First Salt Lake City Mayoral Debate Fails to Shake Up the Race

What did we learn from the first televised debate in the Salt Lake City mayoral race?
Not a whole heckuva lot.

The hour-long discussion among the five candidates tried to cover a lot of ground, yet didn't cover any. 
It's clear a television (or radio) studio isn't the ideal place for a primary election debate like this. The five candidates struggled with the extreme time constraints – 45 seconds to answer a question is ridiculously restrictive. In a municipal election like this one, policy matters more than politics, and the format was not conducive to the substantive discussion Salt Lake City residents deserve.
The discussion focused almost exclusively on the downtown area, specifically Pioneer Park and the homeless service providers. There was hardly a mention of other areas of the city like Rose Park or Sugarhouse. 
So, who "won" the face-off? To this reporter's eyes, the final scorecard would look like this:
1. Luke Garrott. The City Council chair came off as knowledgeable and competent. He offered thoughtful answers (such as he could given the time limitations) and was on top of the issues. He did lose a few points for pluralising "focus" as "foci," which probably went above the heads of some viewers.
2. Ralph Becker. He knew the other candidates were going to tee off on him, and he didn't get rattled. He highlighted his record and didn't get drawn into a tit-for-tat battle trying to rebut the other candidates. Somebody should have told him he had needed a haircut before he appeared on camera, though.
3. Jackie Biskupski. She finally relaxed and got comfortable during the second half of the debate. Before that she came off as wooden. Once she loosened up, she offered some specifics about what she would do as mayor. Had she done that during the first half hour, I would have scored her much higher.
4. George Chapman. Apparently he thinks there's a "vice mayor" position because he started quite a few answers by saying how much he agreed with another participant. He also came off as angry and mean, leveling many direct attacks at Mayor Becker. He is an unabashed advocate for Governor Herbert's "Healthy Utah," saying the plan was the cure for the city's homeless and crime problems. He offered up the second worst answer of the debate when talking about how to deal with the homeless problem downtown when he said "I don't care if they are throwing-up drunk, I don't want them on the sidewalk." 
5. Dave Robinson. Just seemed happy to be there. He was clearly a fish out of water during the discussion. He gave the worst answer of the debate when asked about the ouster of former Police Chief Chris Burbank, making it sound like he has no idea what a newspaper is. "I'm not sure what happened with this incident" was a big unforced error from a candidate who had a small margin to begin with.
While I thought Garrott was the "winner," the overall performance didn't hurt Becker, which is why he will remain the frontrunner heading into the primary election.
Given that the Pioneer Park Coalition was the sponsor of the debate, it makes sense that a major focus was on downtown Salt Lake City. Of the nine questions asked, eight of them dealt directly with downtown. Other neighborhoods got just a glancing mention during the second question when moderator Doug Wright asked the panelists to highlight the other areas of the city that need attention.
The prison relocation issue only merited one question, as the panelists were asked where they thought the best site for a new facility would be. Not surprisingly, four of the candidates said not Salt Lake City while Robinson said he was not opposed to the site by the airport. Chapman was able to work a Monty Python reference into his answer, which was a rare moment of levity from any of the participants.
I'm not sure if any of the candidates were able to change the minds or win the support of voters as the format was far too restrictive for them to make their case. Too many people and too little time resulted in an electoral mish-mash that didn't do anyone any favors.
Maybe after the primary election narrows the field from five to two, we'll get the substantive discussion on policy this race deserves.