Wednesday night was the first public showdown for the candidates who want to lead the city of Lexington. They include the current mayor, the vice mayor, a former mayor, and a newcomer.
With panelists blogging and tweeting as the event itself was broadcast live online, the first mayoral debate of the season made local politics take a digital leap forward. WKYT's Bill Bryant served as one of the panelists. "A situation like this, whether you're on Broadway or Short Street, or you happen to be a Lexingtonian who's visiting Dallas, Texas tonight, you could tune in to this debate and watch and take part and know what's going on," Bryant said.
Former Mayor Teresa Isaac pointed to her time in office as an example of strong fiscal management. "The mayor is very important in trying to pull together resources that would help small businesses thrive. When I came into office, we faced a $5 million deficit, and when I left in 2006, we had turned it into a $12 million surplus," Isaac said.
Candidate Skip Horine promised to bring an end to corruption, particularly the kind he saw with the Centre Pointe development. "People who own property there had their arms twisted by code enforcement, and was threatened that if they didn't sell, that their buildings would be condemned, and I don't think that's what the city should be doing," Horine said.
Centre Pointe drew strong views from all the candidates including Mayor Jim Newberry, who said the public had received a lot of misinformation on the project. "We need to understand the fact that this is a private development. There is not a nickle's worth of public funds in the Centre Pointe development," Mayor Newberry said.
But Vice-mayor Jim Gray emphasized the project's importance to the future of the city. "Regardless of whether this is a private development or not, it is a civic responsibility to lead," Gray said.
Organizers of the forum called the event a success and a possible indicator of how more debates will be handled in the future. "More and more people are getting their news in alternative ways, and politicians know, they have to be there," Bryant said.