Political forum: Sanford City Council

Five of the seven men and women who are running for Sanford City Council (an eighth is unopposed) attended the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce’s political forum Monday, providing an interesting insight into how these races are going to shape up in the next month (Election Day is Nov. 6).

I attended the luncheon, located at Chef Paul’s in Sanford, and while I wasn’t there to take notes (I actually had photographer duty, believe it or not), I kept track of the winners and losers of this early debate with my mind powers. The following is an assessment of how I felt the event played out … with winners from each category.

At-Large
Incumbent: Mike Stone, Challenger: Lora Wright
Of all the races going on in Lee County this year, this race for the city’s at-large seat is by far the most entertaining.
It pits ultra-conservative Mike Stone against Southern-drawl Democrat Lora Wright.
And if you know any of the backgrounds of the two, you were able to see they took a few jabs at each other during the debate … albeit, very creatively.
Lora Wright insisted on focusing on rental properties in Sanford during much of her time, a low blow to Stone, who recently was cited by Code Enforcement for troubles with one of his rental properties in East Sanford. Stone, meanwhile, talked about his “no” votes and their importance, insinuating that if Wright were elected, she’d vote along party lines with the five other Democrats on the seven-member board.
While the back-and-forth was entertaining, I didn’t find either of them to actually provide real insight to why they should be elected. I liked Stone’s comments about meeting with voters to find out what they want, and I liked Wright’s talk of greenspace and controlled growth.
I’d like to see more from both of them, however.
Forum goes to: Draw … to be determined

Ward 2
Incumbent: Dan Harrington, Opponent: Charles Taylor
Where Wright and Stone were combative, Harrington and Taylor were the opposite. Both men were polite to each other, and both pretty much answered the questions they were given.
But I think Taylor came out a little on top in this one, because I liked his answers about the current city council not voting in line with what local businesses (and the Chamber of Commerce) think. The Council voted to enact the business privilege tax this past year against the judgment of the Chamber.
Harrington talked a lot about utilizing land … but maybe it’s my fault, some of that came off as confusing to me.
Forum goes to: Taylor

Ward 5
Incumbent: Linwood Mann, Challengers: Earl Barker, Ervin Fox.
Linwood Mann was not able to attend the forum due to a schedule conflict, and no reason was given for Fox’s absence. Mann, the incumbent, has been on the board for years … while Fox’s current campaign has been riddled with two arrests for falsification of documents.
Barker, a longtime barber, was the only one to take the podium Monday, and while he came off very friendly and likeable, he also came off a bit unprepared.
I like that he’s for beautification, but when your platform is basically “running because the people whose hair I cut thought I’d make a good councilman,” you need a little help.
Sanford needs leaders who’ve just got a little more to their campaign than that.
So, based on Barker’s performance and Fox’s past … we have a surprising winner in the Ward 5 forum … and he didn’t even show up.
Forum goes to: Linwood Mann

As for Broadway, only Clem Welch represented the several candidates running for Broadway Town Council. Perhaps discussion of issues isn’t important for Broadway voters, but I hope they start holding the candidates accountable. I thought Ms. Welch came off very knowledgeable Monday, and I look forward to seeing her opponents match wits at The Herald’s forum on Oct. 15.

Speaking of, The Herald’s Oct. 15 political forum will be held at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford, starting at 6 p.m. that evening. I’ll have more information — including confirmation of participants — as the event draws closer.

Until then … get out and vote.

Comment from current councilman Steve Brewer: The Chamber of Commerce had 63 people that are members respond to its survey about the privilege license. 48% against. 22% in favor and the rest wanted more information (if my memory serves me correctly.) Many of the industrial members favored the license over a increase property tax.
Just because the Chamber of Commerce is for or against something does not mean that the council will agree with them. Where they represent the business community……..The council represents ALL the citizens. The home owner is the one that wins with a privilege license.

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