Tired of the traditional format of candidate forums hosted at a church, community center or country club, members of one local group decided to take their questions for this year’s City Council candidates to a different community gathering space: YouTube.
This week, the Glendale Coalition for Better Government — the nonprofit that sued the city earlier this year over a controversial utility revenue transfer — released roughly 10- to 15-minute individual interviews one of its members conducted with each candidate.
The result was a more personal peek at the candidates who participated. The candidates, who are vying for a 10-month term in the June 3 election, opened up about their upbringings, their parents, their dreams for their children and, of course, like in other forums, how they would run the city better than incumbents.
“We wanted to ask personality questions that reflect on the character of the candidate, the ideology of the candidate and the thinking process of the candidate, so we get a better picture of who the person is,” said Roland Kedikian, a board member of the coalition and the moderator for the video interviews.
Often, it’s the moderator at customary community forums who decides what issues should be discussed and it can become repetitive if you attend more than one. The forums tend to question the candidates on how they would improve pedestrian safety, their position on downtown development and how they would get rid of Glendale’s perennial budget gap.
Kedikian, who ran unsuccessfully for council last year, said the typical forums begin to feel like candidates are just going through the motions, so much so that he and another candidate in 2013 would joke before the forums began that they could switch places and answer the questions for each other because all the candidates got to know the others’ responses.
That’s why he asked the candidates to bring up two issues that inspired them to get involved in politics and explain how they could fix the problems.
“I didn’t want to suggest which issues should be important,” Kedikian said.
Through watching the videos, one learns about the struggles faced by candidate Vartan Gharpetian, a small business owner and city commissioner, when he moved to Glendale decades ago. He said his role models were those who gave him chances in life, including a man who helped him jump-start his real estate business when he first moved here.
The interview with Rick Barnes, a Realtor, demonstrated his property-rights mentality, his frustration with those who oppose out-of-the-box ideas and his deep commitment to God.
For Chahe Keuroghelian, a former city commissioner and small business manager who is often cast as the perennial underdog because he has run unsuccessfully for council several times, the video highlighted his commitment to helping others. He talked about how his mother is his role model because she taught him to “serve mankind” and “help individuals as much as you can.”
Dora Kingsley Vertenten, a public policy professor at USC and expert in the intersection between social media and politics, said campaigns used to be the leader in using social media in politics, but voters are taking advantage of the tool because of the low barriers to entry due to low cost and smartphones.
“Voters are leading the way in becoming not just a consumer of information, but a producer of information and that’s what’s happening in Glendale,” she said. “A citizen’s group has in fact become the producer of information.”
She went on to add that the video format has been a proven way to connect voters to candidates.
“People trust other people when they can see them talking and it doesn’t necessarily have to be live,” she said.
As a nonprofit, the coalition cannot endorse a candidate. Kedikian said the organization’s goal was solely to increase the amount of information available online about the candidates. The videos are posted on the coalition’s website, but can be embedded on any site and shared via Facebook and Twitter.
Candidate Paula Devine, a retired educator and city commissioner, said she did not participate in the interviews because she didn’t have time.
To watch the videos, visit www.glendalecacoalition.org/2014/05/candidate-interviews.