Some of your readers may have attended our forum held on Wednesday, October 24th at City Hall. Others may have heard that several audience members seemed intent on disrupting the forum. Their interruptions delayed the forum and caused us to eliminate a number of good questions that we didn’t have time to ask.
Civil discourse requires humility because we cannot learn if we are 100% certain that we have all the answers. Being open-minded and being willing to listen to someone with whom you disagree could build trust, which is sorely needed is our world today.
Unfortunately, both humility and trust were in short supply in the audience at the Candidates Forum held in the Burbank City Council Chambers and moderated by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank, this past Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Supporters of challengers in the race for the House of Representatives 28th and 30th Districts, were so convinced that their candidate is better, or that the “other” guy is so much worse, that they felt entitled to yell and jeer at the incumbents – despite pleas from the League members to stop interrupting the forum. By their own actions, the angry audience members prevented their candidates from engaging in the most fundamental need of a democratic society – civil discourse and debate by candidates for public office.
Many audience members who wanted to listen to the candidates were so upset by the rude and obnoxious behavior they left the forum frustrated by the lack of decorum. League members urged the crowd to let the forum proceed without interruptions. We were not as successful as we would like but appreciate support of Burbank police officers who attended the forum. Our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Rita Zwern, Burbank resident, who moderated the forum with grace and conviction to the process.
The League of Women Voters has been educating its members for nearly 100 years and has seen a lot worse, but it is still shocking when adults are unable to control their emotions in a public forum. We can assure the community that it only doubles the motivation of League members to continue our work of voter education. We want people to be passionate about politics but we also want the community to have an opportunity to hear the positions and qualifications of the candidates and to debate important public policy issues.
The forum will be replayed on Burbank Channel 6 (Charter Spectrum cable) and is available on demand on Burbank’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcA4SeTAxqU&t=360s
If you see a snippet in your news feed, we urge you reserve judgment until you watch the entire forum. It is awkward because of the interruptions but you have the right to hear the candidates before you vote. And please do vote!
As we discussed improvements for future forums with the Burbank Police, a League member expressed hope for the future. She said, “maybe in 2020 we’ll be able to come together and discuss the issues facing our community.” We hope she is right, but in any event, we pledge to be there with her, trying to make that happen.
Mary L. Dickson, President
Joan Hardie, Board Member & Forum Organizer
League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank