The at-large candidates for Charlotte City Council debated affordable housing, the police and taxes during a WTVI/League of Women Voters taped Tuesday morning.
There are four at-large seats. Four Democrats are in the run-off: incumbents V Lyles and Claire Fallon, and former council member James Mitchell and Julie Eiselt. There are three Republicans in the race, but only two participated in the debate: Pablo Carvajal and John Powell. There also are races in City Council Districts 2, 3, 4 and 7.
David Michael Rice did not attend.
The Democrats have swept the at-large seats in the last two elections.
Here is how the candidates stood on some of the issues:
Fallon said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police has changed the way its officers patrol.
“They are more in the community,” she said. “When you know the policeman on the beat, it’s easy to go to them with a problem.”
Fallon said she could support a tax increase if it was used to hire more police officers.
She said she supports a proposal to expand the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include gay, lesbian and transgender residents. When it was debated earlier this year, some council members believed Fallon didn’t support the entire ordinance.
“I did (support it) and I would,” she said.
When asked about tax increases, Powell said the city “must live within its means.”
In the discussion about CMPD, Powell praised the city’s recent decision to buy body cameras for all officers. When asked about the Citizens Review Board, which investigates claims of police misconduct, he said the city should wait and see if it’s working before exploring whether the board should be given subpoena power.
“Let’s see how it works,” he said.
Powell said he would vote against the expanding non-discrimination ordinance as it was written earlier this year.
Powell cited the city’s plans to sell part of the former Eastland Mall site to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as a positive way to bring housing closer to jobs.
Carvajal said “people are flooding to N.C.” and Charlotte must keep its property tax rate low to keep people wanting to move there.
He said the city should “cut back on corporate welfare.”
Carvajal said CMPD should hire police “who look like the community.” That’s particularly important, he said, because Charlotte has become a “majority-minority city.” He said the Citizens Review Board is “essential” and he would review whether it needs subpoena power.
He said he would support adding LGBT protections to the non-discrimination ordinance.
When asked whether she would support a tax increase to pay for critical needs, Lyles would not commit.
“Tax increases are a tough decision,” she said, adding it would have to be discussed with the community. Lyles voted for a small property tax increase this year, which was off set somewhat by a decrease in the garbage fee homeowners pay.
When asked whether the Citizens Review Board should have subpoena power when investigating police misconduct, she said one of the goal’s of the board is to “minimize conflict.” She said the city could review at a later date whether subpoena power would be needed.
Lyles said he would support the expanded non-discrimination ordinance for LGBT residents.
Eiselt said a tax increase should not be the city’s “first line of defense.”
Eiselt, who founded a citizens group to lobby for stronger law enforcement and criminal justice system a decade ago, said the city should be wary of giving the Citizens Review Board too much power.
“We don’t want to have the police not show up,” she said. “We have to be careful about backlash.”
Eiselt said she would support adding LGBT protections to the non-discrimination ordinance.
When asked whether the city approves too many rezonings, Eiselt said it’s not a yes or no question.
Mitchell said raising taxes should never be the first step the city takes, and he said public-private partnerships could fund projects.
He said CMPD’s “Cops and Barbers” program is a “great initiative” and should be continued. He said the city should monitor the Citizens Review Board to see whether subpoena power is needed.
Mitchell said he supports expanding the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.
He said the city should continue to build housing with both low-income and market-rate units mixed together.
District candidates debate
Candidates in three council districts also debated Tuesday:
▪ District 3. Democratic incumbent LaWana Mayfield and Republican Eric Netter met for one of the first times in their race to represent the southwest district.
Two-term council member Mayfield touted her record of bringing job fairs, economic development and fighting against gentrification.
Netter, who has a record that includes four trips to prison, said reducing crime would be a prime focus.
▪ District 4. Republican challenger Michael O’Hara suggested he’d be a more aggressive council member than first-term Democrat Greg Phipps, particularly when it came to spending tax money.
Asked if they would support a property tax hike, O’Hara said no; Phipps said yes.
The two also disagreed over whether to give more power to the Citizens Review Board. O’Hara said he would. Phipps would not.
▪ District 7. Republican incumbent Ed Driggs and Democrat Chris Turner both promised to address the problems that come with their southeast district’s rapid growth.
They disagreed on several things, including the LGBT ordinance and giving the Citizens Review Board subpoena power. Unlike Turner, Driggs opposed the ordinance and would not give the police oversight board more power.
Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.
Voting for City Council
Four Democrats and three Republicans are running for four at-large seats. There also are races in Charlotte City Council Districts 2, 3, 4 and 7.
Early voting is going on through Saturday and Nov. 3 is election day.
The city and school board debates will air Sunday on WTVI, starting at 2 p.m.
Learn more about the candidates at www.charlotteobserver.com/election