The Rapidian

Mayoral debate to combine citizen questions, co-moderator leadership

The Grand Rapids Community Media Center will host the mayoral debate at Wealthy Theater, giving citizens a chance to ask mayoral candidates questions directly. Four co-moderators will lead the discussion with an opening question for each topic.
Wealthy Street Theater hosts the 2015 mayoral debate

Wealthy Street Theater hosts the 2015 mayoral debate /Holly Bechiri

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Reserve your seat

Wealthy Theatre holds approximately 400 seats.

Reservations can be made for a seat on the Wealthy Theatre website.

At time of publish, seats were approximately 25% reserved, with the majority of those reservations made over the last few days.

Reservations are held until 6:15 p.m., at which time all remaining seats will be released to the general public.

The Grand Rapids Community Media Center is hosting a mayoral debate on July 15, 2015 at the Wealthy Theater. The mayoral candidates debating are Rosalynn BlissRobert DeanJohn George and Willard Lee. The debate is sponsored by the ACLU and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

"This is one of the reasons Wealthy Theater is here, to facilitate community conversations," says Erin Wilson, Director of Wealthy Theatre.

The debate format will be a combination of panel and town hall styles, with Rapidian Managing Editor moderating the discussion and assisting local leaders serving as co-moderators to start off the questions for each section. 

The co-moderators include Jeff Hill, partner and Realtor at Third Coast Real Estate and former publisher of Rapid Growth Media. Hill, with both his current experience as a realtor and landlord, and his long history as a resident in Grand Rapids and leader of discussions of the growth and businesses in the city, will head the City Services debate section.

Rodney Brown, political scientist and high school administrator, will begin the Race & Our Community section.

"I have worked as a nonprofit executive with National Urban League affiliates and served as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Grand Rapids Community College for seven years, beginning my teaching there when I was 25 years old," says Brown. With work as a community organizer for neighborhood associations and as a business consultant for various local and national business entities, Brown hopes to bring his education and work experience to the debate on race.

"I always advocate for opportunities to empower the citizens of Grand Rapids," he says, "by leading and serving youth leadership, community development and citizen engagement initiatives in the community."

Mark Lewis, President & CEO of Neighborhood Ventures, will lead the Neighborhood and Business Development section.

"Neighborhood Ventures operates exclusively to create a city full of 'vibrant business districts distinctive and reflective of each unique neighborhood,' agency services concentrate on small business recruitment and retention and public/private commercial corridor organizing efforts within our neighborhoods," explains Lewis.

Clifford Washington, ACLU board member, professor and Coordination Manager with the Pine Rest Community & Residential division, will start off the Civil Liberties discussion.

"I teach courses in Ethics, Management and Criminal Justice at the West Michigan Campus of the University of Phoenix and Grand Rapids County College," says Washington, who will be representing the ACLU at the debate.

Questions from the audience will be collected on a Twitter Wall that will be showing on a large screen on the stage. These questions can be submitted by tweeting a question with the hashtag #2015GRmayor. For those not using Twitter, questions can be submitted through texting "debate" and your question to 51555 or-for those in the audience at Wealthy Theatre- writing them on cards provided.

The event will be broadcast live by GRTV, Channel 25. Live streaming of the event can also be found at and on WKTV Channel 25 in Wyoming, Kentwood and Gaines Township.

The event is free and open to all. The debate starts at 6:30; doors open at 5:30. Reservations are held until 6:15 p.m. At 6:15, all remaining seats will be released to the general public. Reservations for a seat may be made here.

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