Four no-shows at Tybee City Council forum, residents left disappointed

Four no-shows at Tybee City Council forum, residents left disappointed

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - It was a packed house at the city's Public Safety Building for the Tybee Island City Council candidate forum Monday night, but the majority of the candidates didn't show up.

All six of the city council candidates initially said they would attend Monday's forum. But only Julie Livingston and incumbent Paul Wolff showed.

And that left many people who came out Monday night frustrated.

"The candidates agreed to come here. I was undecided on who to vote for, and I gave up my evening to come and hear them, and they didn't show up. So I'm just very disappointed at that," said Dave Haney, Tybee Island resident.

That sentiment echoed by many who felt they were let down.

John Bremer, Sr., Stephen Friedman, and incumbents Wanda Doyle and Barry Brown were all no-shows.

It caught everyone off-guard, including the forum's organizer who announced partway through the event that the four candidates were in fact not coming.

"They were afraid that the questions the audience asked or that were asked by the moderator might be questions that might be unfair to them to ask. I can't imagine why, because all the questions are certainly legitimate questions by each participant in the audience," said Shirley Wright, forum organizer.

A post on candidate Stephen Friedman's Facebook page, signed by the other no-show candidates, says the event's co-sponsor "Forever Tybee" is a political action committee that favors the two candidates who showed up tonight.

It also says their request to make the rules fairer was denied.

But not everyone at the forum Monday night thought that's a valid excuse.

"I don't think that matters. I think if you're in politics, you have to be willing to deal with all the elements. Some are going to be for you and some are going to be against you," said Gary Dennis, Tybee Island resident.

All the questions were submitted by audience members before the event and were read by a moderator.

The questions were directed to individuals and each question was not asked to each candidate.

And though some audience members felt the forum was fair, the majority went home feeling disappointed.

"It's just very disturbing that the opportunity was not given for people to hear and see all the candidates," said Dennis.

Despite the turnout, the debate went on with Wolff and Livingston fielding a number of questions from topics including a proposed community pool, short-term vacation rentals, and how to deal with alcohol on the island.

But overall, this wasn't so much a debate with hardball questions and politically charged answers to convince voters.

What swayed a lot of people Monday night was simply the attendance record.

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