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Volume 68, Issue 158, Monday, July 21, 2003


Mayoral candidates introduced on PBS forum

By Charity Halphen
The Daily Cougar

With canned speeches, 15-second sound bites and negative campaigns, candidates often leave voters disheartened and with little solid information when time comes to cast the ballots. But, as part of the New Patriotism Project, Houston PBS and the League of Women Voters will present the first of three ground breaking broadcasts Tuesday to introduce the 2004 Mayoral candidates. 

The New Patriotism Project is a nationwide program designed to allow politicians, citizens and the media to engage in informative civic discussion. 

Host of the PBS primetime show The Connection, Ernie Manouse, led the candidates through a chain of questions about their motivation, values and qualifications for office during Thursday's filming.

The mayoral candidates participating in the forum included city council member and former UH president Michael Berry, businessman Bill White, former METRO employee LaVerne Crump-Smith, artist Raymond Rodriguez, former city council member Orlando Sanchez and state representative Sylvester Turner.

Manouse also spoke with former Houston Mayors Bob Lanier, Fred Hofheinz, Louie Welch and current Mayor Lee P. Brown to elaborate on the political position.

"One must move this city to a new level by taking care of the arts, sports, our children and our neighborhoods," Brown said.

The candidates agreed that assuming the role of mayor would propel their personal life into the public's view, but all said that it was a sacrifice worth making for the city. 

"Things may be said that you don't want your family members to hear," Turner said, who decided to run for mayor once he received his daughter's support and encouragement.

Mixed views were expressed on whether candidates should make use of negative campaigning. 

"I despise negative campaigning; it turns voters off," Rodriguez said. "Citizens need to see viable differences about the candidates not based on negativism."

White challenged his fellow candidates to eliminate attacks on each other from all ads and commercials in hopes of having a clean race. He suggested that by taking the pledge, the candidates would elevate the tone for campaigning across the United States. 

Other candidates agreed that exposing their opponents' past misdeeds is a necessary obligation towards Houstonians.

"Every sport has offense and defense; in this race they must be done in good taste," Sanchez said.

The mayor's role as a representative of the people and the importance of listening to Houstonians was also discussed in the forum.

"People have to feel as though they can trust you being their mayor. Being trusted, you will listen to them, be responsive to them, and never place yourself higher than them," Turner said. 

"Every crooked expenditure has a first rate lobbyist," Berry said, warning viewers to be wary of elected officials whose agendas are set by the influence of select interest groups."

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