Debate challenge widens Home Depot divide
December 7, 2005
FRISCO – The lines are being drawn in the debate over whether voters should allow Home Depot the inside track to new development in town, but a last-minute formal debate between the two contentious sides won’t happen.The idea was first proposed by the pro-Home Depot group Friends for Frisco’s Future, and the treasurer of that group, Chris Eby. Eby proposed the idea of a formal debate between the sides Monday morning, calling leaders of the two most prominent opposition groups with the idea. Both George Sherman, who heads the Citizens Against Home Depot (CAHD) effort, and Woody Van Gundy, chairman of the Frisco Business Alliance, listened to Eby’s proposal, but were noncommittal Monday about participating.So when an ad ran in Wednesday’s Summit Daily News proclaiming the “challenge,” and advertising that a “debate will be held at the Frisco Holiday Inn on Friday, Dec. 9,” the issue blew up.”We’re not going to be a part of (the debate). We never agreed to it and we think it’s irresponsible,” Van Gundy said Wednesday. “Chris Eby proposed the idea basically as an opportunity for both sides to disseminate information to the public. He never used the word ‘debate’ to me one time.”Sherman was equally apoplectic about the ad, and how it seemingly put opposition groups on the defensive, having to bow out of a debate hastily thrown together, with no discussion of ground rules, formal structure or even who would moderate the event.”I question the motive. It’s an act of desperation on their part. It’s a cheap trick,” Sherman said. “It smacks of a public relations gimmick. (Eby)’s issuing a challenge at the 11th-and-a-half hour, and it’s one that could have been issued two weeks ago, and we would have been glad to debate him.”Further inflaming the issue was the fact that Eby’s challenge ad ran in the newspaper without the requisite disclosure that the ad was paid for by a political group.Eby defended the debate challenge, saying that a lack of response to the proposal from both Sherman and Van Gundy left him few options.”It’s a little disappointing to me that they would not have the courtesy to at least call back and say, ‘You know, we appreciate the offer … we’re not going to do it,’ ” Eby said. “I’ve been in a vacuum for the last two and a half days with this.”With zero communication between the sides since the offer was extended Monday, the idea of a formal debate now seems formally dead. “We’re not going to be there. We weren’t even informed that this would be announced,” Sherman said. Van Gundy also said his group would not participate.Eby said that his pro-Home Depot group will still hold an event Friday, though it won’t be the debate he envisioned.”We welcome anyone pro or con, or anyone sitting on the fence, to show up and have some type of dialogue on the ideas,” he said. That event, in whatever form, will take place Friday at 6 p.m. at the Frisco Holiday Inn.Sherman’s CAHD group will be holding their final event tonight at 6 p.m. at the Best Western, also in Frisco. He calls it the “final push” before the special election on Tuesday.Duffy Hayes can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13611, or at email@example.com.