Follow along: South Charleston mayoral candidates

May 27, 2015 by Brad McElhinny

The Charleston Daily Mail editorial board is meeting today with candidates for South Charleston mayor, the incumbent Frank Mullens and his challenger, Richie Robb, who was the city’s longtime mayor.

I’m the editor, Brad McElhinny, and I’m going to attempt to liveblog below:

 

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:43 pm

By the way, we’ve been at BridgeValley Community and Technical College at the old Tech Park. Thanks for those guys for hosting us.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:38 pm

Good session. We’ll be back tomorrow with South Charleston Council candidates.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:36 pm

OK, we’ve wrapped it up.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:36 pm

Mullens: “I don’t know how you can be more transparent than that.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:35 pm

Mullens says his administration is transparent due to social media, livestreaming council meetings, etc.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:35 pm

Mullens, wrapping up his presentation: Disagrees that healthcare policy has declined. Disagrees that quality of workforce has declined.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:34 pm

Robb says “I don’t see the same quality of the workforce that was there when I left.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:33 pm

Robb says city health insurance used to be “far better than PEIA.” “That’s been eroded away.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:33 pm

Robb: City workers “had a pride of working for the city.” So generations stuck with city jobs.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:32 pm

Robb wrapping up today’s presentation: “We have had a tradition of quality services, but those are being threatened.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:31 pm

Robb hired Mullens as recreation director in 1990 and Mullens became public works director two years after that.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:30 pm

Robb: “What I see is a gap. Take soccer, for example. I will see an enormous amount of kids playing soccer at a young age. Drive by another field and you see the high school soccer team — 15, 20 kids. From the age of 6, you had 300 and now you have 15. Where are the other 200+?”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:28 pm

Robb is contending, again, that local recreation focuses on elite athletes, rather than a broad base.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:27 pm

Mullens: “To me, it’s a quality of life issue.” He’s giving Robb credit for being pro-recreation. “We did some good things together.” Again, referring to when Mullens served in Robb’s administration.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:26 pm

Mullens: “South Charleston’s recreation is second to none.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:26 pm

Managing editor Philip Maramba is asking about the effects on drugs on the community. Mullens: “We’re not immune to it.” “But we don’t have the problems that Charleston and Huntington have.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:25 pm

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:25 pm

Mullens would like to see an overpass at Jefferson Road and Kanawha Turnpike. Those stuck in traffic would rejoice. It would be a state project, so Mullens is lobbying for it.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:23 pm

Mullens: The only debt we have left is the ice arena.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:21 pm

Mullens: I have never been for a user fee. “That’s just a fee I don’t like. There’ll never be one as long as I’m sitting here.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:20 pm

Mullens: “If you look at our community, that’s the only way we can grow.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:19 pm

Mullens: “It has to be strategic annexation.” “If we continue to annex, now it is going to become costly.” Add fire truck, trash truck, police staff. “You have to do it striclty. You have to bring in business.” You have to do it along with sewer line extension.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:18 pm

Robb: “What do we have now? We have dilapidated housing throughout the community.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:17 pm

Robb: “Growth needs to be done in a responsible fashion.” Mullens had discussed expanding the city even more out Corridor G.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:15 pm

Besides the candidates, the Daily Mail editorial board is here: Me (editor Brad McElhinny), managing editor Philip Maramba, opinions editor Kelly Merritt and opinions writer Whitney Burdette. Retired business editor George Hohmann is providing coverage and will have a full story for print and web.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:12 pm

On parks: Mullens wants a bike trail to connect Coonskin to Little Creek. Also: Athletics results in tourism for the community. Hotel bookings, etc.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:11 pm

Mullens: “We work well together.” “I have a good Council. I compliment them. We work well together.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:10 pm

Most of the council members are career people and work during the day, Mullens says. We communicate. Communication is different now. “Just because our meetings are short, it doesn’t mean they’re not effective.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:09 pm

Mullens on short council meetings: “I think we’re efficient.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:08 pm

Robb: Recreation can be improved. “We can do more biking paths, we can do more walking paths.” “We need broad-based community recreation.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:07 pm

Robb is making a reference to when he was mayor and Mullens served in his administration.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:06 pm

Robb: We lost revenue from the chemical industry, but it was replaced by money from retail shopping on Corridor G. The bad news is the per capita income in the community has suffered a staggering blow. We don’t have the central core that Charleston does with state government, hospitals, etc.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:05 pm

Robb: “There will be an openness that doesn’t exist now.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:05 pm

Robb being asked, “What’s your vision for the City of South Charleston?”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:04 pm

“We’ve got to think outside the box and do things differently,” Mullens says.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:03 pm

Mullens: I want to finish some of the projects we have on the board. We want to continue to pay down our debt.” Sewer line out Corridor G. “I have a vision of us going all the way to the Lincoln County line at some time.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:01 pm

Mullens: “Folks, things are going pretty well for us.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 20151:00 pm

Mullens: “Our finances have improved tremendously under my leadership. When I took office, things were being done archaically.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:59 pm

“We ironed those differences out in public and not in less than 10 minutes.” Robb

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:59 pm

Robb: “You’re going to be able to speak at Council meetings.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:58 pm

What do you see doing differently your first couple years in office? is the new question?

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:57 pm

Robb: Meetings are too short. “They’re in and out in 10 minutes. The meetings I attended were less than ten minutes.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:57 pm

Robb has been asked to cut his intro short. “I’m sorry, maybe I talk too much.” Mullens: “I agree.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:56 pm

Robb is saying the city is not transparent enough with its spending. “That is not good practice.”

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:54 pm

Now he says he’s been approached by those who believes a change needs to be made and that he should come back. “There’s a lack of transparency in this city government,” Robb says.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:53 pm

Robb introduction: He left office because, at the time, he felt he’d accomplished about all he wanted to.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:52 pm

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:52 pm

“Other communities are copycatting us a little bit. I’m proud of that fact,” Mullens says.

Brad McElhinny May 27, 201512:51 pm

Mullens is introducing himself. He says he came in with a 12-year plan, focused on paying off city debt. “I’m not critical of the debt, the assets were good purchases for the city.”

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