Nearly 12 weeks after their first meeting, the four candidates running for mayor of Lexington got together Friday for their last forum before Tuesday's primary election.
Because the forum was hosted by Leland Conway, a conservative WLAP-AM radio commentator, the first question was whether the candidates favored bigger government or smaller government.
Conway asked for a one-word answer. Mayor Jim Newberry, Vice Mayor Jim Gray, former Mayor Teresa Isaac and businessman Skip Horine all said "smaller" — although all but Isaac managed to tack more words onto their answer. Conway said the questions came from him, from listeners to his program, and from the conservative 9-12 Group.
The candidates were asked whether they supported the new Arizona law that allows local police to check people's immigration status.
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"Not the same way it is in Arizona," Gray said.
"I support if a police officer pulls over a person for another infraction to check their legal status," Isaac said.
Horine said "yes" and Newberry said "no," but the mayor later added to his answer that the courts have ruled that "that kind of approach" is unconstitutional.
"But if the courts re-evaluate that, then I'm perfectly willing to re-evaluate, because it's a major problem," Newberry said.
Conway prefaced a question he said was from the 9-12 Group by saying that people were tired of having retirement accounts drained while local, state and federal governments "appear to citizens to be conducting business as usual, adding programs and entitlements. People feel like we're being slapped."
The question: How would you make the city government "leaner, more economically sound and more responsive to the taxpayers who are funding it?"
Horine talked, as he has in past forums, of starting to build a budget with "a clean sheet of paper, and going straight down through our priorities. The first priority of course is public safety."
Newberry said "the question is one we've already addressed because we've eliminated about 200 full-time employees." The mayor added that the local government is considering a consultant's recommendations to streamline itself.
Isaac said she would first look at the local government's charter, "because that's what the citizens of this community voted on, and that spells out exactly where you are to spend tax dollars." She also talked about "the yellow pages test," which she described as the government not providing services already provided by the private sector.
Gray said he had spent a lot more time in business than government. "We can operate the business of government much more like a business," he said.
The candidates appeared to be relaxed and having a good time — even when, during a commercial break, there was a Newberry ad that was critical of Gray. The program ended with Conway apologizing for not getting to a question about the stalled CentrePointe project.
But Conway had a suggestion: "Since a river runs underneath the city, we poke a hole in that field down there and make a big fishing hole that brings people in from all the other counties. Can we vote on it now?"