April 10, 2013 9:37:06 AM
This week, voters will get a chance to hear candidates for the Columbus municipal elections. Unfortunately, the candidates won't have the opportunity to hear the voters.
This will be the first time that candidates for mayor and four contested council positions will assemble at the same time in the same venue. It may also be the last.
The event, sponsored by the Columbus-Lowndes League of Voters, will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Columbus Municipal Complex and will feature a question-and-answer format. Unfortunately, voters will not be allowed to ask the questions; instead, a panel of moderators will be asking the questions.
Although we would prefer that regular citizens have a chance to ask questions, the League of Voters is organizing the event and has the right to make the rules.
Despite that criticism, we applaud any effort to bring candidates before the public.
All of the sitting officials are running for another term. Ward 1 councilman Gene Taylor and Ward 3 councilman Charlie Box are running unopposed. Mayor Robert Smith and councilmen Joseph Mickens (Ward 2), Fred Stewart (Ward 4), Kabir Karriem (Ward 5) and Bill Gavin (Ward 6) face opposition, either in the May 7 or the general election on June 4.
In a race filled with incumbents, residents have had four years to watch how these officials have handled city business. At some point, each incumbent has faced criticism. That's a natural turn of events.
The challengers, meanwhile, have varying degrees of name recognition. Some have been involved in a wide range of community organizations. Others are relative newcomers.
Given that, voters should avail themselves of the opportunity to listen to all of the candidates. Incumbents should be held accountable for the work they have done. Challengers should be challenged to explain how they will perform a greater service than the officials they hope to replace. All should be ready to present a coherent vision of the city's future and their role in making that vision a reality.
For four years, residents have either complained or applauded the city's duly elected representatives.
The municipal elections provide residents an opportunity to do something about it beyond complaining or applauding.
That process starts with making an informed decision.
Thursday's candidate forum provides a chance to do just that.