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September 4, 2013

Mayoral candidates agree to Sept. 12 forum

NEWBURYPORT — The three candidates for mayor in the Sept. 17 preliminary election will exchange views in an informational forum on Thursday, Sept. 12.

City Councilor Greg Earls, Mayor Donna Holaday and City Councilor Dick Sullivan have agreed to meet at the Firehouse Center for the Arts from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Organizing the event is a loosely knit group of local residents that calls itself Committee for an Open Debate (COD).

“The name (COD) just dropped out of my mouth,” said Chip Wyser, a former city councilor (2004-2005) who is a key organizer of the forum.

“We felt there should be an opportunity to hear all three candidates present their views. They have found time to participate.”

The Daily News and the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce had sought to host a forum and proposed five different dates. Each candidate was available for some of the dates, but there was not a single date on which all the candidates were available. Last week, The Daily News announced that the forum would not happen.

The citizens group then stepped in and convinced Earls to change his schedule.

Sept. 12 was one of the dates proposed by The Daily News and chamber. It was the only date Holaday was available. Sullivan was also available that night, but Earls was not. Wyser said he implored Earls to make himself available. Earls reportedly was committed to speaking at a neighborhood gathering and after discussions with supporters, he has committed to the forum.

The format will be that of a forum rather than a debate.

Candidates will answer five to seven questions relating to municipal issues. The questions will be provided to them prior to the forum, and candidates can speak from notes if they choose.

All candidates will have the chance to answer all questions, and there will be no participation from the audience. Participants will not be permitted to challenge the answers of others, and there will be no opportunity for formal rebuttal.

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