Upfront: The Best Place To Be Born

Categories:      News & Politics    Community    Opinion
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Writer George Bernard Shaw said that patriotism – much like civic pride – is “a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”

Now, we here at the Erie Reader are pro-Erie. Everyone knows that. But we aren’t pro-Erie because some of us were born here; we’re pro-Erie, because we live here, we work here, we shop here, and we raise our children here, and – just like you – we want this city, this county, this region, and this country to prosper, so that all may prosper with it in an unending and decidedly un-vicious circle of success.

But we’ve been rough on Erie at times, and with good reason.

A month ago, I wrote about poverty in Erie – a creeping, pervasive spectre looming just outside the doors of our friends, our neighbors, and our families. Poverty, I postulated, is a result of unemployment, which breeds crime, which in turn scares off employers, which in turn begets further unemployment, creating an unending and decidedly vicious circle of suffering.

That story generated a lot of discussion, almost all of it positive; here in Erie, as I mentioned, we’re not so good at self-assessment, so even bringing our problems to light is good medicine. And while good medicine rarely goes down easy, it does begin the slow process of recovery. However, some commenters lamented that our writers and editors are awfully good at dispensing palliatives, and offer little in the way of instant cures.

Listen, people, we know our roles here. We all play small parts. We’re not legislators, and neither are (most of) you. We talk about things we can’t change in hopes that the people who can, will. We bring you the issues that matter, and drive discussions so that you, loyal Reader readers, have a platform for your musings available nowhere else in the city.

And we’ve always felt that the best way to give you that platform – in furtherance of a sustainable, flourishing Erie – is to call upon our leaders, each election season, and ask them to explain exactly what they have to offer.

That’s why we’re proud to announce that the 2013 “Erie Reader Downtown Debate Series” will culminate at the Jefferson Educational Society at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Many – if not all – of the weeds growing in our collective garden have their gnarly roots in the city; as the main economic engine of our little region, Erie’s economy casts a long shadow, from State Street to Saegertown, and from Cambridge Springs to Corry – which is why we’re focusing on the race for Erie City Council.

Five candidates seek four seats; current City Controller Casimir J. Kwitowski is the only non-incumbent city councilman running; David Brennan, Curtis Jones, Jr., James Winarski, and John Evans – the only Republican – all hope to retain their city council seats.

The current climate of city politics is mild, but bluster is on the immediate horizon; led by a mayor who’s greatest strength and weakness is that he’s done nothing much of note, our city faces a perfect storm in the coming years – including a stagnant tax base, a smorgasbord of social ills, and a flurry of dim-witted development schemes. Adding an element of intrigue to the debate is the fact that Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott is termed-out; in four years, Erie will be looking for a new mayor, and Erie might need look no further than the stage at this debate.

No, our next mayor will not be debate moderator Lisa Adams, although she’d probably make a good mayor; that’s why we’ve eschewed our traditional multi-panelist format in favor of asking Lisa – a highly-knowledgeable and experienced television journalist over at Lilly Broadcasting – to helm this, our seventh debate.

The questions will be provided by the Erie Reader Editorial Board, composed of myself, Editors-in-Chief Brian Graham and Adam Welsh, and Managing Editor Ben Speggen. Adams will direct a question to a specific candidate, who will have one minute to respond. Then, any other candidate who wishes to also respond or rebut may raise their hand, be recognized, and have their 30 seconds. Calling on her knowledge and experience, Adams will have the ability to ask follow-up questions of anyone, at any time.

We feel this format allows greater flexibility for both the candidates and the moderator; much can be learned from who answers what, as well as who keeps quiet when. And if someone’s avoiding, obscuring, or otherwise obfuscating, Adams can press for a real answer. In short, past Reader debates were more like interrogations, but this one will be more like a conversation.

If you want to be part of that conversation, share your questions and comments with us before, during, and after the debate at Facebook.com/ErieReader or on Twitter using the hashtag #ERDebate; alternatively, drop me a line at the email address below. Then, make plans to join us as we all play our small parts in making Erie the best place in the world to be born.

The Erie Reader 2013 Downtown Debate is free and open to the public. The Jefferson Educational Society is located at 3207 State St., where there may or may not be cookies. The debate will also be broadcast in HD on WICU-TV; as of press time, the date and time for the broadcasts were yet to be determined.

Cory Vaillancourt is a brilliant writer/complete hack and can be complimented/heckled at cVaillancourt@ErieReader.com. Find him on Twitter @VLNCRT. 

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 25
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