Read what Mayor George Endicott and Ed Fitch had to say at the RPA mayoral forum: bit.ly/2QlOs95

Whether it’s a business group, political organization or, yes, even journalists sometimes, the people playing host to a political debate often tend to ask questions about issues pertaining to their interests.

But when kids are doing the asking, the big issue is how what’s happening now will affect them later on. That was evident in a Sept. 26 candidate forum where Mayor George Endicott and challenger Ed Fitch took questions from a panel of Redmond Proficiency Academy students.

The first question asked of the candidates by the panel of four students was about their long-range objectives. Endicott and Fitch also got questions about jobs of the future and the future of affordable housing in the city.

“The questions the kids ask are much more centered around what they want Redmond to be like in the future,” said RPA social studies teacher Matt Killpack. “They see themselves living here a long time and hoping that things are going to change in the next 20 years for the better.”

While Redmond is great now, Killpack said students want to make sure there are opportunities for themselves and their families down the road.

“Instead of ‘Why aren’t you doing this right now?’ it’s ‘What are you doing to make Redmond better in the future?’” he said.

Killpack, a teacher at the public charter school for 10 years, has long taught his students about local government. He’s had class presentations from former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, as well as his 2010 Republican opponent, former NBA player Chris Dudley, along with state Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Reps. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, and Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

But they hadn’t had opposing candidates in at the same time.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in, but we’ve never had ‘the debate,’” Killpack said.

To prepare, both candidates came in to talk to the kids. Killpack admits he was surprised by how bold some of the questions the students asked were.

The students submitted a list of 12 questions to Killpack. A panel of four students asked questions of the candidates.

The students enjoyed the experience.

“I thought it was very interesting for them to come and talk to us,” said senior E.J. Allen, 18, one of the questioners.

While asking questions of candidates roughly a half-century his senior in front of an audience of 160 people can seem nerve wracking, Allen said he was able to handle it.

“It’s kind of a different thing for me,” he said. “I was nervous going into it, but after it started it was better.”

While teaching the students about local politics was up Killpack’s alley, getting the logistics of the forum down posed challenges. Both candidates jumped at the chance to debate, but finding a time during school hours where both could appear wasn’t as easy, Killpack said. He also had to work on setting up RPA’s McClay Theatre for the event.

“I had to make it equal (for the candidates) in terms of height and lighting,” he said. “That’s something I’ve never done before.”

Killpack would like RPA students to continue playing host to candidate forums in the future, and even go for some larger races.

“Maybe we can get some larger-scale elections, it would be great to have a governor’s debate in the future,” he said.

Killpack looked into some other possibilities for the 2018 elections, but he said he would likely need to work with another school on a forum for a larger race. He tried to contact Redmond and Ridgeview high schools, but he did not hear back from teachers there.

Killpack also looked into a congressional debate. While Democratic challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner was on board, he didn’t hear back from incumbent Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River.

As for the mayoral forum, Allen was impressed with both candidates. When asked who he thought did better afterward, he gave one a slight edge.

“I think they both gave very good answers, they addressed a lot of issues,” he said. “I, personally, think Ed Fitch gave better responses, but they both did a great job, and we appreciated them coming.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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