It’s too bad we all don’t have time to attend a "debate" starring our city council candidates, like the one I attended with about 100 other neighbors Thursday sponsored by the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Most of us would probably have a different view of city politics if we did.

Thursday’s "debate" was more like a friendly discussion among neighbors, with candidates for the Disrict 10/Lake Highlands seat (Jerry Allen and Don Sanders) and the District 9/East Dallas seat (Sheffie Kadane and John Yourse) seated together at the same long table. Each candidate offered a brief opening statement; each answered the same question about the convention center hotel, Proposition 2 and White Rock Lake; and then each gave a short closing statement.

Not surprisingly, the incumbents (Kadane and Allen) support the hotel while their challengers do not. None of the candidates support Proposition 2. And, big surprise, all of the candidates believe White Rock Lake is great and should stay that way, although Yourse demonstrated some knowledge about the ongoing lighting controversy at the lake while the other candidates basically promised not to screw things up, if elected.

The part of the campagn you can’t gather from the ads and mailers is that all of the candidates seem like basically nice guys. They might have different ideas about what to do downtown and how to do it, but they all seem committed to working hard and being true to their beliefs.

In this era of blog-driven, instanteous analysis and quick-as-lightning snarky comments, once you meet the candidates in person, it’s much more difficult to demagogue them. Even Mayor Tom Leppert, who wasn’t at this debate, doesn’t seem like a bad guy in person; he just has an agenda, he believes in that agenda, and he’s going to keep pushing it until someone stops him from doing so.

You don’t have to agree with any of these guys. You don’t have to like them. But none of them seem to have a Manchurian agenda; they just seem to want to do their best, as defined solely by them. Whether or not you agree with their definition of "best" is why we vote May 9, and it’s why taking a few minutes to see them in action is worth the time.

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