The candidates--from left, Burke, James, Taylor, Ward, Nash and Sharp. The lady in the back is the moderator.
The crowd: Mostly white, and mostly over 55, with a substantial portion over 65. Probably around 100 or so.
A pretty good crowd of folks came out to see the mayoral candidates and 6th District city council candidates today at a forum held at the Red Bridge Christian Church this afternoon. It wasn't especially dynamic or head line making as forums go.
Questions were submitted from the audience and by and large they weren't too bad. This not being a debate format though but a forum, aside from a brief clash between Terrance Nash and John Sharp over time for the opening statements, the candidates did not confront or challenge each other. Too bad, for that might have been truly interesting. Truthfully, I am fishing for things to report that are actually noteworthy, that might help the reader who is planning to vote in this election. Stuff beyond style, or the fact that half of the panel left to go hang out with the swells in the 4th at 2 pm.
It is hard to pick out differences between Sly James and Mike Burke--part of the problem is they only stayed about 30 minutes and could only answer a few questions. Burke points a lot to his experience. In their short opening statements James emphasized working together, Burke talked about experience. When asked about caring for the toxic Bannister Road site, Burke noted his experience reclaiming Richards-Gebaur. Both spoke well of the "Focus Plan", a plan for development that Burke helped develop. A question was asked regarding changes at Kansas City International airport. Both Burke and James stated that these changes were FAA mandated and there would be little choice but to go to a single terminal.
Scott Taylor truly is an empty suit. Much of the time he sounded like Mike Burke, but without the cred. He sites his school board service as his big experience. He too left at 2 pm for Brookside, and consequently left not much of a unique impression. Tracy Ward is still very raw in the skills of a politician. Her answers were frequently the shortest of all the candidates. She sees herself as representing the common person at City Hall. One of her positions is that there are too many barriers to business development in the city, including the E Tax. She believes that if the E Tax is removed, tax revenue will go up as a result of more businesses (and thus jobs, etc) coming to KC. She later described herself as an "out of the box thinker" and told us to hold her accountable if elected.
John Sharp is a practical politician. He majors on what he's "done". In many ways, Sharp is very appealing. However, one just wonders who he is really working for--Kansas City or John Sharp. He will be tough to defeat, as he has a large list of "accomplishments" and knows how to handle himself around the crowds. Terrance Nash says that business has gotten too many tax breaks and subsidies and money needs to be directed to the neighborhoods. He is the only one who did not answer a question directly--when asked what he would do about foreclosed houses, he blathered on about neighborhoods not getting "the city services they paid for." It made him come off like a one trick pony.
I wish we could have a debate type format, but with this campaign so concentrated, it would be hard on candidates to find the emotional capital to expend on debates. Debates would take a lot more preparation on the part of the candidates and more investment in the event itself. An event like this is good, but it's harder to assess the candidates' reasoning behind their words. I do wish that Sly James, Mike Burke and Scott Taylor had stayed longer too. I feel like I know far more about Tracy Ward, Terrance Nash and John Sharp then about them, especially Taylor. It will be interesting to see where the election is won and/or lost--in the northland, in the third and fifth, in Brookside/Waldo or in the fighting 6th District?