Tuesday, August 23, 2005

DeStefano to Hold Open Forum on Blog

Gubernatorial candidate and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano will be holding "an online Town Hall" tomorrow between 5 and 6pm, which will essentially be a question and answer session with the candidate on his site. The forum will be, according to a press release issued by the campaign, "...the first of many such cyber-events hosted by his campaign website."

This is good news for those of us interested in seeing candidates and public officials becoming more accessible online. This will allow the candidate to reach out to people who may never have the opportunity to go to a campaign rally or talk to a candidate or public official.

DeStefano is no stranger to interacting with people online. He participated in a question and answer session on this site last month, and has commented several times on his campaign blog.

I'm very interested to see what the format will be like. Our own question-and-answer format can be a bit clunky, especially for the uninitiated: I imagine there will be some useful improvements.

In other news, the Lt. Governor's blog is active again. I'm a little disappointed to see that the earlier conversations have been deleted, as have Sullivan's responses to many of the issues that came up. There also doesn't seem to be as much activity as before, which is a shame. Hopefully traffic and comments there will pick up again, so that the project isn't abandoned entirely.


stomv said...

I'm generally skeptical of online discussions, since the server can simply dismiss difficult or ugly questions. Any reason to think DeStefano won't simply table any issues he's trying to avoid?

Genghis Conn said...


A very good point. That's an advantage of doing this sort of discussion through a third party (like us): all questions will at the very least get through. I did ask about moderation, and Shonu Gandhi (the campaign manager) has said that there will be some to make sure it doesn't get out of hand, but that it will be basically unscripted.

Of course, even if a candidate does see all questions, there's no guarantee that he/she will actually answer them. But that's nothing new: politicians give non-answers all the time.

I suppose you have to trust the candidate.

Aldon Hynes said...

Essentially, the format of our Online Town Hall Forum will be very similar to the format you used. It is a little bit clunky, but I hope we will have a few improvements in how it is presented.

I have fought hard to keep this as open, unscripted and as unmoderated as possible. Mayor DeStefano has often spoken about the importance of promoting participation and I believe that giving people as much latitude as possible is a great way of promoting participation.

An open dialog about differing opinions promotes participation and I hope we hear some well thought out and well presented viewpoints on different topics. However, character attacks tend to diminish participation and I hope that they can be avoided.

As to the concern about tabling difficult issues, let me make a few comments. First, anyone will be able to post comments, and all honest questions should stay up. It may well be that Mayor DeStefano won’t have an answer for some questions. In my mind, that is a good thing. I think there is a real problem that we face in expecting our leaders to know all the answers ahead of time. Such an attitude diminishes participation. If our leaders appear to know it all, already, why should we offer our opinions?

Instead, I am hoping that people will use this as an opportunity to argue for causes that are important to them and that the Mayor will gain new insight from the experience, as I hope everyone else will gain new insight from the experience. If you have a compelling issue and ideas about how to address it, I hope you will be able to convince may people via the online dialog of your ideas.

I hope everyone comes to the forum and participates as a way of working together to solve problems that face our state instead of in the tired old attack politics that I believe is so damaging to democracy.