A few observations in the aftermath of the candidates’ night sponsored by the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce, which took place on Tuesday night. The forum was for Mammoth Lakes Town Council candidates.
1.) Preparation. It seriously appeared like the majority of the candidates hadn’t had one conscious thought about the candidates’ night prior to sitting down at the dais. Helpful hint to candidates: If you could have been half as prepared as the moderator (Brent Truax), you would have done fine. But the majority of you, well, sucked.
2.) Format. The format allowed each candidate to not only answer the question before them, but then respond to any other candidate or topic that had been brought up previously. It was amazing to me that many candidates would answer a question and then cede the floor without further comment, as if nothing else they’d heard had jogged their brain or elicited a reaction.
3.) The Perils of Being Nice. If you’re an underdog, and you’re more concerned with preserving an image of being nice than with trying to win, you’re destined to finish sixth or lower. If you’re not sure this is you, I’ll give you a hint. You have an ‘en’ in your name. You should be more concerned with taking a few real positions and letting people know a little bit about who you are than waffling through every question because you don’t want to alienate a segment of the electorate. Of course you won’t alienate anyone. How can you alienate someone if they have no clue who you are? If a tree falls in the forest …
Furthermore. if enough of you take a position, then everyone has to take a position, and Fernie has to tell you what he really thinks about single family home rentals.
4.) Who Wants to be a Millionaire? That’s what candidate night reminded me of. A bunch of desperate folks looking for a lifeline while the audience sits there all smug and satisfied thinking, “Geez, I could do better than that.”
If you think I’m a little miffed, I am. If you can’t be bothered to study for the exam, don’t ask me to waste my time grading it.
In short. The winners: John Wentworth, who appeared like a Gulliver among Lilliputians, and Colin Fernie, who was poised and didn’t shrink in the lights.
While the remaining six tied for last, Deb Pierrel gets points for preparation, but I don’t know how you can coach warmth.
And now … well, I got home and imagined what it would be like if all the candidates returned to the Mammoth Mansion and gathered in the living room to engage in a little post-debate analysis.
Cleland: Well, that went well.
Deb: Yeah, I said a lot of really smart things. Like when I said that thing about how it’s important to ask the right questions, but it’s even more important to analyze the answers. That was a real linguistic light saber.
Deb: The audience appeared almost dazed.
Colin: Deb. I’ve got to get something out of my room. Can you wait a second before you continue?
Deb: Of course, Colin. I wouldn’t want to deprive you of my loquaciousness.
Colin returns with an oxygen tank.
Deb: What’s that for?
Colin: Well, you have a way of sucking the oxygen out of a room, so I wanted to be prepared.
Shields: I wish I’d had more time to talk about my fabulous business career in the 1980s.
Colin: Um … I only have one oxygen tank.
Karen: I was a little confused about that question regarding a land trade? What land trade?
John: The Mountain wishes to trade several parcels it has acquired all over the state which the Forest Service covets in exchange for the base area land around Main Lodge. It pretty much represents the largest single factor in the future development of Mammoth.
Karen: Well, I don’t know anything about that. I do know that I should talk about my accounting background in every sentence, because there’s nothing more important than accounting. I should have told people that I collect abacuses as a hobby.
Cleland: Do you really collect abacuses?
Karen: Well, no, but anytime you associate your name with a word like abacus, people assume you’re smart.
John: Wouldn’t the plural of abacus be abaci?
Cleland: Sure, Mr. Ivy League.
Elena: I really think we should stand at lecterns like in Presidential debates as opposed to sitting at a dais. How am I supposed to show off my legs?
John: Very good point. Perhaps we should have scheduled an intermission and entertained the crowd by doing the Macarelena.
Elena (ignoring him): What did you think, Ken?
Ken: I tried to keep all my answers really brief because I just wanted to get it over with. I was having Chart House withdrawal.
Elena: By the way, I was surprised at your technological savvy, Ken.
Ken: What do you mean?
Elena: The way you found Suite Z using Google maps.
John: And I was impressed by your short answers. As Twain said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Shields: Now you tell me.
Karen: Would I be far off in my assumption that you were not a member of the USC debate team?
Shields: I’m not much of a debater … but I find solace in my bank account balance.
Cleland: I only like to make money for other people.
Ken: I could use an employee like you.
Colin: I just wanted to thank you all, my fellow candidates, for the personal sacrifice you’ve demonstrated in running for office. I also wanted to thank you all for your collective lack of preparation for this debate.
John: Hold on, there! I was prepared.
Deb: I was, too. I just don’t know how to connect with an audience.
Colin: Fair enough. So I want to thank the rest of you.
Elena: I would have done much better at a lectern.
Cleland: I would have done much better if I could have remembered any of the questions.
Ken: I thought I really nailed my opening statement. C’mon. That whole part about being a local manager working for a large corporation, and how I’ve got so much freedom and decision-making power so it’s just like I’m an actual entrepreneur running my own small business? That was genius.
Deb: You had me believing you write the checks …
Karen: Yeah, instead of the Footloose/Chart House 5K/10K, they should call it the Footloose/Murray 5K/10K.
Shields: Dang, I want a do-over.
Suddenly, the basement door swings open with a bang, and into the room walks Joe Parrino.
Joe: I’ve got it Shields. Hot Tub Time Machine!
John: How long have you been in the basement?
Joe: Long enough to install hidden cameras in every room, and short enough to know that it’s still 2014.
Hey Elena, ever think about getting back out on the drag racing circuit? We’d be unstoppable. Me dangerous, you … well, whatever you do.
Cleland: Would you all mind if I just started rambling about the single family home rental issue again? I think I’ve hit on my issue, and I’m gonna own it.
John: Me, I’m a multi-issue guy, and I’m in favor of everything you want me to be in favor of until June 5th, at which time I may choose to be in favor of other things.
Colin: I’m in favor of what John is in favor of, unless I’m not.
Joe: I’m in favor of your business partner Jeremy, who served as the timekeeper. Without him, Shields would still be stuck in 1994.
Karen: Much like Mammoth’s Main Street. I loved 1994.
Colin: So Joe … what made you drop out of the race?
Joe: I just didn’t think politics was dangerous enough for me. So I found something super-dangerous to take its place.
Deb: Which is?
Joe: Driving. Just driving. Anywhere in Mono County. Sometimes I get on 395 and I set the cruise on 68 and I don’t buckle my seatbelt.
Cleland: I just want to be the Town mother. Not the Mother Bear or the Mother Cougar or even Mother Superior. I just want to make sure that everyone gets a healthy lunch and we have somewhere to throw our garbage when we’re done. That’s why the solid waste and recycling issues are so important to me.
Deb: I’ve got it. We can call you Mama SMRF!
Shields: This is the mother of all bad decisions. Why did I sign up for this?