By Morgan Spicer, Graham Center for Public Service VIP (Virtual Internship Program) Participant
On Wednesday, November 8th, 2017, the Commission on Local Debates (CLD) hosted an informational launch at the Mad Cow Theatre in Orlando, Florida. Founded by Gregory Eisenberg and Natalie Martinez, the Commission on Local Debates is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of community leaders who are committed to improving civic engagement at the grassroots level. Voting at the State Senate, State House, and County Commission level is often challenging due to inadequate information about the candidates. CLD’s mission is simple: to improve the quality, content, and accessibility of debates for local seats by leveraging online technology.
“Debates should be a meaningful platform for candidates to distinguish themselves from their opponents by demonstrating their aptitude for office and political ideology,” stated Gregory Eisenberg, pointing out that current debates fail to reach voters and constituents, and are frequently run from a partisan standpoint. Eisenberg was recently designated as one of UCF’s “30 under 30” awardees and serves as CLD’s Executive Director.
Natalie Martinez, Eisenberg’s co-founder, is a graduate of the University of Florida where she was the Chair of the Graham Center’s Future of Florida Policy Conference. An alumni of CLAS, Warrington and Hough Graduate School of Business, she is extremely thankful for the opportunities afforded to her in Gainesville.
“The Graham Center was instrumental to my interest in expanding civic engagement in Gainesville, Florida, and nationwide. Taking advantage of ways to serve and lead other UF students is easily applied to post-graduate life. Those actively participating in the Bob Graham Center can expect to be the next generation of community leaders, government representatives, and change agents.” Natalie is currently a Women’s Congressional Policy Institute Fellow in the office of Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) in Washington, D.C. and is President of the CLD Board of Directors.
The Commission on Local Debate brings together fresh community voices and established leaders, such as former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin, former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, and former Florida House Representative Dick Batchelor. Their mission is to create a debate model can be used for county, city, state, and congressional elections, featuring standardized moderators and candidate eligibility requirements. CLD utilizes online tools to market debates on social media, exhibits all video content on this platform, localdebates.org, and renders the video content into accessible formats (video, audio, transcription, translation). This fall, Commission on Local Debates will be operating State House and County Commission debates in Orange County, with plans is to expand into other Florida media markets by 2020.
In the spring of 2018, the Commission on Local Debates recruited its first interns through the Bob Graham Center’s Virtual Internship Program. This is a source of pride for Martinez, who is excited to share the project with students from her alma mater. She believes “every student, especially those studying government, should have a variety of work experiences in order to be successful after graduation. I’m so glad CLD can be an inroads into nonprofit leadership and grassroots engagement.” For more information on our internship, click here.