In a very real attempt to add some substance to the East Ridge Municipal Election, an event was held Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of Local Coffee of East Ridge.
“Cookout with the Candidates,” was conceived as a combination meet-and-greet and cookout where all the candidates would be on hand in a very casual, non-threatening environment to interact with voters. Voters would have a chance to talk with the people running for City Council and the Mayor’s job and find out more about the candidate and where he or she may stand on a whole range of issue in our city.
All the candidates showed up and pitched tents and fired up barbecue grills and brought pizza and had printed campaign material and promotional items. There was a lot of effort put forth from the organizers and the candidates to make this thing come together. “Cookout with the Candidates” was a great opportunity for this city to “up its game” in selecting its elected officials for the next two years.
One problem though – only a smattering of actual voters showed up.
How often have you heard the complaint from your neighbor or friend that they don’t know anything about the people running for office here in East Ridge? How often have you heard your fellow citizen say they vote based solely on recognizing a candidate’s name on the ballot? How often have you heard a neighbor complain that they would have gone but didn’t know anything about it?
“Cookout with the Candidates” was promoted all over social media for at least 10 days prior to the event. As best I can tell, the event with particulars about date and time was posted all over Facebook on ER Neighborhood Watch, East Ridge Citizens 4 Property Rights, East Ridge Tennessee and Surrounding Area and East Ridge News Online. According to Facebook these pages have a combined following of more than 12,000 people. That’s a huge potential reach, isn’t it?
During this event, the candidates took to the sidewalk in front of Local Coffee and waived their signs at passing motorist. Over the course of three hours, I dare say that thousands of cars passed by, many blowing horns – one hanging a Denny Manning for City Council sign out the window.
When this reporter arrived just before 1 p.m., there was a flurry of activity at the event. I started looking around for an opportunity to speak with voters and most of the people I encountered were either candidates, their spouses and family, or organizers of “Cookout with the Candidates.”
I spoke personally with every candidate there, asking most about how many voters they had spoken with and what was the outcome of the conversation. Almost all the candidates said they spoke with less than a dozen voters. One candidate said that his time could have been better spent knocking on doors.
Esther Helton’s camp was providing an opportunity for people to register to vote. The last day to register and vote in the November 6 election is October 9. I watched as one young woman filled out the voter registration form with the assistance of a young man under the tent. I asked how many people had registered. He said the woman who just left was the second.
Here’s the good news, though. If you missed out on interacting with the candidates at this event, you’ve got another opportunity this coming Saturday.
The East Ridge Needy Child Fund is sponsoring PioneerFest at Camp Jordan on October 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Organizers say that most if not all the candidates running for office in East Ridge have committed to attending. They will be there, just like they were yesterday, with their tents and tables and campaign literature, available to tell the voter everything they might want to know about themselves and where they stand on the issues.
A graphic reminder of the event is below. Don’t let this chance to inform yourself about the candidates, plus have some fun, get by you.