The five candidates for Salt Lake City mayor square-off in an hour-long debate on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Incumbent Ralph Becker went on the defensive as he faced criticism from challengers Jackie Biskupski, George Chapman, Luke Garrott, and Dave Robinson. The event was moderated by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Jennifer Napier-Pearce and broadcast live online and on KCPW.
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Thursday I arrived at the mayoral debate early and sat on the first row. I was wearing a tee-shirt that said “Ralph Becker for Mayor” I was approached by the moderator of the event Jennifer Napier-Pearce. She asked me to move to the second row because she said essentially I was wearing a candidate support tee-shirt. I pointed out to her the library was a public place. She then tried to cover that she, a reporter with a masters degree from Stanford, tried to limit free speech; by saying she needed the chair for her assistant. I apologized and moved to the other side of the auditorium still on the first row. Then, I was approached by Jackie Biskupski who said I needed to sit on the same side of the auditorium as the candidate I was supporting.
So I moved back to the same area in the seat adjacent to the seat I thought Jennifer had said she needed for her assistant. Jennifer then came back over and said she needed the seat I was sitting in for assistant. I said I thought it was the other seat but she of course could have both seats; and I moved one over.
The next day I called the Salt Lake City Tribune and asked if they paid a fee to rent the space. The manger I spoke to said they did not. Therefore, Jennifer Napier- Pearce could not have believed in my opinion, that the tribune had a private endeavor with the library and she was justified legally in attempting to limit free expression of political speech. The fact that Jennifer Napier Pearce asked me to move to the second row initially without a legal justification for doing so, in my opinion, demonstrates a bias. Since Jennifer was the one who screened the questions that were selected from readers, it also in my opinion impugns integrity of the debate.