Mayoral hopefuls ask, answer questions at Sunday forum

Candidates for Columbus mayor answered questions at a Sunday debate and got to ask a few of their own.

The candidates — Wayne Anthony, Zeph Baker, Paul Olson and Teresa Tomlinson — spoke to some 40 people who attended the forum at the Columbus Public Library. The format called for each candidate to have a panelist who asked questions of other candidates before the candidates began asking questions themselves.

If a candidate mentioned an opponent by name in their answer, the named candidate got a chance for rebuttal.

In answer to a question about why he opposes Tax Allocation Districts, Baker said the questioner may have had him confused with another candidate. However, Baker did say TADs aren’t the best method of revitalization.

Before finishing his answer, Baker added: “I have not mentioned anybody’s name, but Paul Olson ...”

Taking the chance to speak because his name had been said, Olson argued that the acronym “TAD” didn’t appear on the ballot when in November 2007 Columbus voters denied the city the power to create the redevelopment districts. Olson also pointed out that it was the only issue on the ballot.

In another question, when asked to assess midtown, Baker said the area used to have two Wachovia Banks, Columbus Square Mall and a Family Dollar. “It was much more vibrant then than it is now,” Baker said. “I cannot speak of it being very successful. I mentioned no names.”

Tomlinson, the former executive director of Midtown Inc., didn’t respond.

Later, Tomlinson said MidTown Inc. played a role in the city and school board swapping the old Firestone and Sears properties. In addition, plans for new businesses or expansions such as a new Wachovia branch, Zaxby’s and Publix occurred during her tenure, she said.

After asking a few questions to fellow candidates, Baker and Anthony began speak instead of asking a question. Anthony pointed to his background in financial planning, saying he wants to cut expenses and raise revenues on a citywide level. Anthony also said he wants to expand the efforts in revitalizing south Columbus.

Olson said he is the only conservative candidate in the race. He added that he wants to give back to the community and not tax and spend the city back to prosperity.

The Muscogee County Conservative Party and the Muscogee County Constitution Party hosted the forum. The conservative party’s website states that it has endorsed Olson for mayor.