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Listen: Democratic Mayoral Forum Focuses On Police-Community Relations

Nick de la Canal / WFAE
Jennifer Roberts (left), Vi Lyles, and Joel Ford

Charlotte's Democratic mayoral candidates Joel Ford, Vi Lyles, and Jennifer Roberts participated in a forum Saturday afternoon that focused heavily on police-community relations and the city's role in responding to police shootings.

In the hour-long forum, state Sen. Ford, Mayor Pro Tem Lyles, and Mayor Roberts were asked how they may have differed in responding to last year's shooting of Keith Scott, and were asked to clarify their positions on environmentalism, public transit, affordable housing, LGBT protections, and the Sheriff department's controversial 287(g) program.

The forum was the candidates' first before the Sept. 12 primary. It was sponsored by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Young Progressives, the New South Progressives, Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County, and Action NC. Rachel Johnson and April Harley moderated. It was held at Weeping Willow AME Zion Church on Milton Rd.

Listen to the forum in its entirety below:

 - Highlights -

On the 2016 police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott

ROBERTS: I called us out as a city in not being transparent enough. And I took a lot of heat because I care about our city, and I know the way we keep our community safer is to build on that trust and to do transparency, and to put our use-of-force policy online, and to have information available to the public as soon as possible online and in community forums.

LYLES: We've got to make the [police] department look a lot more like our community. When we talk about hiring people - we need more African-American men and women to get into law enforcement, to come to CMPD, and that's something that I will work very hard as mayor to do and accomplish.

FORD: Real leadership stands up and is accountable, but also calls out the wrong even at home. And we can do that in such a way where we don't have to get on international television and roll the police chief under the bus. I would never undermine authority, publicly, ever. We should never undermine our police chief.

On the city's goal to create 5,000 units of affordable housing

FORD: That's a plausible goal, of 5,000 - but it's not enough. Not when you have a demand of 35,000 units. Leadership says that we need more and that we can do more. ... And I'm not knocking anyone. I think everybody has good goals, and I understand them, but it's not enough.

ROBERTS: We need to do more on housing, absolutely. And I have talked with people in shelters - I have raised money for shelters, and it is not the way that - it is not the way we want people in Charlotte to be living. It is not right. It is not just. It is not moral. And we need to do everything we can as a community to make sure this is part of the Opportunity Task Force report.

LYLES: The federal government has not stepped up, so our city - our city has stepped up to say 5,000 units, because if we didn't do that, it wouldn't be 35, it would actually be 50,000. So we've got to make the difference. ... We have to build more quickly, we have to build more apartments, as well as homes, and we have to do it carefully.

On the nondiscrimination ordinance that prompted HB2

LYLES: I support the nondiscrimination ordinance for LGBT rights. I support the safety of every person that lives in this city. Those are not different to me. I don't sit around and say, well you're 'L', you're a 'G', you're black, you're white, you're a man, you're a woman. Every citizen in this city deserves safety, and deserves the right to not to be discriminated against.

FORD: I think that the ordinance was a good thing. The point is, is that the bathroom provision was a sticking point. And so the city of Charlotte could have gotten the policy right, but they got the politics wrong. And because you got the politics wrong, we brought down the wrath of Raleigh on the city and the entire state of North Carolina.

ROBERTS: Every single person deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality. What is so hard about equality? And, it's very interesting that one of my opponents actually voted to allow magistrates to recuse themselves [from] performing gay marriages. All we're asking for is the democratic and Christian principles of every major religion of letting people be who they are.

On the Sheriff department's participation in the 287(g) program

FORD: There are federal and state laws that we have to abide by, but as mayor of the city of Charlotte, I think it's important for us to communicate a message to those federal and state policy makers who are making these laws that are creating this fear and this uncertainty in our community.

ROBERTS: I think we should end the 287(g) program, and I've called for that publicly.

LYLES: I don't support the 287(g) program. I find that it's going to diminish the trust that we have in our community around safety and law enforcement, especially when we're beginning to see an uptick in the violence that's caused by family members or close family friends. ... Anytime we develop this distrust among each other, it just divides us.

Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal