Throughout the debate, much was made of the two candidates’ divergent backgrounds, with Kezer emphasizing his credentials in the public sector while Gray focused on his experience in the private sector and how it can relate to the job of running a city.
While the candidates were diametrically opposed on many issues — most notably the issue of taxes — they did agree on some things. Both said that improving the schools would be a top priority, as would building the commercial/industrial tax base, and when asked about their position on the split tax rate, both said they are against it and would not reinstitute it if elected.
Where the candidates differed mostly on the commercial/industrial tax issue was in strategy and execution. Kezer said he plans to develop the tax base by developing the Lower Millyard and the so-called Golden Triangle — the undeveloped area between Elm Street and Interstates 95 and 495 — while Gray pointed out that the city has been trying to develop the Golden Triangle for decades without success.
“It’s never been realized, now we’re using the same strategy for the Lower Millyard,” Gray said. “If it’s not working, what are we doing wrong? Do we keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results?”
Midway through the debate, the candidates were asked what they consider to be the most pressing issue in town. Gray answered that the No. 1 issue he hears when he asks that same question to residents is taxes, while Kezer said that depending on whom he asks, he’ll hear taxes and that either the schools or roads aren’t good enough. So the most pressing issue for him is balancing everyone’s concerns, he said.
“What I’ve always had to do as mayor is balance those two challenges,” Kezer said. “Usually you can’t deliver everything they want, and as for controlling costs, you can’t always cut as much as they would like.”