Municipal Elections 2006

The Vote! project offers a unique opportunity to test certain aspects of the Citizens’ Assembly protocols.
On Wednesday Oct. 18, 2006, a mayoralty debate was held at Loyalist College in Alumni Hall at 7 p.m. The three candidates, Mary Anne Sills, Neil Ellis and Doug Rolllins, attended a public meeting.
History:
Vote! Project 2006

Loyalist College e-journalism program is seeking your assistance to create its municipal election site for Belleville, Trenton, Brighton, Cobourg and Port Hope. As major news organizations in these areas, we hope you will join us in presenting extremely valuable information to citizens in these municipalities and, at the same time, assist young journalists in our program.

History
Vote! is a web site (http://vote.onlinedemocracy.ca) is a special web site created in 2003 as a joint partnership between Loyalist College e-journalism program and the Belleville Intelligencer, the Trentonian, the Cobourg Daily Star and Port Hope Evening Guide to create an invaluable resource for voters to find a wide range of news and information. Besides posting news stories and features generated by the industry and students at Loyalist College, the site also provided important information for voters including polls, polling booth locations, voter registration information, and other similar sources so citizens could come to a single source to be able to participate in the election. Another important aspect of the site was the interactive elements, including a live web stream of debates, discussion forums, chats and the ability to submit commentary.

From there, the site has grown to include provincial and federal elections. It has also developed a grassroots initiative known as: It’s Your Agenda. This special project focuses on the public journalism principles of using our skills and resources as journalists to enhance civic life. Through deliberate efforts to reach out to individuals and groups who normally do not have a voice in setting the agenda at election time, journalists encourage civic engagement and empower voters from all parts of a community. This ties very closely to the e-journalism tenants to educate, engage and empower citizens.

Municipal Elections 2006
The current plan seeks to provide the existing archive of resources to the communities served by the news organizations. It also seeks to reproduce stories already published in the local newspapers and supplemented by the efforts of the journalism students from the print, photojournalism and broadcast journalism programs at Loyalist College. We also wish to enhance the public journalism aspects of the project.

1.    News Service: Each news organizations will email stories regularly aily or Weekly depending on publishing schedules) to Robert Washburn rwashburn@loyalistc.on.ca to be posted immediately to the web site;
2.    Voter Information: Journalism students will gather election information for each municipality, including polling information, registration information, etc.
3.    Citizen voices: Journalism students will go to each community to interview a broad range of citizen to find out what issues are important to them and what concerns they have about the community that need to be addressed as part of a healthy, rational during a municipal election. This will NOT include any critique of individuals seeking office. These will be posted to the Vote! web site. Candidates will be invited to respond and these responses will be posted. These questions or issues will be made available to all participating news organizations. These can be published in any manner the organization sees fit. Any additional revenues generated by publishing this material will be kept by the news organizations (Loyalist is NOT seeking any money or revenue sharing agreements). If you have any clients interested in placing a banner advertisement on the web site can do so. Any revenues charged for this may be kept by the news organizations.
4.    Debates: Loyalist College will host a mayoralty debate in Belleville. However, we are interested in supporting local public discourse. Any public all candidates meetings or debate will be supported by the Vote! website, including date and times in the calendars. In addition to this, we will happily post any questions from the public that was NOT asked during the proceedings. These will be posted to the site and candidates will be urged to come to the site and answer them.

Most elections are top-down events where politicians dictate the agenda. We hope through our joint efforts to reverse this trend and create a more grassroots, bottom-up scenario.

Conclusion:
Thanks for working with Loyalist College. Not only do you better serve your community and support a healthier civic environment, but you also help young journalists learn the about the importance of public journalism. We appreciate all you are doing.

If you have any questions; rwashburn@loyalistc.on.ca

Mayoralty Debate Protocols

Participants:
Three mayoralty candidates
Mary-Anne Sills
Neil Ellis
Doug Rollins
Host
Geoff Cudmore
Student Journalist
Joel Wiebe
Jennifer Mattos
Grace La Rose
E-Journalist
Leah Kellar

Format (two-hours)
Introduction
Candidate speeches (five minutes)
Questions from student journalists
Answers (two minutes from each candidate)
Rotating question from audience and e-host
Closing remarks/summary (two minutes each)
Extro

Guidelines
Candidate speeches will be delivered in random order determined by a straw draw prior to the event done by the host.

The public is the priority, but student journalists are prepared to ask questions. They are instructed to follow up where they feel a member of the public did not get a clear answer. This is meant to be a more facilitative role to assist the public in getting a clear statement from candidates. However, if there is not follow up, they may ask prepared questions. The first question should be one based on the community blitz, where members of the community were asked to identify key issues.

The rotation should go from microphone to microphone to e-host to microphone. The e-host will be receiving questions from a squad of e-journalists using wireless technology to gather citizen questions across the city. These will be sent into the digital newsroom where they will be edited for clarity and libel, then sent on to the e-host via chat. Also, questions may be submitted by email to the Vote! website

Candidates are urged to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m.. A coatroom will be set up adjacent to Alumni Hall with hangers and beverages. A table for campaign literature will be shared in front of the hall. Materials will be arranged to provide equal space for each candidate to present material.

First posted: October 30, 2006