San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 09/29/13, 6:32 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> People who walked into the banquet room at Pancho Villa’s Mexican Grill on Sunday got free food, some chatter and a chance to speak with those vying to represent the city — in that order.

“We wanted it to be a bit unique,” organizer George Aguilar said of the atmosphere and format. “Instead of standing up there with loaded questions and yelling, or giving rehearsed answers to the same questions they’ve asked at the other forums, we want to get to know people and really find out who’s going to be the best candidate.”

All of those who participated had five minutes to make a speech identifying why they should be mayor or city attorney, but that was intended to take up only a fraction of the 2½-hour event.

The format got mixed reviews from the roughly 50 people who trickled in and out during the event, although many said they appreciated any attention that could be brought to the election.

“I thought there was going to be an open Q&A where everyone could hear the questions,” said resident Joe Mora. “It’s supposed to be about finding who should be mayor, not a social hour.”

The event was hosted by the Chicano Latino Caucus Inland Empire in cooperation with the Inland Empire chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Several candidates spoke about the need to reach across barriers in the city.

The closest it got being dedicated specifically to Latino issues was when mayoral candidate Matt Korner referred to City Attorney James F. Penman’s offer in 2000 to send a legal immigrant who had criticized the city to Mexico.

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