In what was perhaps the last public forum to feature the political candidates seeking offices in Cleveland and Bradley County before the Aug. 2 election, several candidates made their final pleas to …
In what was perhaps the last public forum to feature the political candidates seeking offices in Cleveland and Bradley County before the Aug. 2 election, several candidates made their final pleas to voters Tuesday evening during a political rally sponsored by the Bradley County Chapter of the NAACP and 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc.
The event was held at Cleveland High School’s Little Theatre and hosted by Lawrence Armstrong.
Candidates who attended the rally were mayoral candidates Rep. Kevin Brooks and Duane Schriver; Cleveland City Council candidate Hiawatha Brown; and Cleveland City Council At-Large candidates David Durkin, Scott McGowan and Ken Webb. County office seekers were invited to the event, but did not attend. In addition, city council At-Large candidate Larry D'Agata did not attend the event.
City council candidates were allotted three minutes to explain why they think they would be the best person for each respective post on the council. The mayoral candidates were asked to answer four questions ranging from such topics as stronger mayoral powers, property tax increases for education funding, support for the school board and ideas regarding their vision for the city’s future.
Brown, who is opposing incumbent Charlie McKenzie, said she believed District 1 needed a voice for the community. McKenzie was not present for the rally.
“We need to improve the curbs and gutters throughout south Cleveland,” Brown said. “Vote for me and you will see a facilitator of change.”
Brown is a special education teacher at Bradley Central High School.
Local business owner David Durkin said city council meetings should be held at times and locations which make it easier for the public to attend.
“One city council meeting each month should be held at night, and one held in each district per month,” Durkin said.
In addition, Durkin said garbage downtown should be collected regularly to prevent accumulation.
Scott McGowan, also a business owner, said he is invested in Cleveland.
“I want to put Cleveland on the right track,” McGowan said.
McGowan said Cleveland residents stood by his family when his wife was battling cancer, as well through the recent death of his father.
Retired accountant and Cleveland Utilities General Manager Ken Webb said he has spent his entire career in Cleveland and knows the community well.
“I have time to give to the city,” Webb said. “I have a willingness to serve.”
Mayoral candidates Brooks and Schriver each said they would not seek to change the powers of the city mayor if elected.
“We don’t need a strong mayor,” Brooks said of the mayoral position in Cleveland as compared to the city manager.
Schriver said the current organization of city government does not require a stronger mayor.
“We have a good city manager,” Schriver said.
Asked how they would support the school board, Brooks and Schriver described their past work supporting education.
“I look forward to supporting the city school board as I have done at the state level,” Brooks said in reference to his work as a state representative.
A former educator, Schriver said his 40-plus years as a teacher, principal, administrator and coach demonstrate his commitment to education.
“We need to be concerned about how we can make our kids brighter and safer,” Schriver said.
Both candidates said they were against increasing property taxes to fund schools.
“We need to be more proactive about how we get our money,” Schriver said.
Brooks said his work in Nashville has helped secure funds for school safety.
“There is $30 million available for school safety,” Brooks said. “All these tax dollars are not ours, but yours.”
Both candidates responded to a question regarding how they would increase minority representation in the city.
“We have done a poor job,” Schriver said. “I don’t like to use [the term] minority; I like to use citizen.”
Schriver said there are qualified people everywhere and that time must be devoted to recruiting them.
Cleveland offers many opportunities, according to Brooks.
“I must tell you there needs to be for more emphasis all across the city at every level,” Brooks said. “We need people to work in schools, as firefighters, police officers – not just as managers.”
Brooks said Cleveland is the “city of opportunity” and that he was given a chance when he was seeking financial aid to attend Lee University.
The candidates were asked about their respective visions in terms of the future of the city.
Schriver said infrastructure is a vital issue and that parking problems would make revitalizing downtown more difficult.
“If you can’t park, there is no reason to go downtown,” Schriver said.
Revitalizing the downtown area must include “equity as well as equality,” according to Brooks.
“The Inman Street corridor was a vibrant area,” Brooks said. “We need better infrastructure up and down the corridor.”
Brooks also suggested additional affordable housing is needed, and said he has spoken with a developer who can construct such housing downtown.
“He’s ready, and so am I,” Brooks said.
The election is Aug. 2. Early voting continues through July 28.
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