What began as an attempt to offer an alternative to Chattanooga’s daily newspaper election coverage has unexpectedly, but delightfully, evolved into a social experiment that serves both our readers and celebrates the engagement of young people within the realm of local politics.
The Pulse sought early on to forge a partnership with Nooga.com (a natural alliance, we wrongly presumed) to offer readers in print and those who visit that website with a true alternative to the Time Free Press’ election coverage. That call went unanswered. In the time since, the TFP has offered lop-sided coverage of Andy Berke’s mayoral campaign, paying only scant attention to challenger Guy Satterfield and, most recently to flame-throwing (and perennial) candidate Chester Heathington. Nooga.com launched its own election site, keencitizen.com (whatever that means), a low-profile experiment backed by the Lamp Post Group (home of Weston Wamp and not without its own political agenda) that provides visitors the opportunity to “give a hand” to candidates in what amounts to a popularity contest. Got fans, candidates? Click.
What transpired at The Pulse is much different. Assigning our interns to canvass city council candidates from their perspective as youthful voters succeeded on all levels. While the basic information contained here is readily available almost anywhere (but even much of that is not included elsewhere), we asked our interns to rate and offer their perceptions of the candidates based on their encounters.
To their credit, most, but not all, eagerly received their inquiries and responded enthusiastically. The results are presented here, not in the wildly fantastic graphic form we first intended, but with revealing honesty and with a bonus perspective from those who stand to inherit the government we who are engaged and actually vote give them, for better or worse.
The ratings system worked like this: Interns called or confronted candidates in person, filling in the blanks and basic details. Their ratings—on a scale of 0 to 10 (bad to best) were based on a candidates’ accessibility, responsiveness, earnestness, a pleasant reception and eagerness to speak with them—are recorded here along with their impressions and recommendations. Some may find them lacking; we find them illuminating and often instructive.
Here, we’ve culled some simple data from these interviews and offer our recommendations (but not endorsements), for what they’re worth. To say our own perceptions were colored by those of our interns is to understate our cause. Given the historically low voter turnout for city elections—18 percent in 2009—we value these impressions even more. And, given the non-value of dueling endorsements that cancel themselves out at the TFP, and the self-serving “ovations” on keencitizen.com, we hope our efforts offer something more valuable. Form your own opinions, but vote. The consequences of not participating are obvious.