Candidates prepare for first town hall debate

Amelia Holliday Staff Reporter aholliday@civitasmedia.com

March 25, 2014

HAZARD—Candidates for the 2014 city commissioners’ race in Hazard are preparing this week for one of the first—if not the first—town hall debates held in the city, which will give the community an opportunity to get to know who they may be voting for in the May primaries.

The town hall forum, hosted by InVision Hazard, will take place Thursday, March 27 at 6 p.m. at the Perry County Public Library in Hazard. Allison Tse, with InVision Hazard, explained that the group’s main goal is to improve Hazard for the future, and the only way to do so would be to help the community develop a greater interest in the leaders it elects.

“We’re trying to encourage civic engagement on the part of the leadership and on the part of the community, just to get everyone more involved and thinking about this kind of stuff,” Tse said.

Tse explained that the forum will be set up in a town hall style, meaning that questions from the audience will be asked.

“First we’re going to have Robert Donnan, who is the senior consultant on InVision Hazard, come and be the moderator, and we’ve come up with some questions based on what people have listed as priorities through Invision Hazard,” she said. “At the end we’ll have time for the audience to ask questions, so what they’re going to do is write them down on note cards and we’re going to pass them to the moderator and he’s going to read them.”

Tse said to her knowledge, a forum like this has never been conducted in Hazard before.

“We heard that Kentuckians for the Commonwealth tried to host one and didn’t have great participation, so we’re hoping that our participation is a lot better,” she said.

All nine commissioner candidates have responded positively to the forum, Tse said. The candidates include Janie Combs Hackney, Ricky Steele, J. “Fitz” Gilbert, Nan H. Gorman, Susan Martin Brotherton, Ronnie Joe Bryant, John M. Quillen, Alvin Harris, and Donald B. White.

“They seem really excited, they like the idea,” Tse said. “I believe one of them is ill and may not be there, but the other eight should all be there.”

Tse said a voter registration table will be set up to encourage further civic engagement, and a reception will follow the forum.

“The city commission leadership is partly what drives where this community goes, so we want to know what they think, and we also want them to know that the community is thinking about what they’re doing and is thinking about where the future of Hazard is and what it needs to look like,” she said.

Tse said the group already has plans for another forum for the Hazard mayoral candidates and the candidates for Perry County judge-executive.

“Through InVision hazard, we want to see where our potential future leaders are in terms of where they think the community needs to go and what are their priorities and we want to see if that aligns with any of our priorities,” Tse said.

Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.