Racine's two mayoral candidates will participate in a secret mayoral forum outside of the city on April 20.
John Dickert and Bob Turner both plan to attend the forum hosted by Racine County Economic Development Council and Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce at CATI in Sturtevant.
The audience is limited to the first 100 members and board members of RCEDC and RAMAC. There are no plans to make anything discussed at the forum public or to allow media access to the meeting, according to an organizer.
Participating in a closed forum is an endorsement of secrecy and privileged access to a limited few. It's troubling that our candidates, and future mayor, agreed to attend this forum, and that our business leaders set about organizing it. Both apparently think little of public participation in the democratic process.
Holding the forum in CATI is a bizarre twist on the secret forum. Have the candidates and business leaders forgotten we're electing Racine's mayor? Unless they plan to discuss moving CATI to one of Racine's vacant industrial parks, it makes no sense to hold this forum in Sturtevant. Symbolic reasons aside, the location is simply inconvenient for Racine business owners/residents - the ones who can actually vote May 5 - who would like to attend.
The candidates must demand changes to the forum or refuse to participate.
We suggest RCEDC, RAMAC and the candidates move the forum to a public location in the city and open it up to the community. At the very least the organizations should invite the media and post video of the forum online and CAR25.
Business leaders may argue they want to have a "candid" conversation with the candidates. Our response: the public doesn't want honest, straight-forward answers from our next mayor?
Holding secret forums with a select few is no way to run a city and certainly no way to campaign for elected office. The candidates must correct this mistake or risk eroding public confidence in the mayor's office before they're ever elected.
Like any mistake, it's an opportunity to lead. Both candidates should prove their words of open government and open this forum to public review.