CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The eight candidates running for Charlotte City Council’s four ‘at large’ seats, debated Tuesday morning at WTVI PBS Charlotte. The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Incumbent Democrats Michael Barnes, Claire Fallon, and David Howard were joined by Vi Alexander Lyles. Republicans Mark Frietch, Ken Harris, Dennis Peterson also participated along with Libertarian Eric Cable. Republican Vanessa Faura did not attend.
The candidates started with a discussion of funding for the expanded streetcar project.
“The challenge is how you fund it,” said current District 4 council member Michael Barnes.
Barnes voted against the recently-approved plan to pay for the expansion through a property tax increase and an unsecured federal grant. Only three of the candidates debating Tuesday appeared to fully support the current proposal.
Recent tax incentives were also a popular point of discussion. Most candidates supported them in varying degrees, depending on the company in question. A lone Republican unequivocally opposed them.
“I'm against incentives because it creates a culture of cronyism, where the city council goes off and meets behind locked doors and then talks about raising your tax dollars,” said Peterson.
Incumbent members suggested the elimination of tax incentives for companies wouldn’t help grow Charlotte’s job marketplace.
“It would be very nice to drop out and say forget incentives, and I don't really like them. But if we do, where do we create jobs,” said Fallon.
Candidates were mixed in their priorities at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Some said the merger of US Airways and American Airlines should be the city’s priority. Others disagreed, saying the ongoing legal fight for control against a state-sanctioned airport authority.
The debate in its entirety airs Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. on WTVI PBS Charlotte.