Laugenour, with Jill Stein, in 2010, calling on WBZ radio Boston to invite all gubernatorial candidates to debate.

"Debates are a foundation of democracy."
- Lee Scott Laugenour, Sep 26, 2012



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© 2012, All rights reserved


      



PUBLIC SCHOOL CLOSES CANDIDATE FORUM TO PUBLIC
-Laugenour Calls on Pignatelli to Join In Appeal for Public Debate Sponsors
-Asks if there was pressure put on the moderator

"IF SMITTY PIGNATELLI HONESTLY WANTS TO DEBATE ME A SPONSOR WILL BE FOUND"

"DEBATES ARE A FOUNDATION OF DEMOCRACY"- Lee Scott Laugenour


Contact:
Friends for Scott Laugenour
Kalin Jordan, Campaign Manager
hq@scottlaugenour.org
413 551 9222 / www.scottlaugenour.org

SEPTEMBER 26, 2012 [with Sep 27 updates]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lee Scott Laugenour is asking that school officials at Monument Mountain High School and the Berkshire Hills Regional School District change their minds and decide to allow members of the public and the media to observe a forum at which students ask questions to candidates. The forum is scheduled for October 22 at 9:00 am, two weeks before the general election on November 6 which will decide the next State Representative for the 4th Berkshire District.

Laugenour, of the Green-Rainbow Party, and William "Smitty" Pignatelli, a Democrat, are the only candidates for the office. Their race is the only local Berkshires Beacon Hill legislative seat where voters have a choice this election year.

[Sep 27, 2012 update: "We have agreed to a radio debate on Nov 1 on WSBS; I still will be reaching out to potential sponsors beginning today for a publicly accessible debate. I ask my opponent to join me in making this effort a priority, especially if the school does not change its mind," Laugenour stated.]

 

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS AND DISAPPOINTING SHIFTS

Laugenour described the chain of events. "Since the middle of August when we first discussed bringing both candidates together at the school, Holly Troiano, the faculty moderator, was calling the forum a 'debate,' or an 'informal debate.' She had even at one point suggested that local news personage Larry Kratka might host the school event and put it on the air. I provided Ms. Troiano advance notice of the September 11 press release that my campaign sent out announcing our preparations for hers and other debates being planned. Last week, after Ms. Troiano spoke to her principal, Marianne Young, the event became a 'student forum' that would not be open to the press. On Monday of this week, Ms. Young described the event as an "Art & Ideas" forum."

The official word of the disappointing turn in events came in an e-mail dated Sep 18, 2012, in which Holly Troiano informed both candidates that the forum would not be open to the media or to the public. Laugenour responded that he could not accept the invitation without knowing why the decision was made to restrict attendance, noting that the format had 'changed so significantly' from what had been discussed verbally beforehand. He asked for dialogue to try to work things out.

"I asked Ms. Troiano if she was being pressured," Laugenour added.

Troiano answered in a Sep 20 e-mail that she had "decided to keep the forum student-focused as I think it is in their best interests...The forum I have chosen is intimate and non-threatening to a wide variety of students." The e-mail, addressed to both candidates, said "I am sorry you are disappointed with the chosen format and I hope you will reconsider and participate." She added that she would give extra credit to any student of hers who attended a public debate of the candidates and reported on it. She also said that students would videotape the event and provide the videotape to CTSB-TV, the region's public access station.

NO OTHER DEBATE YET SCHEDULED IS ACCESSIBLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

"At the moment there is no other debate or forum on the calendar that would allow public access and thus accommodate those students who wish to receive extra credit from Ms. Troiano," Laugenour reports. "CTSB-TV is a great community asset, but how long would it take for students to edit the video and get it out?" he added. "I'll work hard to find another sponsor for a public debate and I call upon Mr. Pignatelli to join me in this effort. If Smitty Pignatelli honestly wants to debate me such a joint call will result in a public debate, I'm sure. If there is a public debate that Ms. Troiano's students can attend prior to October 22, which would help prepare them to ask follow-up questions at the 'Art & Ideas Forum,' I will accept the invitation as it stands. I still ask Ms. Young to reconsider the school's position, though. I really like the idea of taking questions from students and keeping the event student-focused; I believe rather firmly, though, that the public and the media should be welcome to observe the event first-hand."

Laugenour spoke to principal Marianne Young in person on September 25 to ask that the school reconsider. "What is the harm in having a few members of the press sit off to the side and observe the students asking questions of the candidates? At 9:00 am on a Monday morning I don't expect that there will be crowd issues."

Young did not budge on the decision to close to event to the public and the press. She did say, however, that if a sponsor came forward she would make the school available as a debate venue after school hours.

"I respectfully disagree with Ms. Troiano's belief that a closed format is in the best interests of students. Not only is the decision undeniably undermining a foundation of democracy, it is my opinion that the public school is short-changing the students' opportunity for an enriching educational experience. The event is in the public interest."

Journalists Dan Valenti and Clarence Fanto co-moderated a debate between Laugenour and Pignatelli in 2010, which Larry Kratka hosted on live radio. Valenti later wrote that the it served as a positive model that the Kennedy School of Government should offer. "If a Laugenour / Pignatelli public debate is worthy of the Kennedy School of Government it is surely worthy of Monument Mountain High School."

There are two separate live radio debates being planned, but neither is confirmed or scheduled. [Sep 27, 2012 update: both candidates have accepted a November 1, 2012 live radio debate hosted by Larry Kratka at 9:00 am on WSBS radio. Laugenour is still seeking a sponsor for another debate that the general public can attend in the district. The second radio debate is still unconfirmed.] These are likely taking place in small studios that cannot accommodate an audience. One of them is in Pittsfield, which may be too distant both for students to travel to and too distant for airwaves to reach much of the sprawling 4th Berkshire District.

Laugenour, be he an incumbent or a challenger, has pledged to publicly debate his electoral opponents now and into the future as long as invitations to all ballot-qualified candidates are extended in good faith. He explained to Ms. Troiano that a closed forum where the public or media were not invited does not meet a reasonable definition of a public debate.

"I will gladly be a guest for a student forum or an Arts & Ideas forum in the future. I am a friend of public education, of teachers and students, and am proud of the public education I received. Two weeks before election day, however, when both candidates are rightly focused on getting their messages out to voters, is not a good time to close the door to the press for an event such as this. If the school insists on keeping the doors closed the event should be rescheduled for after November 6. I would be there in a heartbeat; it's important to engage young people in discussions about how the public policies of today are affecting their futures.".


END

We accept with appreciation contributions from individual adult US citizens. We respectfully decline contributions from registered lobbyists and from officers of corporations that hire lobbyists. Please provide your full name and address. State law limits contributions to $500 per year per individual.


 

 

© 2012, All rights reserved