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Group hosting forum prompt confliction
So what is a contractor for the port doing holding a political forum for candidates hoping to get elected to the port? The private Greenbank Farm Management Group’s foray into campaign politics raises questions of appropriateness and conflicts of interest.
The Port of Coupeville is funded by taxpayers to promote economic development. The management group is paid $49,500 a year by the port to manage the Greenbank Farm – out of which 20 percent of the management group executive director’s salary is paid.
While any private entity can hold a candidate’s forum, this Oct. 14 event involves the use of port (taxpayer funds). The port-owned facility that others would have to rent, will be used by the management group for free.
The management group is collecting questions for the candidates in advance. Those thought to be the most “common/representative” are to be asked. This screening is a recipe for softball questions and showcasing candidates favorable to the management group.
Citizens will not be able to ask the candidates directly, and they won’t be able to ask follow-up questions when a candidate blows smoke — as they have been known to do.
The management group’s promotion refers to Commissioner Mike Diamanti, as “our liason with the port.”
Diamanti voted to extend the contract with the management group, and did so in a surprise vote without opportunity for public comment. Should we realistically expect the management group to allow questions about such actions?
Candidates won’t be allowed to make opening or closing statements, which helps to keep voters in the dark and further protects incumbents from having to explain their actions. Diamanti, is running against newcomer Richard Bowen who has voiced a preference for a format that allows voters to ask the candidates questions with the opportunity for follow up.
We have come to expect dog-and-pony shows in electoral politics. But we shouldn’t have to pay for them — and we shouldn’t give up on holding our existing and would-be elected officials accountable.