Local Independent candidates Bradley Garabrandt and Chuck Crabtree faced off in a debate on Tuesday for the Ward 4 seat on Hopkinsville City Council.
The two men are campaigning this fall for the seat being vacated by Paul Henson, who announced he was withdrawing from the race for health reasons.
Tuesday’s debate was moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Hopkinsville native Garabrandt said he sees a city that is on a path to greatness when he looks at the local community, but he urged that leaders need to find out what the citizens’ needs are and involve residents in planning that future.
He spoke against having city council petition the state to allow restaurant taxes in the city in the wake of financial struggles related to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Taxes are not the answer to everything, said Garabrandt, who suggested instead that allowing restaurants to do deliveries and have customers place their orders online is helping decrease some of the other costs those businesses are facing.
Garabrandt said he is in favor of a mandate to wear masks as a protection from the virus that has plagued communities worldwide since earlier this year.
He noted that masks and social distancing help protect other people as well, and he said it’s extremely important “to do as much as we can to protect our fellow citizens as much as ourselves.”
Garabrandt’s opponent in the upcoming Nov. 3 election, lifelong Hopkinsville resident Crabtree, said that he would not support any type of mask mandate.
The medical community changes its mind daily about wearing masks, Crabtree noted, and he thinks some common sense is needed. He said most of the people who have succumbed to the illness have struggled with other illnesses.
“We need to get people well so they’re not as susceptible to COVID-19,” he said.
Crabtree said there are four points he wants to emphasize should he be elected to office; he does not favor any new taxes or a tax increase, would like to see responsible spending by city government and is in favor of small business.
Like Garabrandt, Crabtree did not favor a restaurant tax in the city.
“I think with COVID-19 here, mandates from the state have devastated a lot of small businesses,” Crabtree said. “I don’t see how any local restaurant is running a business right now, not being able to be full.”
He also saw conducting polls of city residents, a query in one of the debate questions, as only a part of the picture. Crabtree said he’d like for people to send him an email, stop him on the street or engage him in small groups or one-on-one feedback when they have an issue they’re concerned about in the community.
He considered the quality of life issues that he believes are important for local residents and said he believes public safety is the most significant issue.
“I think people want to feel safe,” said Crabtree, noting that police departments and fire protection are important in the local community.
Beyond safety, he said he believes that recreation, places to shop and schools are likely other concerns that are important to the citizens of Hopkinsville.
Garabrandt also pointed to public safety, noting that he believes it is one of the things needed to ensure quality of life in the city. Additionally, he also mentioned equal rights for everyone, making sure the community is united and valuing input from everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation and other factors.
He noted many small challenges are facing the city right now, everything from the virus to relationships among citizens and people struggling with job losses.
“Building together as a community is something we can do,” he said.
When asked about retail losses in the city, i.e., the closures of J.C. Penney and Peebles on Fort Campbell Boulevard, Garabrandt suggested replacing those stores with, not retail, but another distribution center like an Amazon warehouse.
Crabtree said he believes future retail in the city needs to be different than a mall (both department stores were located in the Bradford Square Mall). He said economic development needs to focus on retail, restaurants and smaller industry.
Another aspect, he noted, is that people have changed how they buy and are now going online and making purchases using the internet. In the future, Crabtree said community officials are going to have to be creative in addressing retail.
Crabtree and Garabrandt were also questioned about important areas where they hope to create change in the city if elected, about local struggles with homelessness and about helping segments of the city grappling with the virus.
Garabrandt said the city council should look for government grants to help schools and hospitals who are struggling to keep doctors and teachers in the midst of the virus and reach out to other agencies to help find solutions.
Crabtree said he’s not sure it’s the role of the council to do things for the hospital, local schools and Hopkinsville Community College. Rather he said the council should support those entities’ initiatives, and those entities, the hospital and schools, need to be innovative in how they approach the matter.
“I don’t really think that’s the role of city government,” he said.
Of homelessness, Garabrandt said there’s a need to get to know the homeless population to dig deeper into the situation, while Crabtree said officials need to search for a root cause and find solutions from that point forward.
Crabtree considered his campaign for office and said he has always wanted to get into city government, and he said he hopes to participate more in the community if he is elected to serve on the Hopkinsville City Council.
Garabrandt said he was thankful for the opportunity to share his thoughts, and he hoped it was beneficial for residents to hear from the two candidates.