The Courier’s editorial board wrapped up interviews with each of the four city council candidates Thursday night. We appreciate each taking the time to meet with us and explain their views on current city issues and what they see as Ottumwa’s path forward in a changing world.
It takes a fair amount of courage to put yourself up for a vote by the people of the community you live in. That’s especially true when you know that there’s a good chance you may not win. Only half of the candidates in any general election for the council gain the seats they seek. The odds drop when you figure in a primary that trims the ballot.
We’ll reveal the Courier’s endorsements on Tuesday, one week out from the election. Today, we want to take a few minutes to explain our process.
The editorial board is composed of community members who volunteered to offer their time and service to help the Courier evaluate issues in the community. Most of the time that means a 90-minute monthly meeting. But when elections roll around it means some long nights that come on top of jobs, family responsibilities and the other chores of daily life. We thank our board members for their service. And anyone who wishes to serve in the future is welcome to contact Managing Editor Matt Milner at email@example.com.
The meetings with candidates took place Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Each interview was streamed live on the Courier’s Facebook page, and those videos remain available on both that page and on the Courier’s website.
Board members were given assessment forms so they could take notes on three basic questions that opened each of the interviews, as well as the board members’ general impressions of the interviews. At the bottom of each the members were asked to rate each candidate on a scale of 1-10. Those ratings determine the eventual endorsements.
While Courier employees do take part in the interviews — Milner moderated each and they were attended by Publisher Ron Gutierrez and Features Editor Tracy Goldizen — they did not fill out the forms given to other board members. Endorsements are the board’s decision.
Why? Because our board has a far broader range of experiences and backgrounds than the Courier’s employees ever will. They raise ideas that are different from what we might come up with, and they ask questions from a different perspective than we would.
Members of the board echoed some of the candidates’ concerns about a relative lack of numbers in this year’s council election. Past years have generally seen more than the five candidates who filed for the primary, often by significant margins.
We suspect the outsized attention gained by the school board election, which comes in the midst of a decision on whether to build a new elementary school, may have shifted some candidates to that race rather than the council. The fact there were 15 people who sought seats on the school board certainly indicates there is no lack of interest in the events in our community.
We hope that interest is an indicator of a decent turnout on Nov. 5. Elections are critical to the functioning of our form of government, and a lot can happen in two years’ time. Ottumwa will not be the same when the next council vote arrives. Issues that loom large today will be settled. Others will have risen. This is the time for people to decide who they want handling those decisions.
We know this isn’t your standard editorial. But we thought it was worth taking the time to explain our approach, to let people know how our board arrived at its decisions and why the Courier decided to use this method of determining endorsements.
Again, we thank both the candidates and our board members for their time this week. We’ll have our endorsements in Tuesday’s paper.