“185 days to go,” was the first thing Lynn University President Kevin Ross said at the last debate “partners” meeting at Lynn University last week. Agencies, cities and organizations from across the county— from the election supervisor’s office to the school board to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and the cities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach—convened once again to get a progress report on preparations for the presidential debate of October 22 at Lynn University. Here’s the scoop:

• There was a “technical” site visit from the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in March, which led to some revised plans. (In fact, every Monday morning Greg Malifitano and his campus operations personnel meet with the CPD over the phone to continually monitor site progress.) The Don Estridge Middle School will serve as the credentialing center for the 3,000 media expected to converge on site, and a shuttle route is being developed in conjunction with the secret service. The Media Center (which, alone, will have seven miles of cable!) will be inside the existing campus building known as the de Hoernle Center, and as of today, the operations personnel are planning for three candidates.

• The campus will have zones throughout dedicated to the debate, from “Spin Alley” where, post-debate, candidate “surrogates” will opine on how well their side did, to the whole “Debate City” complex to the “Cause Way,” which will be dedicated to groups who want to promote various causes or issues. 

• On campus, the programming has already started, with a panel discussion with Channel 5, debate classes, like “The Politics of Religion,” “Campaigns in the 21stCentury” and “Bush vs. Gore and the 2000 Election Fiasco.” Even the younger children are getting a taste of all the excitement; 130 elementary school students from AD Henderson school engaged in a debate about which was better, cats or dogs. (The dogs won).

• The Palm Beach County Public Information Officers Cooperative, comprised of seasoned PR and media liaisons from agencies throughout the county have convened and most have agreed to assist Lynn in fielding the massive number of media enquiries that will accompany the pre-debate period and the debate weekend.

Sun-Sentinel political cartoonist Chan Lowe will have an exhibition of his political cartoons on campus

• The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors will have their annual meeting on the Lynn campus this fall.

The march toward hosting this critical debate moves forward on all fronts, and the excitement is building. A new campus entrance is under construction, the Remembrance Plaza dedicated to the Lynn students and professors lost in the earthquake in Haiti has been dedicated.  Plans are being revised again and again, and already, it’s at day number 181.

The countdown continues.