The Chamber has a commitment to providing relevant, timely information to our members for the betterment of the community. Candidate forums are one of the many tools we use to achieve this. The goal of these forums has always been to educate voters on the merits of each candidate – their positions on issues, experience in the field, and connection in the community.

Originally scheduled for earlier this month, we had to postpone our candidate forum because I had a fancy ride in an ambulance and spent most of that day in the hospital day after collapsing at an event with vertigo. That’s another story for another day. What has transpired since then is where my concern lies – I’m talking about politically, not my health now. Over the past two weeks, we have watched many of our local campaigns get as ugly as what we’re seeing in some of the national races.

One of the most important educational, political, and social issues of today is how best to have a civil conversation in a democratic society. Our past, present, and future depend on this essential process: citizens gather, listen to each other, debate, make up their minds, and determine a course of action. Polarization of opinions, coupled with the speed and access of the digital age have made it more difficult to keep our conversations civil in America today. From shouting matches to opinionated blog posts to rhetoric-filled political debates, we are confronted every day with uncivil conversation.

As CEO of the Chamber I have the honor and privilege to show the best of our community to the region, the state, and the world. With that responsibility in mind, I had to ask myself if the risk to the credibility of our organization was worth the potential benefit of hosting this forum. The answer was a giant NO. Sadly, I was faced with the reality that moving forward with this effort would likely not change the minds of viewers about the candidates but rather change their minds about our organization and what we stand for. Simply put: not on my watch.
I implore you all to do your homework on every candidate on the ballot and vote. And when comes to our local candidates, reach out to them, fact check, and ask other trusted friends what they know about the candidate as well as the position.

Just five short months ago, I watched our community come together in a way I had never seen in my six years living here, so I know for a fact that we can do better. We MUST do better. We deserve better and should demand better of those seeking to represent us.