CHS students to moderate council forum

CHS students to moderate council forum
Carlsbad High School speech and debate team members Alex De Taboada, left, and Chad Hamner will moderate a public forum for the city council candidates Oct. 27 at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 2020 Chestnut Ave. Courtesy photo

CARLSBAD — A number of voters have already filled out their ballot and sent it off to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

But for those still undecided about the City Council candidates, the Carlsbad High School speech and debate team is hosting a public forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 2020 Chestnut Ave.

Although many in the city have questioned for years why no public forums have been held, Conni Nardo, president of Terramar Meetings and Events, decided to act.

She enlisted the nationally-ranked CHS team and gave them control of the forum. Nardo said she is providing logistical support, while the students will run the forum.

Moderating the event will be 17-year-old senior Alex De Taboada and fellow senior Chad Hamner.

Of course, English teacher and debate coach Minnia Curtis is supervising her club and reviewing the questions to make sure they stay on point.

“We wanted a moderator without an agenda and a lot more impartial,” Nardo said.

Nardo said the church has capacity for 175 people, although the event will be streamed live via The Carlsbad Know Facebook page. De Taboada said seating is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

He said the team, which consists of more than 100 students, is developing questions and finalizing the format. The goal, he added, is to provide as much information to the public as possible through an objective presentation.

De Taboada said since he cannot vote, it will provide a fair platform for the candidates.

“I’ve been trying to be pretty involved over the past two years, just environmentally, and as much as possible,” he added. “I enjoy politics and I think it is important.”

The scheduling, meanwhile, leaves a bit of hole as only the challengers — Bill Fowler, Brandon Rowley, Cori Schumacher and Ann Tanner — will attend. Incumbents Keith Blackburn and Lorraine Wood have prior engagements.

“We have the opportunity to get the first public debate in years and we just thought it was important,” De Taboada explained. “We thought it was cool to get people involved in something they can make a tangible difference. There is some pressure to make sure it’s available. We haven’t had a public forum for people to hear what the candidates want or what the candidates stand for. They have a general idea, but they haven’t gotten into the nitty-gritty of who they are actually voting for.”

He said no questions will be taken from the public as the team does not want to fall behind in its production. Also, since this is their first time ever hosting such an event, there hasn’t been enough time to prepare the logistics for requesting, filtering and delivering queries from the public.

De Taboada said he and Hamner, who have been debate partners for three years, will be able to handle the candidates if they attempt to push the limits.

“I’m a speech and debater,” De Taboada said. “For almost every weekend for the last four years, I’ve been arguing with people who are cocky, stand for something and want to get their point across by dominating the conversation. All the candidates have been respectful in their communications with me. I don’t foresee a major problem in that … and I don’t think they want to come off that way. If it is, I am confident me and Chad can handle that.”

Nardo and the CHS team decided to hold the forum in response to numerous private forums held for such entities as homeowner’s associations, Rancho Carlsbad and the Carlsbad Rotary Club, where only members or those residents could attend.

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