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December 1996

Face to Face - Debate '96
President's Message (Astrid Monson)
Ambitious Goal Set
Code of Fair Campaign Practices
Kudos to League Volunteers in Election '96 (Arlene Ellis)
Election Day Exit Poll Volunteers
1996 Joint Military Women's Conference
Public Administration Program
Latest National League Publications
Program Planning Meeting

"Face to Face" - Debate '96

Can a political debate be civil rather than strident? Issue-oriented rather than personal? Specific rather than general and vague? Provide voters with information rather than accusations and self praise? Yes, FACE TO FACE did that.

League's Elections Committee, chaired by Helen Griffin and Janet Mason, put together two debates with NBC Hawaii News 8 and KFVE – the Mayoral on October 16 and the Prosecutorial on October 22 – that successfully provided the public with the kinds of specific information that would help them make informed political judgments.

NBC Hawaii News 8 contacted the League in early October, in the wake of public criticism that erupted against Mayor Harris and Channel 2. Harris had refused to participate in Ch. 2's debate with Arnold Morgado and Frank Fasi, but immediately following the broadcast was interviewed by Ch 2 News. News 8 invited the League to sponsor the October debates because they wanted to restore credibility to televised debates and felt our reputation for integrity and neutrality would give the debates standing and the assurance of fairness. Three hectic weeks followed: planning the debate format, negotiating with the tv station, selecting the moderator and panelists. Hundreds of phone calls were made – many of them by Caroline Ingersoll. Jean King, former Lieutenant Governor, was the moderator in both debates. Panelists who questioned the mayoral candidates were Laurie Carlson, publisher of Honolulu Weekly, Bob Dye, local political analyst, and Lyle Galdeira, News 8 reporter. Candidates for Prosecutor were quizzed by Dye, Cori Lau, attorney and former president of Hawaii Women Lawyers, and Barbara Wallace, also a News 8 reporter.

The 3-part format the committee decided on provided an interesting variety to the hour-and-a-half Mayoral and one-hour Prosecutorial debates. The post-debate consensus was that they went smoothly and at a lively pace. One viewer said, "I couldn't believe an hour-and-a-half went by so quickly."

In the first segment of the first debate, the 3 panelists asked Harris and Morgado questions that covered 11 different issues ranging from how to limit population growth to the island's carrying capacity, to the future of Ka'Iwi and why the office of Mayor should or should not be abolished.

The 2nd segment where the candidates questioned each other directly was very spirited as each brought up previous positions and inconsistencies. But the 3rd part, which addressed questions from the public, restored the debate to focusing on the issues.

Questions from the public, solicited in advance of each debate, were sorted by subject before the debates by Dorothy Bremner and her subcommittee. During the broadcast, they watched monitors in another room at the station and eliminated those subjects being addressed by the candidates. At an intermission after the 2nd segment, Dorothy rushed into the studio to turn over the remaining public questions to the moderator. Jean King then asked as many of the questions as there was time for. It was a huge job – over 30 questions for the Mayor's race and more than 40 for the Prosecutor's – but Dorothy, Carol Whitesell and Anne Marie Duca managed it without a hitch.

Before the debates, League met with the panelists and News 8 to discuss the kinds of questions voters wanted answers to. Nancy Marker and Astrid Monson had prepared background information and possible questons on a number of key issues as an aid to the panelists in the Mayoral debate and Anne Marie, Jim Duca. And Dorothy did the same for the Prosecutorial. They did a terrific job which was greatly appreciated by the panelists.

The two Mayoral candidates agreed on a number of issues. Both were against settling the East Honolulu law suits by permitting widespread development of Queen's Beach and other areas. Both opposed adding more hotel rooms in Waikiki. Both agreed that Central Oahu and Ewa agricultural lands should not be further urbanized if possible. Both supported greater efforts to prevent crime and both were against gambling.

Many of the differences dealt with the details of what the present administration had or had not done about various problems and what a new administration would do if given the chance.

In the one-hour Prosecutorial debate, David Arakawa and Peter Carlisle addressed how they would deal with the low conviction rate in domestic violence cases, and the "revolving door" for career criminals, plea bargaining, and the influence of limited prison space in their decisions to prosecute, among other issues. The 3-part format again worked well to keep the pace lively.

Congratulations to everyone on the elections Committee – most of them with full-time jobs – who accomplished so much in such a short time. Well done!

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