My HoCoBOE Debate Idea

DebateSo I have had this thought in my head for a little while so I wanted to put it out there to see what others think of the idea: A debate for the Howard County Board of Education candidates hosted by local HoCo Bloggers. This would provide “The Public” the ability to ask the questions we need answered to select the most qualified candidates to the HoCoBOE in 2016.

Learn more about the candidates: CLICK HERE

If I had to choose my all-star lineup for the event, it would look like this:

Moderator: Tom Coale (HoCo Rising)

Other Panelist: (Updated)

Bill Woodcock (The 53)

Julia McCready (Village Green/Town²)

Jason Booms (Spartan Considerations)

Candace Avent Montague (From the Scratch Pad of An Urban Bushwoman)


Scott Ewart (Scott E’s Blog) – I know, shameless plug for me and my blog…LOL

Candace Dodson Reed (Is this thing on?)

When would we hold the debate: I would say in the summer or early fall (well after the Primary when we will be down to only 6 candidates).

Questions for the candidates: The questions should come from the public. We could offer an online site where the public could submit specific questions to candidates or general questions for all candidates. These questions would be screened by the Moderator and other panelist to ensure that they are appropriate and on point for the debate. Specific questions would also come directly from the Moderator and panelists.

Debate format: Up for discussion but the simpler the better. It should be setup to keep the debate as civil as possible and to give each candidate enough time to answer questions. We should limit the debate to 9o minutes and hold after 5:00pm during the week (no weekend debates).

Debate location: I would prefer Columbia or Ellicott City…unless we can find a FREE space for the event in which case we could move it anywhere in the county.

Technology use: With the various resources we have, we should be able to “Live Stream” the debate on YouTube and/or Periscope without much difficulty. I believe we would have some great live “tweeting” from this debate.

How would we pay for this: Sponsorship. I know of at least one local business that would be willing to pony up a few dollars to be a sponsor and I have to believe that we could get a few others. I really don’t see this being an overly expensive event to put on for the public (but I could be wrong).

I know the odds of this happening are low right now but it sounded good in my head and thought I would write it down to see what others thought of the idea. Note – I have not spoken to ANYONE listed in this article about the idea…all from ideas in my head. I could not even say that any of them would have an interest in the idea. If that were the case, I would hope that there are other local bloggers that would want the opportunity to participate.

Anyway…let me know what you think.

Scott E

I have heard that the League of Women Voters in Howard County is planning to hold a Primary debate for the Board of Education candidates (maybe in March). I sent out an email to them this morning but as of this post I have not heard back from them yet. If I get more information, I will be sure to update this blog post.

Update 1/14/16 – Read this for more information about the Howard County League of Women Voters debates:
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  1. Why would you wait until after the primary? Why sponsors or moderators? Why not just do it live online, 24/7 and let the candidates chime in when they believe they have something relevant to say?

    You know what the real problem is? You need an informed public or you will never muster quality candidates. Best to just throw the issues out there and let everyone kick them around, besides the bigger the discussion the better informed the public will be. As it is now the public has heard almost nothing from most of the current candidates. Really hard to have a quality educational system when the leadership and the challengers are all banking on public ignorance and exclusion.



    • Jack,

      Thank you for you comment. As great as an online forum where candidates could answer questions goes, I am not sure how useful that would be to the process. First I believe it would give the candidates time to test and parse their answers instead of giving us their true responses in a debate forum. Second, given the lack of online outreach (7 candidates, 5 websites, 4 campaign Facebook pages and 2 campaign Twitter accounts – see more at: I am not sure all would participate online.

      We do need an informed public and I would hope by opening a debate up to allow the public the opportunity to ask questions (even through a moderator and panelist format) we may be able to better engage with the public (at least that would be my hope for this idea). I am also hoping that by utilizing LOCAL bloggers, we might reach an expanded audience through their readership.

      I am very much in the early stages of the idea but check back on the blog from time to time for more information.


    • The best way to inform the public when you don’t have a huge budget to do so, is to host a debate where you are unique in asking harder questions, and giving more time to answer them and allowing rebuttal. Doing it after the primaries has less candidates so more time for them to speak. I wouldn’t mind doing one prior to primaries and one after, but if we only did one, it should be after. Unfortunately, it is too expensive go keep publicity up on a podcast or website providing on-going info. We would actually reach more people with a debate, and can broadcast a video of it later.


  2. I love the idea of a debate for the school board candidates, but I have to say, I’m not a fan of your choice of moderators. What makes the school board elections unique is that they are non-partisan. This was reflected in the choice of moderators for the prior debate. Dennis Lane leaned right of center, and Tom Coale leaned towards the left.

    All of the bloggers you suggested for moderators (except for you) lean towards the left, some of them vehemently so. Additionally, several of the bloggers have made posts highly critical of certain members of the school board, or clearly have a favorable bias towards certain members and policies of the school board. There is no way these biased bloggers could fairly moderate a debate.

    This is why most general election debates are moderated by a journalist. Journalists have to follow a code of ethics, and are trained to not let their biases show (in theory).

    I’d like to propose that you ask Jeff Salkin, the host of State Circle on MPT, to moderate the debate. He is a Howard County resident, and he is an extremely well respected journalist and interviewer. I think he’d make an excellent debate moderator. If he can’t/won’t do it, I’m sure there are lots of other local journalists that would be willing to serve as a moderator.


    • Trevor…I was justing putting some names out there…This may not be the actual people that sit on the panel (if I am able to make this happen) but I had to start with some names to get people thinking about this idea. I am not familiar with Jeff Salkin (but I will do some research to learn a little more). I am asking some people in the community for some (right leaning) names to add to the potential list of panelists. If you have any other suggestions, please send them along.

      The use of Bloggers instead of journalist is to engage with local people that are active in the community and use their outreach to expand interest in this type of debate/forum.


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