COLUMBIA — A candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters at Stephens College Thursday night gave ward and mayoral candidates one more chance to impress voters and solidify their campaign platforms.
The forum was moderated by local radio personality Tom Bradley from KSSZ/93.9 FM, The Eagle.
With election day only two weeks away some audience members used the forum to ask questions that would help them make their final decisions before they go to the polling booths on April 6.
Cathy Rosenholtz, a political communication graduate student at MU, took the opportunity to ask the mayoral candidates about promoting positive race relations.
“I knew who I wasn’t going to vote for before," Rosenholtz said, "but this helped me make some decisions tonight.”
Sean O’Day said disparity between races and economic circumstances needs to be addressed as a whole through equal enforcement of laws. Jerry Wade said that he would be open, that he would listen and that he would strive to bring people together to discuss their differences.
Candidates Bob McDavid, Sid Sullivan and Paul Love said promoting diversity must start when people are young.
“Equitable race relations should be taught starting in the minds of children,” Love said.
Asked about tax-increment financing, candidates said it's a tool that must be used carefully and case by case
Mayoral candidates got a chance to address a topic of their choosing when asked what their third most important priority would be, after public safety and job growth.
Sullivan used his 90-second response to address governance.
“The City Council has been a little lax in way of setting policy,” Sullivan said.
Wade said he would try to move economic development, crime, building neighborhoods and policy procedures forward at an equal rate.
McDavid and Love chose to focus on budget issues. McDavid said he would work to increase spending on social services; Love said the city must budget and spend more wisely.
O’Day said he would promote Columbia’s potential to be more sustainable through bio-fuels and efficient transportation.
Although candidates for the Third and Fourth ward seats also discussed crime, the economy and job growth, a handful of audience members reacted negatively when Third Ward candidate Gary Kespohl addressed his opponent Karl Skala's travel expenses.
Kespohl began running ads on Tuesday morning attacking Skala for what his campaign has dubbed "gourmet junkets."
While Kespohl has campaigned against the choices Skala has made as councilman before, such as Skala's vote against the Landmark Hospital development, none of Kespohl's comments has drawn vocal protest during a forum from audiences before.
“I ask that Karl apologize for wasting taxpayer money," Kespohl said, speaking over boos and hisses from five to 10 audience members. "And a moratorium should be put on council spending.”
Other than that, ward members focused primarily on crime. The six candidates all agreed that Tasers are a necessary tool for police but that careful monitoring of use and extensive training is necessary.