To say 2015 has been a year of change at the Idaho Statesman is an understatement. You have seen the new section alignments and realignments, new electronic editions, and a host of different approaches to our digital and print reports.
Moving forward, we are going to change some things on the Opinions page — by cracking the door even wider so more people can join in on the conversation about who should be the next Boise mayor.
Instead of the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board making an election endorsement, we are experimenting with a new, more inclusive approach. We are forming an election panel to play the lead role in the evaluation of the candidates.
Our board will still weigh in, but mostly in a moderator function as we facilitate the panel and work with the members and you to come up with good questions for the candidates. At some point we and the panel will interview Mayor Dave Bieter and challengers Judy Peavey-Derr and Seth Holden. We want this panel to provide rating scores based on the candidates’ experience, vision and answers to the questions. We hope and expect the panel’s conclusions will be helpful to regular voters and engage some who feel left out of the process.
At the moment, we’re entertaining the idea that the result of our work might be a grid with candidate ratings for the print edition, bolstered with other information we find helpful that we will present online. We are considering a number of ways to make the process open to those who follow our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and online chats, or on our website, where we could post recordings of interviews.
Why are we doing this? We want the process to be more open, informational and not dominated by what we think. Using our panel as a starting point, we hope to take cues from new constituencies and platforms we may be overlooking. Depending on how it goes, we may apply some of what we learn in this mayoral race to the very busy election season in 2016. Though we are not finished making endorsements — we may do some in other municipal races and for some community initiatives on the ballot — we are not going to limit ourselves to the endorsement option.
So far, our Editorial Board has reached out to six people who have agreed to participate on the panel. We have asked these six panelists to select up to four more to serve alongside them. Our only requirements: They must live in Boise and be eligible to vote; they should be undecided about the candidates; and they must be free of any business or personal connection to candidates.
Please tell us what you think of this new approach, how you would improve the process and what it would take to get you more involved. Helping more people participate in our democracy — by learning about the candidates and casting their vote — is the ultimate goal.
If you have suggestions for questions for the candidates, put them in online comments to this story, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks in advance for your participation and help.
Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Reach him at 377-6437 or follow @IDS_HelloIdaho.