Pinole to have recall debate

Stephen TiltonMaria AlegriaUPDATE 1/2/07: The Pinole Chamber of Commerce is not and never was a sponsor of this event. It was mistakenly listed when someone used as a template a prior version of an invitation to an event in which the chamber was a sponsor but failed to take its name off the new letter. As many of you know, the chamber’s former executive director, Yvette Ricco, is a candidate for the vacant seat on the Pinole council.

I have revised the blog entry below to reflect the accurate list of sponsors.

A debate and candidates’ forum on the contentious Pinole recall election has been set for 6-9 p.m. on Jan. 10 at the city’s senior center.

Sponsored by the Contra Costa Times, Common Cause and the West Contra Costa chapter of the League of Women Voters, the event is a chance for the city’s 9,000 registered voters to hear from all sides prior to making their decision on Feb. 5.

I will moderate both the debate and the candidates’ forum.

The public may attend the event in person at the Pinole Senior Center at 2500 Charles Ave., Pinole, or watch it later on television. The event will be taped and aired on Channel 26, Pinole’s government access station. (Check the station’s web site for times and dates.)

Here’s how it will work.

In the first hour, sponsored by the Times and Common Cause, Pinole Councilwoman Maria Alegria and Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Tilton, the targets of the recall, have been invited to debate recall proponents Jeff Rubin and Cindy Trego.

The participants will deliver opening statements. I will follow with a series of questions that both sides will have the opportunity to answer and rebut. (Neither side will see the questions in advance.) The debate will conclude with closing statements from each participant.

Tilton, Trego and Rubin have all accepted the invitation to participate. Alegria, in an interview late Friday, said she is considering it.

During the candidates’ forum segment from 7-9 p.m., the Times and the League will invite Alegria, Tilton, the candidates who seek to replace them and two people running for a vacant seat to participate in a moderated discussion about citywide issues.

Running for Alegria’s seat, if she is recalled, are Roy Swearingen and Steve Denlis. John Bender withdrew but he took action too late for election officials to remove his name from the ballot. Running for Tilton’s post, if he should be recalled, is Virginia Fujita.

The candidates running for the vacant seat are Debbie Long and Ivette Ricco. (The seat opened earlier this year after David Cole resigned in order to serve in the U.S. Army.)

The participants will be asked to deliver opening statements. I will follow with a series of questions designed to illuminate the candidates’ views on various citywide issues. (No one will be provided with the questions in advance.) The audience will also be permitted to submit questions in writing during the forum. The evening will conclude with closing statements from the targeted elected officials and the candidates.

The league is in the process of sending invitations, so it’s unknown at this time who will agree to participate.

But I am hopeful that Alegria, Tilton and all the candidates will show up and make their cases to the voters. It has been a hotly contested campaign that will only escalate in the coming weeks before the election and the voters deserve to hear directly from the opponents and the proponents.

On a related note, some of you will have noticed that the recall debate and the candidates’ forum have a common moderator but different sponsors.

This came about because the good volunteers of the West Contra Costa chapter League of Women of Voters feared becoming involved with a too-controversial ballot question, given the high level of passion associated with the campaign on both sides. I can’t say as I agree with their decision — the more contentious, the more we need voter education — but it was their decision to make.

Fortunately, Common Cause stepped forward and will co-sponsor the recall debate segment and provide voters with the opportunity to see and hear both sides in a moderated discussion.

Speaking of heightened emotions, folks who plan to attend on Jan. 10 should be aware that this is a voter education event and not a political rally. That means no banners. No buttons. No T-shirts declaring support or opposition for any candidate. No catcalls or booing or otherwise disruptive behavior will be permitted.

Note: Photos are of Pinole Mayor Maria Alegria and Mayor Pro-Tem Stephen Tilton as they appear on the City of Pinole’s website, http://www.ci.pinole.ca.us/admin/meet_reps.html

Lisa Vorderbrueggen