Friday, September 10, 2010

Democracy for a Price

This coming Monday, Congressman John Adler and Footballer Jon Runyan will meet for what is billed as a "Congressional Candidates Forum."  The event is sponsored by the Burlington County Chamber of Commerce.

Growing up in the '50's and '60's, I was schooled in the idealized version of American democracy.  Representatives were supposed to be directly connected to the people and pre-election activities were open to all.  But Monday's debate is not.  It will be held in a fancy hotel in Mount Laurel, and for those who are not members of the Chamber of Commerce, there's a $40 fee for attendance.  And according to the Chamber's web site, sponsors for the debate are the Health Care industry and the Insurance Industry.  Don't expect much push-back discussion on topics that require these industries to better serve their customers.

The Chamber has every right to charge for such an event.  But the candidates have a responsibility to also make themselves available to the public at large, not just businesspeople on expense accounts.  As far as I know, the only other face-to-face debates between Adler and Runyan have been behind the closed doors of radio and television studios.

I applaud both men for agreeing to debates.  While neither one, in my mind, even approaches the type of representative I would like to have in Washington, there are still stark differences between the two, and the more debates they have, the better.  But we need make our representatives more accessible to the entire population of the Third District of New Jersey.  Gentlemen, how about a series of weekly debates, sponsored by non profits, in public venues around the District where any citizen can afford to participate?

This is cross-posted from Blue Jersey.  Since I posted it this morning, I called both the Adler and Runyan campaign offices.  Actually, I couldn't call Adler's office because his campaign web site does not have a phone number, so I e-mailed instead, waiting for a response.   Runyan's office was not much more helpful, although they did indicate that there would be a debate on an Ocean County radio station on October 19th.  No one at the station could give me any information or knew if the debate would be open to the public. They suggested calling back Monday, which I will do.

If anyone has other information on open debates for NJ-3, please post it here.  And I'll let you know what I find out from the two campaigns, also.

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