By Caitlyn Finnegan
When the Democratic Black Caucus Debate between former city commissioner Ed Braddy and Mayor Craig Lowe started Monday evening, one chair sat empty.
Lowe did not attend the organization’s debate, choosing instead to attend a fundraiser hosted by the Democratic Executive Committee. This marks the second time he has not attended a debate hosted by the Democratic Black Caucus; he cited a family emergency during the organization’s debate held before the March 19 regular election.
Black Caucus members did not take the absence of the incumbent mayor lightly.
Charles Goston, a past president of the organization who now runs the magazine Black College Monthly, said Lowe’s decision to not attend the debate signaled “disrespect to all African Americans and the other voters we represent.”
“If I was in those shoes, I would certainly send a surrogate or someone to represent me,” Goston said.
Ermon Owens, the current president of the Black Caucus, said Lowe was notified of the event just a few days after the run-off election was announced. The organization invited Lowe by both email and a handwritten invitation delivered to city hall.
With no opponent to debate, the forum shifted to questions from both Goston and Owens, pressuring Braddy to declare his stance on issues such as accessibility to city hall and updating current road infrastructure.
Braddy hit many of his platform points throughout the hour and a half-long event, sticking to his plan for more communication from city hall, a demand for greater affordability and a focus on basic city services.
He said current plans for “lofty and expensive” services, such as the Rapid Transit System, will only “cannibalize” basic services that need to be improved first. He said local government must first focus on improving current services – such as a better-designed bus route system and more lighting in neighborhoods – that affect a larger part of the county.
Braddy said the path to a more open and responsive city leadership system “starts with city hall.”
“Many of you have heard of the ‘bully pulpit,’” Braddy said. “I call it the ‘mayor’s megaphone.’ Regardless of any split in the city commission, it is the mayor’s responsibility to make sure all the officials know what the issues are and give them a chance to buy-in.”
The next mayoral forum will be at 7 p.m. today at Oak Hammock, located at 5100 SW 25th Blvd. Both Lowe and Braddy are expected to attend.