Democrat Jennifer Roberts accused Republican Edwin Peacock of trying to “rewrite history” Wednesday night when they sparred over her record, crime and the streetcar.
The two faced off before about 250 people in a wide-ranging Charlotte Observer/WBTV debate, sponsored by Duke Energy, at Spirit Square.
Roberts repeatedly tried to fend off criticism of her support for a streetcar extension and her record on tax hikes. At one point, she called Peacock “desperate.”
One of the sharpest exchanges came when Roberts responded to Peacock’s criticism that she has no plan to fight crime. He has promised to create a task force to study the problem.
Roberts said that police respond most frequently to domestic violence calls. She cited her effort as a county commissioner to raise private money for a new domestic violence shelter for women in west Charlotte.
“My opponents have been saying I don’t have a crime plan,” she said. “He hasn’t been listening, or he doesn’t think domestic violence is an issue.”
The two are running in the Nov. 3 election to succeed Democrat Dan Clodfelter and become Charlotte’s fifth mayor in three years. Early voting starts Thursday in an election that also will select members of the City Council.
A Charlotte Observer poll published Sunday showed Roberts leading Peacock 54 percent to 39 percent.
Wednesday’s sparring masked an often substantive debate where the two differed on crime, including proposed exclusion zones, a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance and municipal IDs for immigrants.
Here’s what they said:
▪ The streetcar: Roberts supported the so-called Gold Line extension as an economic development tool, particularly for the east and west sides.
Peacock said it’s a question of money.
“Jennifer, if you’re going to be in support of the streetcar, I’d like to know where you’re going to find the revenue,” he said. He suggested she’d eventually find it through higher property taxes “because she 100 percent supports the streetcar.”
Peacock then said that Roberts voted for a 10.6 percent property tax increase for the 2005-2006 year, which was her first as a commissioner.
“He’s putting words in my mouth,” said Roberts, who said she’d look for alternate sources of revenue for the project. “…I didn’t vote for a tax increase for a streetcar. My opponent hasn’t been listening. For five years during the recession, I kept taxes flat.”
She called Peacock desperate.
“I’m not desperate,” Peacock replied. “I’m just quoting the facts.”
▪ Exclusion zones: Charlotte-Mecklenburg police want areas that would be off-limits to people who have been arrested.
Roberts said she has “serious concerns” about any ordinance that would prohibit people who have been arrested from returning.
Peacock said if CMPD wants to create exclusion zones, the council should consider it.
“We want to give police the tools they need,” he said. “We won’t put ourselves in (legal) jeopardy. If Chief (Kerr) Putney is asking for something, the City Council will very rarely say no.”
▪ Municipal IDs: The identification card, proposed by Charlotte’s Immigrant Integration Task Force, has been a source of tension between factions that welcome all immigrants and those who see the ID card as a way to make illegal immigration more acceptable.
Roberts said she supports the ID. Peacock said it would be counter to state and federal laws.
“You are confusing what local governments are supposed to do,” he said.
▪ Police: A question from WBT radio host Keith Larson followed criticism of the police department’s handling of charges against former Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick, charged in the killing of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed African-American. A jury failed to reach a verdict.
Peacock called for a citizen’s task force and police ride-alongs by council members.
“We need City Council members to understand what’s going on in their communities,” he said. “There is a division in the police department. They are feeling the pressure. They need a City Council and mayor to say ‘We will hold you accountable.’ ”
Roberts said she supports the use of dash and body cameras. She would lead community conversations so that citizens and police officers know their “rights and responsibilities.”
▪ Getting along with the General Assembly: Larson asked how each would improve relations with the General Assembly and suggested Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews is more powerful than any Charlotte mayor.
Peacock said “leadership is about influence.” He said it starts with a strong relationship with the delegation. And he said he would frame Charlotte’s interest as what’s best for the state.
Roberts said she would work to be a regional mayor.
“I want to reactivate the regional alliance of mayors that Anthony Foxx started. I want to have good relationships with regional delegations.”
▪ Their favorite Panther: Asked during a “lightning round,” the question elicited different answers.
For Peacock: linebacker Luke Kuechly.
For Roberts: quarterback Cam Newton.