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On Tuesday, November 6, Franklin County voters will elect officials and decide on numerous issues, levies and bond issues. Those in Columbus also will decide who is best to lead the city into its bicentennial celebration in 2012.
Incumbant Mayor Michael Coleman, a Democrat from the East Side, faces an opponent for the first time since 1999, when he ran for his first term against Republican Dorothy Teater. He ran unopposed in 2003, his popularity being the primary reason the opposing party didn't muster a challenger.
That opponent, you've likely heard, is Republican Bill Todd, an attorney and 35-year resident of Central Ohio. Currently, Todd works for the law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, located Downtown.
But the real question, asked by many young professionals and Alive! readers, is who is Bill Todd really?
We tried to answer that question - and those about Coleman - in the November 1 issue of the paper, which featured both separately in our "Alive & Unedited" section, the weekly Q&A interview. I met with both men for about 45 minutes, asked them various questions about urban living and posted their answers in print and online.
[Michael Coleman] [Bill Todd]
A few weeks back, my editors and I were on the fence about doing these features for several reasons. Alive! tends to skew towards entertainment and lifestyle stuff - not hard news and certainly not much dealing with City Hall. We leave that to our esteemed affiliates, The Columbus Dispatch and ThisWeek, who provide solid analysis and reporting of the nuts-and-bolts news.
But more than a question of focus, the issue of timing was important. Was November 1 too late to impact the election? Had people already made up their minds about the candidates? Would a Q&A interview be the best approach for such a feature?
In the end, we decided to go for it, and I'm really glad we did. For several reasons.
1. This campaign, like many, focused heavily on the issues of violent crime and primary and secondary education. Crime and schools are crucial to the strength of any community - this is especially true in Columbus - but these issues don't directly affect many readers of Alive!.(Personally, I'm no longer in school, have no kids and am not scared in my neighborhood. Many readers might be in similar situations.) Other issues that Alive! readers are interested in were being ignored - green practices, Downtown housing and plans for City Center. We made these our focus.
2. The Q&A format doesn't allow many chances for a reporter (me, in this case) to ask secondary questions about an issue, to attempt to navigate the politicking sometimes mandated by running for public office. To be fair, we posed the same questions to each candidate. But this approach does allow for a candidate to give lengthy, full-bodied answers about an issue. Todd and Coleman both gave extended responses about the environment, streetcars, City Center and more. Their printed responses were much more than the soundbites heard in campaign ads and in other news stories.
3. These were pretty interesting interviews. I've been doing political reporting for about four years now, and the candor of each candidate was impressive. Sure, there were some pre-packaged answers to questions, along with self-serving stats and figures. However, both men bolstered them with an honest opinion. Todd shared anecdotes about his sons (19 and 21); Coleman talked at length about what felt like real optimism for the city of Columbus.
What did you think? Was this helpful?