THOUSAND OAKS : City OKs $1,000 Grant to Subsidize Debate

Thousand Oaks council members this week aired their oratorical skills in grand fashion: They spent half an hour debating about a debate.

They were supposed to be discussing whether to grant $1,000 to subsidize a televised election forum featuring all 16 council candidates. And in the end, they unanimously approved the contribution.

But first, they argued sharply about whether the debate--sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters--would be truly nonpartisan.

Claiming that the questions would be "pro-business" and therefore slanted, Councilwoman Elois Zeanah said she wanted the council to consider subsidizing other debates that might focus on issues such as sports facilities, crime or neighborhood preservation.

"I don't think anyone would accuse (Chamber President Steve) Rubenstein of being nonpartisan," said Zeanah, adding that she considers herself a target of chamber electioneering.

Yet Councilwoman Judy Lazar, who is also running for reelection, scoffed at the idea that the League of Women Voters and Chamber of Commerce would hold a biased forum.

"If for some reason they have chosen to focus on business questions, well, it's necessary for all of us to be able to respond to those," she said.

The debate will be held Oct. 13 in the Forum Theater, from 7 to 9 p.m. Each candidate will make a two-minute opening and one-minute closing statement and field questions from the audience.

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