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Peacock, Cannon clash over taxes, Panthers, facts

Five days before election day, Charlotte mayoral candidates Patrick Cannon and Edwin Peacock met Thursday for an hourlong debate, with each trying to score points on how they would handle capital investments, taxes and future negotiations with the Carolina Panthers.

Cannon’s major theme is that he is willing to invest in the city’s more struggling areas by voting for a Capital Investment Plan, while Peacock said he would be able to end partisan “bickering” over issues such as the airport and streetcar.

In making their points, or supporting their positions, both candidates were not fully accurate in their arguments.

Peacock, a Republican, has spent much of the campaign criticizing Cannon’s vote in June to support a $816 million capital plan funded by a 7.25 percent property tax increase.

Peacock, a former council member, has argued the city doesn’t have to raise taxes to fund a capital program, and said he voted for capital plans that didn’t require a property tax increase in fiscal years 2010 and 2012.

But Peacock didn’t say that those capital plans had been previously funded by a property tax increase in 2006, which was designed to raise enough money to last several years. That tax increase occurred before he was on City Council.

That 2006 tax increase – which was 9.2 percent – gave the city new debt capacity to fund capital programs for the next six years, former City Manager Curt Walton said Thursday.

In an interview after the debate, Peacock said those capital budgets may have been funded from the earlier tax increase, though he wasn’t certain.

Peacock criticized Cannon for meeting in closed session to discuss negotiations with the Panthers, which resulted in an $87.5 million city subsidy in exchange for a six-year commitment to play in Charlotte.

Cannon responded that he “was not behind closed doors” because he had asked to be recused owing to his parking management company having a contract with the Panthers.

“When you recuse yourself, you are not in the room,” Cannon told Peacock.

He then added: “A mayor should know that kind of thing.”

But Cannon was in the room and participated in the discussions for three closed session meetings on the Panthers, on Sept. 27, 2012, Jan. 14, 2013 and March 4, 2013.

After the debate, Cannon said he was referring to a February closed session meeting during a City Council retreat.

“When (Panthers owner) Jerry Richardson came by, I wasn’t in the room,” Cannon said. “I was downstairs, they were upstairs.”

Richardson, however, also attended the Jan. 14 closed session meeting and made an initial proposal to the city.

The debate was sponsored by PBS Charlotte, the League of Women Voters and the Junior League of Charlotte.

The two candidates discussed a number of other issues, including corporate incentives, education, the airport and affordable housing.

• When discussing incentives, Peacock said they are “part of our tool box” to bring new businesses to Charlotte, but he said the city “can’t be in a race to the bottom.”

He noted that he and Cannon differed on the 2011 incentives granted to Chiquita Brands International. Peacock voted against the incentive package, which helped cover the company’s moving expenses.

Cannon said he is in favor of offering incentives to land companies, and cited examples such as the city landing Electrolux, Chiquita and MetLife.

“People are hurting,” Cannon said, arguing that the city needs as many jobs as it can produce.

Neither candidate mentioned the recent $922,000 of city/county incentives given to Carowinds for improvements to the theme park. Cannon voted against that incentive package because too few jobs were created.

• Candidates differed over the streetcar, as they have in other debates and forums.

Peacock charged Cannon had a “checkered” voting record on the streetcar by accepting a grant in 2009 for the project but then voting against it in 2012. This year, Cannon voted for the 2.5-mile streetcar extension.

Cannon countered that the project is expected to generate 1.1 million square feet of new development. He said he has always supported the project, but voted against it in 2012 because it was funded only with property taxes.

• Both candidates supported state legislators continuing tax credits for the movie and TV industry in North Carolina, and both said they support a proposal to convert the Eastland Mall site into movie studios.

• Candidates were asked by debate moderator Amy Burkett how they would support the city’s immigrants.

Peacock said he would work to keep taxes low, which would create jobs. He said he would support Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison and would work to address a “mismatch” of skills between what employers need and what residents have.

Cannon said public safety can improve people’s lives. He pointed out that the Capital Investment Plan has money to build six new police stations.

• Peacock said part of the airport controversy stemmed from the city being “asleep at the wheel” and having a “dilapidated relationship” with state leaders and legislators.

He said some of the city’s problems with the General Assembly stemmed from a belief among legislators that the city wanted to divert money from the airport to pay for the streetcar.

Cannon said he would have been able to meet with both Republicans and Democrats.

“We could have met at a place that could have made sense for both parties,” he said.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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