Underscoring their philosophical differences, Charlotte Democratic mayoral candidate Patrick Cannon and Republican rival Edwin Peacock sparred Thursday over budgets, taxes and the streetcar.
Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Mecklenburg County Bar Association, Cannon criticized Peacock for not supporting the city’s recent capital improvement budget.
“That means you’re against 18,000 jobs that would be created .... against six patrol divisions (and) against improving neighborhoods in distressed corridors,” Cannon said.
Peacock said he opposed the capital plan because it came with a 7.25 percent property tax hike, the first since 2006.
“You need to have a smaller capital plan that spends less and doesn’t have a tax increase with such a fragile economic recovery,” he told the Observer later.
Cannon is the city’s mayor pro tem. Peacock is a former two-term council member. They face off Nov. 5.
Thursday’s exchange came near the end of the noon forum and offered neither candidate much time to respond or go into detail. But it highlighted basic differences over spending.
Peacock, who described transportation as a centerpiece of his vision, told bar members that he has questioned financing of the proposed streetcar, which would run from west to east Charlotte along Beatties Ford Road and Central Avenue.
Like other critics, he has said it leapfrogged other projects and bypassed a regional transportation planning group.
He said the controversial project also jeopardizes support for a broader transportation plan, particularly among people in south Charlotte.
The streetcar was part of former Mayor Anthony Foxx’s 2012 capital budget proposal but failed in a 6-5 council vote. That budget would have raised property taxes by 8 percent, in part to fund the streetcar.
Cannon voted against that budget but for this year’s after City Manager Ron Carlee offered ways to pay for the streetcar without using property taxes. Instead, he proposed using an expected $63 million federal grant and cobbling together other city funds.
However, when U.S. transportation officials, led by now-Secretary Foxx, awarded grants last month, Charlotte didn’t get any.
Peacock called the streetcar financing “a shell game.”
“(Cannon) has accepted a property tax increase with the belief that he would get the streetcar with found money and borrowing from the federal government,” he said. “It hasn’t happened. But we still have a property tax increase.”
Cannon said he still hasn’t seen Peacock’s plan to pay for “investing in corridors, increasing connections and improving communities for economic development, public safety, housing and neighborhood improvements.”
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