Friday, March 9, 2012

Roanoke City candidate forum uneventful but mother knows best

Mary Bowers, Mayor's mother

Incumbent Mayor Bowers capped off his closing remarks with a surefire winning political strategy – mention your mother. Bowers said, “she said [to me] well when you’ve got a car with four good tires why would you change one.” She is a wise woman thought son, David. Mary Bowers sat grinning in the audience.

Past Roanoke City elections have had contentious issues that set candidates apart from each other or formed tickets around major issues like Victory Stadium. This year’s challengers are struggling to find a soft spot in the calm sea of the current incumbent council.

Thursday evening at the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League a candidate forum was held. One Independent candidate Brandon Bushnell is challenging three Democratic council incumbents Sherman Lea, Anita Price and Court Rosen. If the 80 or so attendees came looking for delineation between the incumbents and the challengers they came away empty. The mayoral contest between Democratic incumbent Mayor David Bowers and his Republican challenger Mark Lucas an entrepreneur dialogue was muted at best.

Moderator John Carlin remarked on the few issues there were for a challenger to make a mark in this year’s election. That was evident by the softball questions and limp noodle responses.

The only issue Carlin asked that has received some play was the 2-cent meals tax that will expire on July 1. Councilwoman Anita Price’s response was non-committal. Though price took the stand of her other colleagues saying, “a promise is a promise” she hedged saying, “as whether or not it should continue that a question that relies upon our citizens.”

Brandon Bushnell, Independent council candidate

Bushnell is basing his campaign on keeping the 2-cent meals tax pointing to the fact that it has not deterred anyone from eating out. The meals tax even without the increase rose over the two years it was in force. “I am a huge proponent of the meals tax,” said Bushnell. He said he has a vision for what could be done by keeping the tax. “Taking the schools beyond adequacy; beyond good enough where we are vulnerable to a budget-cutting state government and the economy.”

Court Rosen who first proposed the short-term tax said it was meant as “a bandaid on a scab.” With the $12.5 million the schools have in contingency Rosen believes the tax should expire as promised. “You don’t tax people because you have the ability to and you can. You tax people because you need to.”

Sherman Lea said it took courage and boldness to implement the meals tax. “This council supports our school system better than any other urban city in the state of Virginia.” He recounted a gathering he attended in Greenville, South Carolina where developers told him that they wanted to see consistency in government when choosing locations for business development. “We have that – we have good regional valley collaboration,” he said.

Mark Lucas and David Bowers

Bowers in his opening remarks was prepared for a little one-on-one with his opponent Mark Lucas. “My opponent suggests he is a visionary,” said Bowers. “I’m still that working class guy.” He hoped voters would agree that he has brought dignity and friendliness to the office. He contrasted the cordiality of council to the discourse in Washington and Richmond and read off a list of accomplishments. He emphasized the 1600 jobs created over the last year.

Mark Lucas didn’t take the opportunity to take a whack at Bowers’ mayoral style. Instead he mostly affirmed his opponent’s views but thought he could do better when it comes to jobs and growing businesses. Lucas and his wife Wendy own Lucas Therapies and has started and sold multiple businesses. Lucas when asked what he would do differently to attract businesses proposed entrepreneurial day in the mayor’s office on every first and third Thursday.

When asked later Lucas said he had a few more poignant remarks about the current Mayor that he decided not to use. “He was sitting right next to me,” said Lucas.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2012, Elections, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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