Does Charlotte need a full-time mayor?
That question sparked one of the most interesting differences at a Tuesday evening forum between mayoral candidates Anthony Foxx and John Lassiter.
While neither candidate said he wanted a “powerful” mayor with the ability to hire and fire city employees, Foxx, a Democrat, said he believes the Qcity is fast moving past the point where a part-time mayor can do the job.
Lassiter, a Republican, said he believes the mayor’s position should remain a part-time function.
The question was posed by a member of the audience at the end of an hour-long forum at Queens University.
The audience member noted that Charlotte’s current mayor, Pat McCrory, effectively works as a full-time mayor, though he was employed by Duke Energy for much of his record seven terms.
‘I don’t think we’re in a time when we can have a remote-control mayor,” Foxx said. “If this city is going to move forward, someone’s got to step in the breech and engage.”
Foxx, a lawyer, and Lassiter, a business owner, each pledged to spend whatever time is required to get the job done.
As in previous forums, the candidates differed most on the proposed streetcar that would run form full-time Ford Road to Eastland Mall. Lassiter defended his vote against spending $4.5 million to design the project, saying the city currently has no money to build the line. Foxx, who voted to spend the $4.5 million, said the city must push ahead with the streetcar project because of the economic development it could generate in west and east Charlotte.
Both men vowed that they would not raise property taxes to build the line.
The candidates also differed slightly on whether a city-county government should be considered at some point to save money.
Neither candidate endorsed the idea, but Foxx may have came closest, saying consolidation “needs to be part of the conversation.” Both said they would support money-saving moves such as combining back-office functions like payroll and personnel.
As for a total merger, Lassiter and Foxx called the idea unlikely, saying it would be difficult to sell politically, especially in the small Mecklenburg towns that have their own elected governments.
When asked about their political aspirations beyond the mayor’s office, both men more or less sidestepped the question.
Foxx said he looked forward to spending more time with his two children.
Said Lassiter: “I honestly don’t have some political agenda… I’m not predicting the future. Depending on how things play out, I’ll just see what the good Lord brings me.”
The forum was moderated by Mike Collins, host of Charlotte Talks on radio station WFAE (90.7). It will air today (10/08) at 9 a.m.