In one of the most poorly organized City Council Candidate Forum events on record, the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce has changed its mind — again — on how many people it will allow into the Feb. 22 Candidate Forum and whether there will be accommodations for an overflow audience.

Rancho_Mirage_EventFrom the outset, the Chamber of Commerce has said there was seating for 500 people. But when news was posted Wednesday morning on Uken Report, the Chamber demanded Uken Report correct that number because seating would be limited to 350 people blaming Uken Report for erroneous information. The chamber spokeswoman also said the tools and technology needed to accommodate an overflow crowd were already in use for the evening.

Residents immediately called foul and Uken Report called on constituents to call the Chamber of Commerce.

In less than two hours, guess what? Oh, golly, gee whiz. It seems the room can now miraculously accommodate the original 500 people — and — by some odd act of fate there will be technology available to accommodate an overflow crowd.

It all smacks of dirty politics from an organization that is designed to promote the city, not play politics.  The Chamber of Commerce deserves a black eye over this. If it  thought it could hoodwink residents, it was sadly mistaken.

Perhaps the candidate forum would have been handled more professionally by another group.

All of the different incarnations of the events begs the question as to how prepared the Chamber of Commerce is to host the event. Any event designed to educate the public should ensure that all steps are taken to maximize participation, not minimize it.

What other last-minute changes will the Chamber make before the Forum?

The forum begins at 6 p.m. at the Rancho Mirage Public Library, 71-100 Highway 111.

Candidates are not allowed to campaign in any way, including, but not limited to distribution of literature.

“This is not a debate and participants will not be given time for rebuttal,” Samantha Tweddell, executive director of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce, said in a letter to candidates. “Participants are asked to stay on topic, time allowed and refrain from personal attacks. The audience will be directed to remain quiet, and any outbursts or inappropriate behavior will result in their immediate removal.”

At 5:50 p.m. a random draw will be conducted in public view for order of sequence. All candidates will have the opportunity to answer each question. Each participating candidate will have the opportunity to be first to answer a question.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to make a one-minute opening statement and a one-minute closing statement.

Questions have been prepared in advance and will include those submitted by residents/business community by prior open solicitation, and vetted by the committee, to be read by the moderator.

Participants are the six candidates vying for three seats on the Rancho Mirage City Council in the April elections. There are three incumbents and three challengers. Incumbents are G. Dana Hobart, Charles Townsend Vinci and Iris Smotrich. The challengers are Katherine “Kate” Spates, Robert “Bob” Mueller and Michael Harrington. Each of the three open seats is a four-year term.