"I've been to several of these candidates' forums," says Don Patterson. "I need No-Doz. These things are like a movie, everything's in place." Scripted, that is.
For the forum Patterson's coordinating, sponsored by the New Pittsburgh Courier and the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, he says he won't be bending over backwards to accommodate the candidates for mayor, City Council district 6 and Court of Common Pleas judgeships. "We want details, we don't want sound bytes," he says.
The Sat., April 16, forum will feature cross-talk between candidates, questions from the audience, and grilling from a panel of media members, including Lou Ransom, managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier, author and publicist Ed Gainey, and City Paper's own Brentin Mock.
"We want to give the candidates a chance to focus on issues that are more critical to the African-American community," says PBMF President Ervin Dyer. "It's important that we focus on issues so that the candidates know we are here."
Patterson says that participation in the forum is almost as revealing as what candidates will say.
Judicial candidates Alan Hertzberg, James Mahood, Michael McCarthy, Sumner Parker, Jon Pushinsky, William "Jack" Simmons, Wrenna Watson and Dwayne Woodruff have confirmed their participation. Mark Brentley and Sala Udin, competing with Tonya Payne in City Council district 6, will also attend. Of the mayoral contenders, Hop Kendrick, Michael Lamb, Bob O'Connor and Bill Peduto will participate.
"Look around and see who came, and look around and see who didn't," says Dyer. "What does that say about the commitment to our community?"
Patterson says he figures transportation, the proposed merger between Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and the school board's ouster of chief John Thompson will be hot-button issues. He is looking forward particularly to the District 6 debate.
"I really think that's going to be the fun one, Mark and Sala going at each other," he adds. "District 6 is so important; it covers Downtown but it covers some of the poorest parts of western Pennsylvania. This forum is going to have a little bit of soul in it."
Sat., April 16, 5-7:30 p.m, Tom Foerster Student Services Building, Community College of Allegheny County, North Side.