You Ought to Know: Your Erie Reader 2012 Downtown Debate Candidates
Get to know Janet Anderson, Ryan Bizzarro, Jason Owen, and Sean Wiley a little better before the debates!
If you have a TV, odds are you may have seen something about some sort of election thingy taking place sometime soon. It's all over the Internet, too.
These glowing rectangles tell us that we have some hard choices to make on Tuesday, Nov. 6, from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Erie, Pa. And here, in Erie, Pa, these rectangles – glowing guiltily – serve not only to inform, but also to persuade and to position.
In doing so, the rectangles fabricate a largely mythical image of candidates and elected officials. The rectangles deify what are, in reality, ordinary people leading ordinary lives despite performing an extraordinary service on behalf of their families, their friends, their communities, and their country.
But we're not going to let the rectangles deceive us. Recently, I talked with the four ordinary people who will be participating in the Erie Reader 2012 Downtown Debate Series – Janet Anderson, Ryan Bizzarro, Jason Owen, and Sean Wiley, all of whom have been foregoing their bike rides, bar trivia, date nights, and glowing rectangles in favor of campaigning long and hard for the right to serve you in Harrisburg this coming January.
I didn't go the usual route when I interviewed them though, so if you're looking for stump speeches, campaign talking points, or sloganeering, find the nearest glowing rectangle. I asked these local candidates – Democrat Bizzarro vs. Republican Owen in Pennsylvania House District 3, Republican Anderson vs. Democrat Wiley in Pennsylvania State District 49 – some simple questions meant to expose their otherwise ordinary lives outside the glowing rectangles. Take note, citizens, this is your chance to learn who they really are, right here inside this non-glowing black-and-white rectangle.
Cory Vaillancourt: What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word "Erie?"
Janet Anderson: Progressive. Beautiful. Great family location.
Ryan Bizzarro: Home. This is my home. It's a good place to raise a family.
Jason Owen: Lakeshore community.
Sean Wiley: Hard-working.
CV: Tell me about a childhood memory you recall involving Erie.
JA: I had grown up in Peters Township [in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh], so we were able to take the bus and go to the South Hills Village Mall and see movies, and walk the mall, and hang out with our friends; when I moved to Franklin, I said, "Where's the movie theater?" They said, "Oil City." When I said "Where's the mall?" they said, "Erie." So I guess my first real exposure would have been, in those days, coming to the mall.
RB: Going to the zoo as a child, going to Waldameer [Park and Water World], just growing up here, being here. There's so many things to do, not just in the summer…the summer always comes to mind, because that's when this community is at it's peak…but even going sled-riding; there's just so many great childhood memories.
JO: Playing baseball in a backyard on Liberty Street with my friends.
SW: The passing of my grandfather. The emotional impact it had made a big impact on my life.
CV: What's inside your refrigerator? Do you have any "must-haves?"
JA: Nothing [laughing]. At the moment, there's nothing… "must always have" probably a bottle of wine, white wine, and salad fixings, vegetables.
RB: [laughing] Well, since I'm barely home… When you're doing a campaign, it's all fast food, it's all grab-and-go…so there's probably nothing besides my Brita water pitcher, some bottles of water to grab and go.
JO: Leftovers [laughing]. Usually orange juice.
SW: Yuengling. Leftover pasta from last night. Yogurt for the kids.
CV: What's on your iPod right now?
JA: I just deleted everything accidentally from my iPod, but generally '70s music, Natalie Cole.
RB: My iPod? I haven't listened to since January. I'm a big fan of the Foo Fighters, I love Green Day…I don't discriminate against any music; I'm open to all genres.
JO: Queen and Dave Matthews are always on my iPod.
SW: I have a mix of all kinds of things from Rush to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Maroon 5.
CV: How many televisions do you own?
CV: Any pets?
JA: We did…he passed away. We've had Siberian Huskies.
RB: When [girlfriend Lesley] comes to town, she has two dogs. They're Chihuahuas.
SW: I have a yellow lab that's 11 years old, and a cat that's 3 years old.
CV: If you were granted one wish by a genie, you would do what? Asking for several more wishes is not allowed.
JA: Fast forward to Nov. 7! [laughing]. No, really, I think I would want to make sure that my daughters were well taken care of. The hardest job I've ever had is raising my girls. No matter what position I've ever had there's never been anything more important to me, so making sure that they're both settled and doing well is probably what that would be.
RB: My top wish would be health and happiness not only for myself, but for the ones I love and care about the most.
JO: Probably a time machine.
SW: The extended health of some of the family members that are not doing so well.
CV: What's your favorite thing to do here in town, recreationally speaking?
JA: Go out to Presque Isle. Whether it's walking, riding my bike, being at the beach. I also like to golf, although I'm a pretender, not a real player.
RB: I do love going down to Presque Isle. I love walking, biking down there. Baseball at the [Jerry] Uht [Park]. Watching my brothers tear it up on the basketball court and on the football field.
JO: Biking around the peninsula.
SW: I love downtown. I love the nightlife. I don't get a chance to do it as often as I like. I like going on dates with my wife, which we don't do very often at all, with having a family…but my favorite thing about Erie would be the peninsula. My wife and I met each other down there.
CV: What are some of your favorite hangouts in Erie?
JA: Along with what I already mentioned, I also try to spend a lot of time with the people from my church, Wayside Presbyterian. I also love to cook, but I really enjoy trying a lot of the great restaurants Erie has to offer as well.
RB: In Millcreek, obviously I go to my grandfather's bar [the Ringside]. I love Joe Root's, I love the Sandbar, but I also love Calamari's…Tap House…Plymouth. And El Canelo. I love El Canelo.
JO: Plymouth for trivia on Tuesdays, although I haven't gotten there as much as I like to lately. Molly Brannigan's for trivia on Wednesdays. The Fox and Hound. Used to go to the Ringside a lot more, but I don't get there as much as I used to [laughing].
SW: I really frequent local establishments; I love Danny's restaurant, I love Serafini's, I like the Tap House a lot. I really try to stick to the local stuff.
CV: What would you say your biggest vice is?
JA: Obsessing. About anything.
RB: I shouldn't eat the way that I eat; if it's not good for you, it's guaranteed that I'm eating it.
JO: I like an occasional cigar.
SW: I probably drink too much coffee. I don't smoke.
CV: Describe your campaign in four words.
JA: Continuing to knock on doors, grassroots, reach out to people, get to know people…once we win, continue that, find out what the real issues are for people here in Erie, and make sure that we are constantly working on behalf of Erie and not a particular party or interest group. Erie is the interest group.
RB: Ready on Day 1.
JO: Improve Erie's competitiveness. I did it in three [laughing]!
SW: Dedication. Dedication. Dedication. Dedication. And I'll qualify that – this is the most humbling thing I've ever done. It is the dedication of so many people that is making this possible, and it is truly a remarkable experience. And regardless of what happened on the sixth of November, there are no regrets. This has been fantastic.
CV: Complete this sentence. "Please vote for me because…"
JA: I'm the most qualified, the most experienced, and have no hidden agenda, no ego.
RB: I'm in this race for the right reasons. I have a genuine interest in people and their well-being, and I'm the best person for the job. I'm willing to roll up my sleeves, get the job done, and work with whoever I have to work with in order to better this state, and more importantly, better our community.
JO: Erie needs a strong leader fighting for us down in Harrisburg.
SW: I carry, in my opinion, the values that we need to bring down to Harrisburg. I love this place, and I know politicians say that frequently. I am committed to making this a stronger place to work, a better place to live, and to make this where I want to raise my family. I want to give my kids the opportunity that I've had.