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They were called in to dazzle the audience, but they were the ones who were seeing stars in the end.
That was the final outcome of Saturday’s grueling three−hour slugfest among the six men vying to lead the 39th Councilmanic District during a special “Dazzle Me” forum sponsored by members of CORD (the Carroll Gardens Coalition for Respectful Development) and the South Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (SoBNA).
The agenda of the two Carroll Gardens−based, anti−development groups was front and center during the questions posed to candidates Gary Reilly, John Heyer, Bob Zuckerman, Brad Lander and Josh Skaller, who will are running on the Democratic line this September. Also in attendance was Green Party candidate David Pechefsky.
While moderators warned that the questions would be “biased” and based on their concerns about the Gowanus Canal and their rogue’s gallery of hated developers, no one apparently warned the candidates about the loud bell telling them to shut up when their two minutes were up.
The bell was so loud at one point that it actually startled Heyer, who sat down in the middle of his speech about how he wanted to make the community “livable for everyone.”
As the afternoon wore on, candidates managed to warm up to the bell and even chose to ignore it as they tried to get their last point across.
The heavy, sometimes technical, questions were at odds with the event’s light, even cutesy theme.
Gathered on a small stage in the Carroll Gardens Library auditorium, all of the candidates wore handmade “Dazzle Me” buttons that could have been made by the local grade school art club. They also sat under a small oaktag banner written in −− of course −− markers and glitter.
But in the end, the hot−button questions were finally tempered by the last query: “Are we just a bunch of whiners?”
“You’re not whining if you are committed to the voice of the community,” Skaller said.
Before the question crusade began, organizers said that the members were polled and no one had a clear favorite.
Three hours later, a clear winner was still in question... which brings us to: The Courier’s Candidate Awards!
Best first impression: David Pechefsky.
During one of his first public outings, the likable, knowledgeable Green Party candidate impressed the audience with his knowledge of how the City Council works and even gave them an insider’s view of how things really get done (he worked in the City Council for 10 years). Yet he didn’t dress to impress −− he was the only candidate without a tie and jacket.
Best save: Bob Zuckerman.
When called on the carpet about his Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation’s recent honoring of one of their hated developers, Zuckerman took the comment in stride, saying that the developer was honored for his public works, not the private ones.
Best dark horse candidate: John Heyer.
The audience quickly warmed up to Carroll Gardens’ native son, especially when he “got real” with the audience when asked about the fare hikes.
“Does anyone here trust the MTA?” he asked.
The audience also “awwed” when he made note that the person clapping the hardest for him was his own mother.
Best polished performance: Brad Lander.
While knowledgeable on the issues, the clear front−runner in the race lost a few points with some of his comments that were obviously planned in advance. He must have used the word “dazzle” five times in his “off−the cuff” comments.
Best joke rehash: Josh Skaller.
After the “are we whiners” comment, Skaller was asked to pull an audience question from a basket. When he said the question was a long one, someone grumbled.
Skaller sighed. “What a bunch of whiners,” he said.
Best response: Gary Reilly.
The very liberal, very Democratic audience almost gave Reilly a standing ovation when he recommended that we “get rid of Bloomberg.” He also received a few laughs when, after asked about his future political ambitions, he explained, “My ultimate goal is to be master of the universe.”
Take it easy Gary. You have to win this one first.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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