

Councilman Jerry Orlans, who is the post 5 incumbent, said when he got the invitation to Decision Roswell 2013, he had already committed to “a fairly important and large meet-and-greet that same night.”

Orlans said he would keep his word to attend that event.

“If they want to hear all of the candidates, there is another forum next week,” he said.

On Tuesday the inaugural RoswellNEXT candidate debate is at 7 p.m. at High Meadows School, 1055 Willeo Road, Roswell. The public is encouraged to submit questions at the website.

The canceled debate was to be sponsored by an alliance of homeowners associations that includes Martin’s Landing, Horseshoe Bend, Sentinel on the River, Brookfield Country Club and Edenwilde.

Willow Springs withdraws sponsorship

One of the HOAs listed originally as a sponsor withdrew before the forum was called off.

Willow Springs Civic Affairs Director Joe Piontek emailed Henry and Michael Nyden, a former city council candidate and one of the organizers of the debate, with that decision after news broke that three candidates would not be at the debate.

“When my subdivision received notice of this debate on Oct. 8, we naturally assumed all six candidates would have been contacted and a mutually agreeable date set. I was surprised to see their invitations only go out last Thursday,” Piontek wrote.

In a follow-up phone call to a reporter, Piontek said that without three of the candidates, the event “is not going to be a debate, it’s a monologue.”

UDC was catalyst for debate

If only one issue can be identified as the single most controversial in this year’s Roswell municipal elections, it would be the Unified Development Code.

“The litmus test will be the candidate’s position on the zoning, or UDC,” Nyden said “The rest of the issues will probably not impact the outcome in any race, and though important, pale in long term impact for our city and more importantly, our homeowners.”

Nyden and Henry organized the event, with the UDC as the motivating factor, according to Nyden.

“The idea for the debate was based on Lori’s great idea to organize HOAs to raise questions, and my fear that the massive rezoning might be soft-pedaled in other forums,” he said.

Henry said her primary reason for pulling this debate together was to raise awareness of the upcoming elections.

“Secondly, [it was] to offer all the candidates to communicate their positions on the issues that are facing our city and neighborhoods. The UDC certainly tops the list,” she said.

“With the exception of the Women’s Club ‘Forum’ the other debates and/or forums are being sponsored by special interest groups. I envisioned a true debate, inclusive of rebuttals, on the topics that are important to our residents. 

“Call me crazy but I don’t see a downside to communicating with our residents so that they can make good decisions in the voting booth.”

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