Public Safety Mayoral Candidate Debate Protocol

Make Oakland Better Now! and MGO are expecting more than 200 people at the mayoral candidate public safety debate on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai. See the original announcement here, and RSVP here. We have notified all of the participating candidates of the protocol and ground rules, and here is what we have told them:


Dear Mayoral Candidates:

Thanks to all of you for agreeing to participate in the MGO / MOBN! Mayoral Candidate Public Safety Debate, which as we have advised, will take place on Thursday, April 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Temple Sinai. We look forward to the contributions each of you make toward the public dialog about what it takes to make Oakland safer.

Our debate committee, journalist panelists and moderator have met, and agreed on the following protocol and ground rules:


Our moderator is Shelia Young, long-time Oakland businessperson and former Mayor of San Leandro. As many of you know, Ms. Young has substantial experience moderating debates in local elections. Our journalist panelists are: Robert Gammon, East Bay Express, Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, Matt Artz, Oakland Tribune and Sheila Blandon and/or Bianca Brooks of Youth Radio.

Candidate arrival time and procedures

Please arrive at Temple Sinai no later than 6:15 p.m. and check in with Ms. Young at the stage area of the Synagogue. We will have name signs printed for each of you, to be placed in front of you at the candidate tables facing the audience. Ms. Young will ask each of you to draw numbers from a hat or box, and the numbers you draw will determine your seating placement on the stage, from left to right. Your name sign will be placed at the tables after you draw your number.

There will be some sharing of microphones at the candidate tables, but there will also be microphone stands. Bottled water will be provided for candidates, the moderator and panelists.

You may ask your supporters to set up card tables and literature distribution in the lobby area. However, no campaign banners, signs, literature handouts or other campaign paraphernalia will be allowed in the debate hall, and we will post signs to this effect.

If candidates or their management wish to inspect the debate hall in advance, it will be open and available at 5:00 p.m. For candidates who wish to do so, there will be an opportunity to mingle in the lobby area for 30 minutes after the debate.

Debate procedure

As close to 6:30 p.m. as possible, Ms. Young will call the group to order, say a few words about the two sponsoring organizations, describe the debate procedure and introduce the panelists and candidates. Candidates presently holding elective office will be introduced with the appropriate honorific (e.g., Mayor Jean Quan, Council Member Libby Schaaf). Any other candidates who wish to be introduced with an honorific other than “Mr.” or “Ms.” should notify us by e-mail no later than March 31, and we will accommodate you if in our judgment it is reasonable and appropriate to do so. After initial introductions, all candidates, regardless of public office or position, will be referred to by the moderator and the journalist panelists as “Mr.” or “Ms.” with no other honorific or title.

After the introductory remarks, Ms. Young will ask all candidates a common question: “What is your plan to make Oakland a safe city, how will you implement and pay for your plan, and how will we know when you have succeeded?” Each candidate will have two minutes to answer the question. The first answer will be given by the candidate sitting stage right (i.e., the candidate who drew the number “1” and who is sitting to the audience’s left) and the opportunity to answer the question will move from stage right to stage left.

After these answers, we will begin questions by the four panelists. Each panelist may ask questions of as many as all 9 candidates, one candidate in each turn. The only limit on the panelist’s questions is that they must relate directly to public safety.

The first panelist may ask any candidate a question, and the candidate may respond in up to one and one half minutes. The first panelist may then ask a second question or a follow-up question of the same candidate, and the candidate may have one minute for a response.

After the first journalist asks questions of the first candidate, the second journalist may then select any candidate and follow the same process. After an opportunity for a first and second or follow up question, we will pass to the third journalist, and so forth, rotating through the journalist panelists repeatedly until all have had an opportunity to question all nine candidates.

Next, candidates will be offered the opportunity to question other candidates. While any candidate may question any other candidate, the moderator will discourage candidates from directing all of their questions to the same candidate. We are trying to accomplish a full and comprehensive exchange of ideas about public safety. We will time candidate questions, which may take as long as 30 seconds. If a candidate does not finish his or her question in 30 seconds, the moderator will step in and reframe the question. The answering candidate may then have up to one minute to answer.

Finally, each candidate will be given one minute to make any closing remarks to the audience he or she wishes to make.

The moderator will have the responsibility for enforcing time limits. The moderator also will have the authority to interrupt the proceedings to enforce the ground rules. The moderator may restate the question. The panelists and moderator may interrupt the candidates if they believe the candidates are straying from the subject. The candidates will not interrupt one another.

We will introduce the time keeper at the beginning of the debate. She will use a stop watch and large colored cards, and signal to the candidates and audience when a candidate has 15 seconds remaining (yellow card) and when a candidate’s time has elapsed (red card). Time limits on responses will be strictly observed. When the time elapses, the moderator will firmly request that the candidate stop speaking, even if in mid-sentence.

We will be video-recording the evening’s events, and hope to be live-streaming them. We will ask the press and others not to use flash cameras or any cameras with loud motors during the debate. Photographers and the press will be placed at a reasonable distance from the candidates and microphones to reduce distractions. A press area will be provided near the entrance to the debate for arrival and departure photographs of the candidates and interviews after the debate if the candidates wish to speak to the press.

Thank you very much for your participation in this important voter education process. We very much appreciate your help in raising these important issues early in the campaign, and we look forward to seeing you the evening of April 3.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Phil Wolff

    Q. As mayor, you will protect our persons and property. Will you also protect Oaklanders’ digital lives, including our privacy, our digital identity, and our access to the Internet? Is so, how? #oakmtg #oaklandprivacy

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