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National Research Center to provide questions for next city candidate forums

By Staff | Sep 28, 2011

The city of Cape Coral is planning to outsource the next round of questions for its upcoming general election candidate forums, scheduled for Oct. 27 – 28.

The city will look to the Boulder, Col.-based National Research Center to formulate the questions at a price of $400. The company also conducts the Citizens Survey.

City Spokeswoman Connie Barron said previously that the line of questioning during the primary election forums – conducted by Cape Coral News-Press Editor Tom Hayden and Cape Coral Breeze Executive Editor Valarie Harring – led to complaints, but did not specify if those complaints came from residents or the candidates.

Barron wrote in an email on Wednesday those complaints were not the main reason for the change of format, as the city had been considering changing the format over the course of the last few municipal elections.

The city previously announced it would use its own Citizens Academy to formulate the questions in the fall 2011 edition of “On the Move,” but it has since changed direction, looking instead to Colorado.

Barron wrote in the same email that the National Citizens Survey company was originally considered along with the Citizens Academy as a possibility to formulate the questions.

She wrote that it would likely be too long and expensive of a process to have the company gather questions from the citizens or the Citizens Academy.

“When they came back and said they could do it for us and turn it around quickly for only $400, that sounded like a great way to give everyone an opportunity to submit a question and keep it as far distanced from the city involvement as possible,” Barron wrote.

The National Research Center is expected to provide a database of up to 100 questions for the two forums.

The forums are expected to be moderated by NBC2 Anchor Len Jennings. Questions will be asked by CapeCoral.com publisher Jeff Koehn.

District 2 Incumbent Pete Brandt said he felt the line of questioning during the primary forums was “biased” and “showed an agenda,” but he didn’t think the National Research Center would be able to formulate questions specific to Cape Coral voters.

“They’re going to ask generic things and not specifics,” Brandt said. “I thought the questions might come from voters who are citizens and know the issues.”

District 3 candidate Rana Erbrick said she was “slightly uncomfortable” with questions that took aim at sitting council members seeking re-election during the primary election forums, but doesn’t think reaching outside the city is a wise move.

She called the exclusion of editors Hayden and Harring “disconcerting.”

“It’s ridiculous we’re going to spend money for these questions,” Erbrick added. “They may or may not understand the issues in Cape Coral.”

District 7 candidate Dave Stokes agreed, adding that he had no problem with the format as it stood.

“In these hard economic times, when we have media outlets volunteering to do it, that’s a savings to the taxpayers,” Stokes said. “I had no problem with the primary.”

National Research Center representatives could not be reached for comment.

The city’s general election forums are scheduled for Oct. 27 – 28, in city council chambers. The 90-minute forums are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.