To the editor: On behalf of the League of Women Voters, I thank all the candidates, the volunteers, the Borough Clerk’s office, and our cosponsors KUAC-FM and the News-Miner for making the local candidates forum last week possible. The people who attended in person and the much larger audience that listened on the radio or to the recordings on KUAC’s website were able to meet the candidates in order to make informed decisions for the Oct. 5 local elections.
We were saddened that some individuals chose our forum to cheer and boo and, most distressingly, shout over a candidate with whom they disagreed. Our forum is not the first public meeting that has been has disrupted recently, but our nonpartisan organization would like to suggest that people with passionate positions on particular issues should choose other, less disruptive ways to express their opinions.
Implied in our right to free speech is a right to listen and learn from the speaker. When one exhibits behavior that would not be acceptable in a place of business, a civic club meeting, or even a first-grade classroom, you are obstructing other people’s ability to listen and learn. Noisy responses do not further your candidates’ causes no matter what part of the political spectrum they occupy.
Our long-standing nonpartisan forums are geared to one purpose only: voter education. Our organization never endorses or opposes candidates. We don’t declare winners or losers at the end of the evening, yet, the first two rounds of our forum sounded like they could have been a sports event. If you must noisily express your political passions, choose the option to listen to the school board meetings, assembly meetings, and forums like ours on the radio where you can loudly express approval or disapproval in the comfort of your own home. A person can comment passionately on social media and reach a far wider audience without interfering with other people’s ability to listen and learn. March, picket, but — whatever your choice — listen to the people who have stepped up to serve our community and use a quiet, but powerful tool at your disposal — vote!