By Kayla Tucker – Managing Editor
Just five days before the Grand Rapids primary, all four mayoral candidates met up for a final debate at the Loosemore auditorium at Grand Valley State University Pew Campus downtown.
The theme of the debate was centered on income equality, but other questions relating to taxes, racial tension, budget plans, city services and homelessness were asked as well.
Candidate and commissioner Rosalynn Bliss had several head-to-head moments with opposing candidate Rev. Robert Dean, local pastor and former commissioner.
During the discussion over debt control, Dean brought up the $2.5 million investment in Indian Trails Golf Course as “a part of the inequality” and said that it only benefits a small percentage of an elite class. Bliss responded that members of the area protested the deconstruction of the course and it is considered an asset and a strong investment for the community.
Dean brought up concern that there were gaps between what Bliss outlined at the city’s debt and what the numbers really were.
“You have to look at the budget in its entirety,” Dean said during the debate. “Not take pieces, not take what’s convenient, but what’s really there.”
In Dean’s closing statements he affirmed that he is a “pastor that stepped up” and is running with his grandkids in mind, to make Grand Rapids a great city for their future.
Bliss, in her closing statements, said “there is no fiscal cliff,” contradicting one of Dean’s main running points.
“I think she’ll be an outstanding mayor for this city,” Mayor Heartwell said about Bliss after the debate. “She’s smart. She’s thoughtful. She showed that tonight in her responses.”
Dean made it clear that his goal is not to make a career out of the mayoral position.
“Just give me four years and see if we do not have the delivered results,” Dean said.
John George, an independent candidate running on the issue of fluoride, made his appearance at last night’s debate. During the open Q&A session, he made a comment about the roots of racial tension about Trayvon Martin.
“The president said, ‘If I had a son, he’d be like Trayvon Martin,’” George said. “I would hope the president would raise his son better than that.”
Following this comment there were gasps in the crowd and an air of tension.
“At the federal level we have a president and the attorney general and they would not let that issue die,” George said after the debate. “A two year coverage seems excessive.”
George said that he is not in favor of re-trying the case.
Willard Lee, an airman in the Air Force Reserves in favor of legalizing marijuana for tax revenue, said that he felt the debate went well.
“I don’t really have full details of all the information of everything that’s going on like tax information,” Lee said about his responses in the debate.
The debate will air at 8 p.m. tonight on the WGVU-Life channel and at 10 a.m. Sunday on the WGVU channel, channel 35.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 4. If one mayoral candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes, they will be immediately elected. If not, the top two will move on to compete in the November election.