All four candidates for Palisade mayor skip voters’ forum
A League of Women Voters forum scheduled for Tuesday night to give Palisade voters a chance to learn more about the mayoral recall effort and a property tax measure was canceled after the four candidates for mayor refused to participate.
Organizers billed the event at the Palisade Veterans Memorial Community Center as an opportunity for candidates Joseph Browne, Roger Granat, Patty Hanna and Johnny Nichols, Mayor Dave Walker and proponents of a Palisade Rural Fire Protection District mill-levy increase to give statements and answer questions from the League of Women Voters and the audience.
But the candidates declined to show up, saying Walker shouldn’t be included in the forum because he’s not a candidate. They also claimed they weren’t made aware of the forum until it already had been publicized, and that the location was booked by a member of the committee opposed to the recall.
The candidates said they would have participated in the forum if it had been just the four of them addressing the audience.
“Dave Walker is not a candidate for this office. Dave Walker is a defendant. He’s trying to defend his office,” Granat said. “I have nothing against Dave. Dave has done some darn good things for Palisade, but the people need to have an alternative in case they do recall Dave.”
Nichols said the candidates felt “blindsided” by the forum, noting fliers were circulating at the town’s Sunday Market before the candidates were asked to participate.
The quartet also said they thought it was inappropriate that a member of the committee supporting Walker reserved the location for the forum.
“It reeked of an ambush of sorts,” Nichols said. “We really weren’t willing to get into a forum with a lot of negative issues. We were willing to get into a forum to talk about ourselves and why we’re running.”
Art Silver, a town trustee and the chairman of the committee opposing the recall, said Tuesday he booked the Community Center. He said he did so after the committee asked for and received a date for the forum from the League of Women Voters.
Silver called the candidates’ concerns about him booking the forum a “tempest in a teapot.”
“They’re grabbing at straws,” he said.
Peggy Cox, voter services chairperson for the League of Women Voters, said the league is disappointed the candidates backed out and the community lost an opportunity to learn more about them.
“They may all have their set of friends that will support them, but the community needs to know more about them, and they seem to be reluctant to get in front of the public and answer questions,” she said.
Cox said the League of Women Voters realizes Walker isn’t a candidate for office but felt it appropriate to include him in the forum because his position on the Town Board could be affected by the election.
She acknowledged the candidates received information in the mail after the league made the decision to put on the forum. And she admitted she didn’t know who booked the Community Center, saying she asked other volunteers to reserve the site. But she said she believes it’s an issue that’s “totally irrelevant.”
“I’m just a League of Women Voters volunteer who was trying to put together a forum in a very short amount of time,” she said.