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OUR VIEW: A terrific forum and why it matters

The Chamber of Commerce deserves ample credit for its role in putting together last week’s Lincolnton city candidates forum. As one of the candidates observed, an educated voter is a good voter.

City voters who attended or followed coverage of the event in the Lincoln Times-News or the newspaper’s website, which carried both the main story and a liveblog of the event — a first for the newspaper — will have a richer understanding of just what an important and difficult task they face in picking the right candidates.

We have six intelligent and likable candidates who care deeply about Lincolnton and its people. Candidates at the forum generally gave clear answers to most questions. For the most part, they seemed well-prepared to discuss the issues. Here and there, one stumbled on an answer, addressed a question other than the one that was asked or said something a bit ill-advised. But none of them scored a knockout or fell flat on their faces.

However, these individuals did sharpen our focus on the many ways in which they disagree about how best to move forward with city government. There were six candidates and on complex issues like what to do with the city police headquarters, there may have been six different points of view. Taxation and economic incentives are others areas where the office-seekers were far from united.

Disharmony is necessary and makes us stronger. Having a democratic system of government would be pointless if all office-seekers thought exactly alike. Voters ought to have real choices and in this election they do.

At the same time, it’s essential that the citizens understand the nature of those differences and their implications. This is why forums like last week’s are invaluable and can be said to keep the wheels of our republic turning. This is also why local newspapers and radio stations pay close attention  to such events — it’s our civic duty. We don’t expect you to learn about city or county government from national TV networks or from a newspaper printed in New York or Charlotte, even if some Lincoln County taxpayers seem to think they live in those places.

In coming days, the newspaper plans to follow up the questions addressed in last week’s forum with a survey of the candidates’ views. We hope voters will keep all of these facts at the forefront of their minds as they head to the ballot box on Nov. 8.

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