By Justin Aufdermauer
Are you ready, Tillamook?
The Chamber’s first ever candidate forum is happening April 2 at Pacific Restaurant. By now you’ve probably seen our Facebook event, read the press release, or heard about it on the radio. You are either planning on attending, or you’re still not sure what the fuss is all about. Maybe you’re just confused as to why the Chamber is getting involved in politics.
Well let me first get that last question out of the way: The very top priority of our stakeholder business groups earlier this year was advocacy, both from small and large businesses; they appreciated what we had done so far and want us to continue to focus on relevant issues. A quick Google search on the history or Chambers of Commerce will show that this in line with the purpose of a Chamber since the their inception.
Advocacy often comes with a negative or aggressive connotation; that’s not how we want things to go. Our focus is more on education, engagement, and providing a liaison role that raises awareness on all sides. We mean supplying information so that our membership has what they need to make informed decisions; and we mean speaking up for policies to be balanced to create a healthy economy where businesses can thrive.
The Tillamook Chamber strategy is that relationships and sound logic are key to aligning local business and government to create sound policy. We have found that when two sides lock up there are definitely some hard feelings created and while that can occasionally be inevitable, we want that to be rare.
With that in mind, the Chamber Board thought that it would be beneficial to provide a candidates forum that was focused on topics relevant to the local business community and the economic vitality of the county as a whole. There are several forums put on by different organizations prior to the election and they are all valuable and informative, and I encourage you to go to as many as you can. Our goal is to create a unique forum where the specific issues surrounding economic vitality are addressed, and where business people who have a stake in the game have an opportunity to hear from each of the candidates regarding issues that are relevant to them before the vote.
While the Board and staff all agreed that we wanted a forum that focused on economic issues, we continued to mull over the idea of how to maximize the value of the conversation, and the idea grew to structure the forum completely backwards. We want the candidates to ask questions – valuable questions – and listen to the answers they get, instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.
Prior to the Business TALKS forum, we’ve sent out an email to our membership asking them what questions and issues are most important to them. Once we have a scope of the range of these issues, each candidate will receive a debrief, and will be asked to prepare a short statement that addresses these issues. They will then formulate their questions for the audience based on this information we’ve provided from our membership feedback.
Basically, each candidate will have to come prepared and be on top of their game. This will be a great opportunity to evaluate how well they communicate, the kind of questions they ask, and if their rebuttal is relevant to the issues at hand. Are they asking meaningful questions? Are they receptive to public input or are they simply just ignoring what is said in the answers?
The forum is set for April 2nd at Pacific Restaurant and is open to the public – not just Chamber members. This is the first of several scheduled candidates forums, but it’s the only one doing it in reverse.
Social hour is at 5:30 p.m., and then at 6 p.m. each candidate will have a couple minutes to introduce themselves and address the issues on the table for the night. Then we will start the Q&A portion of the evening, wrapping up with an opportunity for the candidates to address what they heard from the audience.
I’m excited; I hope you’ll join us.