Forum puts focus on collaboration, consensus among Cincinnati city council candidates

CINCINNATI - For residents with strong opinions on neighborhood development, next week may be the best opportunity to catch the ear of a prospective city council member.

On Sept. 23, the Innovative Candidate-Citizen Conversation will delve into new territory for many voters and politicians. It may test the candidates’ abilities to put agendas aside, listen to concerns and work with residents and prospective council members to propose solutions for complex problems.

The forum will bring together city council candidates and constituents to focus on the topic of neighborhood development. Sponsored by AIR, Inc., the Cincinnatus Association, Citizens for Civic Renewal, the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area, the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati and Women’s City Club, organizers say the forum is designed to create new possibilities for consensus. 

“Campaigns should be about candidates listening to citizens in the community,” said Jeffrey Stec, director of Citizens for Civic Renewal. “And the more they learn as a candidate through campaigning, the better they’ll be to represent all those different voices and get something done collectively.”

Stec, who will serve as facilitator, explained the two-part forum will allow voters to get a more comprehensive view of candidates, calling the event will be "radical departure" from their campaigning as usual. He said the goal of the sponsoring organizations is to shift the paradigm to candidates asking residents what should be done, as opposed to candidates telling them what they’re going to do.

He believes that somewhere in our country’s history, the political concept of representative became skewed to a single voice instead of that of the entire community.

“When people get together and connect, that’s when things start to change,” he said.

Organizers intentionally chose the topic of neighborhood development to make it impossible for candidates to simply pivot to their stump speeches, Stec said. He said he recently attended an event where each candidate professed to being “all about the neighborhoods,” but not a single one explained what that meant. He hopes the forum will be a wakeup call to candidates about the variety opinions that can surround even a single issue.

Breaking out of traditional formats

The Innovative Candidate-Citizen Conversation is designed to be a learning experience for candidates framed around two questions, according to Stec.

“So both questions are about what the candidate has learned,” he said. “The first phase is what did you learn from the citizens and the second phase is what did you learn from the other candidates, and that’s the event.”

The forum which will be divided into two sections.

The first will place each candidate in a small group of five to six, where citizens will be allowed to express their opinions about the topic. Following 25 to 30 minutes, the session will break and candidates will be asked to present the concerns they’ve heard from their citizen group to all those in attendance.

The second part of the event will bring five prospective candidates together in a group to collaborate on solutions for constituent’s concerns. Two extra chairs will be included in each discussion, so citizens may jump in and out of discussion to add their opinions as an equal contributor to the process. The candidates will then present their prospective solutions to the entire group.

League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area vice president for programs, Carolyn Miller, said each election year men and women alike turn to the organization to get clear and concise information about the upcoming elections including candidate profiles and ballot issues.

She said the organization is co-sponsoring the event because members believe civic engagement should play a larger role in government. As an attendee, she said she’ll be looking for far more from candidates than their pre-rehearsed two-minute campaign spiel. Miller explained watching and participating in small groups will allow voters to get a clear view of how candidates listen to their constituents, as well as cooperate with each other.

“We hope this will be a model of some new way of citizens engaging with their councilmembers, with their government, and will carry forward to the future,” she said. “We hope this will not just be a candidate event, but maybe be some kind of model that we can look for in the future with the city council representatives.

Next page: Find event information and a list of future debates, forums

The Innovative Candidate-Citizen Conversation: If you go

  • Open to the public
  • 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., Monday, Sept. 23
  • St. John’s Unitarian Church, 320 Resor Ave., Cincinnati
  • Parking is available at the Fairview School located on Clifton Ave.

Collaboration is key

City council hopeful Greg Landsman said council members must work across party lines and involve communities to promote long-term growth and stability in the city. He said he’s excited about the event, as the candidates will be able to engage voters in a meaningful way to get a sense of their priorities. 

“The idea of deeper engagement, to be able to sit down and really get to know each other: that is very powerful,” Landsman said. “With four year terms--which is a first for Cincinnati--doing this level of citizen and voter engagement, I think, is critical and something we ought to do on a regular basis, not just right before an election.”

Election 2013: More opportunities for voters to connect

Sept. 25: Meet the Candidates Night

  • Mt. Airy School, 5730 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati 
  • Event begins at 7:00 p.m.
  • Meet and greet Cincinnati City Council and Cincinnati Board of Education candidates.
  • Sponsor: Mt. Airy Town Council

Sept. 26: City of Cincinnati Candidate’s Forum

  • Hampton Inn, 3024 Vine St.
  • Event begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Each candidate will speak for two minutes. The format will not include questions from audience. Topics may include transportation, economic development, public safety and importance of Uptown to the region.
  • Candidates will participate in a "meet and greet: following the forum

Oct. 1: City Council Candidate Meet-and-Greet and Mayoral Debate

  • Walnut Hills High School, 3250 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati
  • 6:30 p.m.: City Council Candidate Meet-and-Greet
  • 7:30 p.m.: Cincinnati Mayoral Candidate Debate
  • Hosted by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) at its General Membership Meeting 

Oct. 2: AFL-CIO Labor Council Meet the Candidate Night

  • Laborers Local 265 Hall, 3457 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati
  • Event begins at 6:00 p.m.
  • Meet and greet locally endorsed AFL-CIO candidates
  • Sponsors by AFL-CIO

Oct. 3: City of Cincinnati Mayoral and School Board Forum

  • Location to be announced. Call 513-751-9900 for details
  • Event begins at 6 p.m.
  • Candidates will participate in the African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky annual Candidate’s Night.
  • Each candidate will have an opportunity to speak about what they will do if elected, particularly those issues that are relative to the African American business community.
  • Open to the general public.
  • Sponsored by African American Chamber 

Oct. 5: Cincinnati City Council Candidates Forum

  • The Greenwich, 2442 Gilbert Ave., Cincinnati 
  • Social hour begins at 6:00 p.m. with light hors d'oeuvres, followed by question-and-answer sessions with candidates for Cincinnati Council.
  • Forum begins at 7:00 p.m
  • Meet candidates before and after their sessions.
  • Moderator: Kathy Wilson, CityBeat
  • Media Panel: Kevin Osborne, WCPO politics and government reporter and German Lopez, staff writer, CityBeat
  • Sponsored by LWVCA, The Greenwich, CityBeat

Oct. 8: City of Cincinnati Mayoral Debate

  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 E. Freedom Way, Cincinnati
  • Event begins at 7:00 p.m.
  • Media Panel: Jeff Hirsh of WKRC-TV; and Lincoln Ware, Buzz Radio
  • Sponsored by LWVCA, WKRC-TV, Cincinnati Enquirer

Oct.15: City of Cincinnati Mayoral Debate

  • School for the Creative & Performing Arts, 108 Central Parkway, Cincinnati
  • Event begins at 7:00 p.m.
  • Televised live on 9 On Your Side (WCPO-TV)
  • Sponsored by LWVCA, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Cincinnatus Association, and 9 On Your Side (WCPO-TV)

Oct. 17: City of Cincinnati City Council Candidates Forum 

  • Location to be announced. Call 513-751-9900 for details.
  • Event begins at 6:00 p.m.
  • Candidates for the 2013 mayoral and city council will participate in the African American Chamber of Commerce event.
  • Each candidate will have an opportunity to speak about what they will do if elected, particularly those issues that are relative to the African American business community.
  • Open to the general public.
  • Sponsored by African American Chamber 


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