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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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.
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.]
OF EVENTS AND DISAPPOINTING SHIFTS
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.
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.
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
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
accept with appreciation contributions from individual adult
US citizens. We respectfully decline contributions from registered
lobbyists and from officers of corporations that hire lobbyists.
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