On October 4, the Associated Students of Mendocino College hosted the Riggs vs. Alioto political debate at Mendocino College, moderated by history instructor, Larry Mc. Leitch. The Congressional debate attracted TV, radio and newspaper media and people from every political corner of the community. It was attended by 650 people - a record for any previous ASMC event. ASMC officers, headed up by Kimberley Younger and June Dooley, devoted many hours of hard work and sometimes difficult negotiations between the campaign staffs of the two candidates to organize the debate.
Both candidates were invited to meet the student officers who worked so hard to make the debate happen. Frank Riggs accepted and was there for the meal but Allioto did not attend.
The students wasted no time engaging Riggs. "What did you think of the so called Headwaters agreement," asked Eagle editor, Zack Darling. When Riggs answered, he spoke about the controversial Debt for Nature deal: "The bottom line is that the Headwaters is private property and is zoned for timber harvest." Riggs said he sides with the property rights of the stockholders, land owners, and timber employees.
When Riggs was asked by Darling about accusations of criminal misconduct on the part of Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz, the Congressman responded that if the accusations against Hurwitz - that he bilked billions of dollars from the FDIC bank - are proven, "I'll be the first one to help bank regulators collect on their losses." Riggs went on to talk up his support for a proposed agreement between MAXXAM, and the US government intended to settle the nine year old Environmental Protection and Information Center (EPIC) lawsuit. The Agreement between the federal government, and Hurwitz, was called insufficient by student leaders because it attempts to protect only one of the remaining groves and just 1700 acres out of the 60,000 acres requested by environmentalists.
Riggs, the consummate politician, turned his dinner conversation to less controversial topics. He bragged of being part of the gang of seven congressman who broke the House Bank scandal exposing a system that allowed members to write bad checks. The House bank fallout hit mostly Democrats but, as a Eagle reporter, Larry Guyette, pointed out, Riggs wrote a few bad checks himself.
Moving on, Riggs appeared to be searching for common ground with the students. He talked about the so-called "Contract with America" and his commitment to honor the people of California's desire for term limits on Congress. Riggs was referring to a ballot proposition which was overturned by the Supreme Court that would have limited the terms a person could serve in Congress. For Riggs that would be one more term.
After receiving word that Allioto would not be attending the dinner, Riggs and student leaders walked over to the gym where the first ever Mendocino College sponsored Congressional debate would be held. Riggs circulated in the crowed and pressed palms with as many as he could.
When the debate opened-up Alioto began, "I'm asking you for a job." She tried to explain how important the acts of Congress are to the people. "Congress has a direct impact on your life," she said.
Riggs told the audience that he was a policeman for many years, an experience that allowed him a view of the human condition not seen by most people. "As an ex-cop, I don't think I am very corruptible." He told of his Catholic upbringing and attending school at St. Mary's.
Riggs supports charter schools which he said was the single most effective way we can improve education in America. Charter schools he said cut through the red tape that district schools must confront and allows schools the opportunities to find innovative solutions.
For the most part the debators seemed to be playing to the crowd and avoiding conflict, except when they explained their positions on California Proposition 209, the so called Civil Rights Initiative.
Alioto strongly opposed 209 and pointed out that it's name is very misleading. "Instead of improving the conditions of race and gender inequity, this proposition would add to it." She said, "This proposition would reverse 30 years of civil rights advances." Allioto criticized language in Prop 209 that refers to gender as a job qualification, an obvious step backwards for women and a contradiction to the stated purpose of creating a level playing field.
Riggs called Prop 209 an embodiment of Dr. Kings Dream that people should be judged by the content of their character not the by the color of their skin.
All in all, the debate was a huge success for the ASMC and the college. Neither candidate could be considered the "winner," but both made a good showing.
So remember, on November 5, 1996 VOTE for the candidate that you believe will do the best job for all of us.
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle
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