Republicans Edwin Peacock and Scott Stone differed sharply over a series of votes to fund the streetcar four years ago in a mayoral debate Tuesday night at Ballantyne Hotel.
When he was a City Council member, Peacock was opposed to the streetcar and took several votes against the project in 2009. But Stone criticized him for voting in favor of a city budget that included $8 million for the project.
Peacock countered that he had tried to derail the streetcar but then voted for the overall budget because it contained funding for things such as first responders and battered women shelters.
“I know you could make a political statement to create theater and drama,” Peacock said. “You are misrepresenting my record. You don’t understand the budget and how it works.”
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Stone said Peacock was against the streetcar and then for it. He said it would have been OK to vote against the entire budget, even if it jeopardized other functions of government.
“How the process has always been doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be,” Stone said.
Peacock, a former council member, and Stone, the president of a civil engineering firm, are vying to win the Sept. 15 Republican primary.
Peacock was a moderate on the City Council, while Stone is running as the more conservative candidate. Peacock tried to make that distinction during the Time Warner Cable News debate.
Peacock said Stone hasn’t campaigned throughout the city and has been concentrating his time in mostly white south Charlotte. He criticized Stone for not appearing at an NAACP forum, and Peacock said he was the only GOP candidate to answer a survey from MeckPAC, a political action group for gay, lesbian and transgender residents.
“I have been consistent,” Peacock said. “I’m answering questions voters want to know.”
Stone said that wasn’t a fair statement. He said he had recently attended a Black Political Caucus forum that Peacock hadn’t attended. He said the city wants a mayor who can create policies to help all residents.
The candidates were asked whether the city settled a civil lawsuit too quickly in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell. Peacock said the City Council had to make a business decision to minimize its potential losses. He reminded voters that, as a council member, he has sat in closed meetings when such litigation is discussed.
Stone said he thought the City Council might have acted too soon.
“I’m not sure we didn’t pay out on the high side,” he said, referring to $2.25 million payment.
The candidates were asked about a sentiment held by some in south Charlotte that they are not receiving enough city services and investment compared with how much taxes they pay.
Peacock said it’s a problem.
“These districts are feeling resentment about taking their tax dollars, and you can’t continue that,” he said, citing the streetcar as a project that has divided the city.
Stone said the city needs to make sure capital projects are prioritized based on need.
Peacock criticized the Democratic-controlled City Council for passing two recent property tax increases and for the city falling to the bottom in a ranking of metro areas for economic mobility.
Stone said his experience as a business owner would be an asset in recruiting companies to the area.