Candidates debate one last time

The debate was not over yet.  With five days until the city council election, all eight candidates had one final chance to change voters’ minds  at the last official debate before today’s election.

The debate was held at Faith Alliance Church on Timberlake Road April 29. Many questions focused on Liberty University and its role in the community.

During the first section, candidates questioned other candidates of their choice. ABC-13 anchor Noreen Turyn moderated the two-hour debate.

Mayor Joan Foster, an Independent candidate, questioned Republican candidate Hunsdon “H” Cary about meals taxes, referencing his response in the April 27 edition of the Liberty Champion.

Cary was quick to answer, saying that the 11.5 percent meals tax in Lynchburg is the highest in Virginia. The city of Fairfax has a 9 percent sales tax, according to state records.

“There are several ways to make up that revenue,” Cary said. “We need to increase hotel tax and lower meals tax or property tax.”

Turyn gave Foster 30 seconds to reply to Cary’s claim.

“I have heard that there are other places in Virginia with higher taxes,” Foster said. “I will check on that.”

Republican candidate Don Good heated up the debate when he asked Foster why she has paid less property taxes than other Lynchburg residents.

“I’m not sure that’s correct,” Foster said. “I’m willing to pay whatever it takes to preserve the quality of life in Lynchburg, though.”

In the next round, Turyn asked candidates questions posed by audience members. Independent candidate Randy Nelson was asked whether the city should publicly fund a civic center.

“At this point, we need to look at the needs of the community, family and neighborhoods,” Nelson said. “I don’t think the city government should fund a civic center.”

The conversation switched to the candidates’ ties to Liberty University. Independent candidate J.P. Vaughan was asked “What affiliations do you have with Liberty University, Liberty Christian Academy (LCA) and Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC)?”

Three of Vaughan’s children attended LCA at one time, he said.

“I recommitted my life to Christ at TRBC in 1968,” Vaughan said. “Liberty has done great things for the city, and the city has done great things for Liberty.”

A few questions later, the conversation turned back to Liberty. Foster was asked “Why would you meet with Liberty officials outside of city council chambers?”

“After students coming to the city council meeting (Feb. 23), there was some miscommunication,” Foster said. “My goal meeting with the Chancellor was to clear that up.”

She met with Chancellor Falwell a second time to address the Wards Road Pedestrian plan, she said. She will meet at city council chambers instead of Liberty next time, she told the crowd of about 75 Lynchburg residents, six of whom were Liberty students.

Republican candidate Brent Robertson was asked why he switched his party from Independent to Republican and to discuss issues on which he disagrees with Liberty University and the Republican party.

“I am a fiscal conservative,” Robertson said. “I want to eliminate pre-dispositions that I am running for Liberty University.”

In the last segment, Turyn posed questions to three candidates at a time. All eight candidates then gave their closing remarks. Vaughan promised the crowd that he had “no political aspirations past this one,” and Independent candidate James Coleman vowed that he represented the entire city, not just one part. Robertson left one final thought with the crowd.

“I am the youngest candidate, and I hope people don’t see it as a hindrance,” Robertson said. “I want people to realize that there is a fourth (conservative) option.”

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and registered voters can choose three out of the eight candidates. Check for election coverage and results.

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