A new campaign narrative emerged during Tuesday’s mayoral debate between state Rep. Kevin Brooks and former educator Duane Schriver when the candidates responded to a question inquiring how they …
A new campaign narrative emerged during Tuesday’s mayoral debate between state Rep. Kevin Brooks and former educator Duane Schriver when the candidates responded to a question inquiring how they would convince young people to vote, as well as encourage them to establish roots in a city where there is an aging population.
It was the third debate between the candidates and was hosted by the Rotary Club of Cleveland at the Museum Center. The candidates also met in a town hall-type setting last month. Rotarian Fred Garmon moderated the debate.
While Cleveland enjoys population growth and low unemployment, wages are low, according to a recent data report compiled by RewardExpert. In the report, 387 cities were analyzed to determine which cities and metropolitan areas people work the longest hours for the lowest pay. The report found that Cleveland ranked No. 10, preceded by Jackson at No. 8 and Clarkesville at No. 5. In addition, the report revealed that incomes are $2.61 per hour below the national average, despite Cleveland’s prosperity.
As a result, such a disparity could explain why the local population is aging. According to a study conducted by SmartAsset, a financial services company, Cleveland is considered retiree-friendly, with low taxes and an affordable standard of living, positioning the city as a retirement destination. Despite the advantages, low expectations for attaining a higher standard of living could be depriving the city of younger residents … and voters.
Both candidates expressed how they would appeal to young voters.
“We have young people who are like some of the citizens in our community – they don’t vote,” said Schriver who added that young people “think their vote doesn’t mean anything.
“We’ve got to get them to vote,” Schriver said. “They don’t vote.”
Schriver told Rotarians they should work to involve young people in the community.
“Work on those young people; get them working hard. Working together is what is going to give us a great community,” Schriver said.
He said as mayor he would work with younger voters to help them feel they are part of the community.
“I want their vote to mean something,” Schriver said.
Brooks responded he would “encourage by example.”
“We can encourage them by planting roots like my son who is now here, working at his alma mater and buying a new a home,” Brooks said. “I think we can lead by example.”
Brooks said his background in crafting legislation is an example of his focus on leading by example to appeal to young residents.
“I was part of the team that voted on teacher raises. I was part of the team that voted on education funding,” Brooks said. “I was part of the team that believes in education so much and the safety of our next generation that we put $30 million of your tax dollars in a special fund to keep our next generation safe.”
Brooks said younger generations are looking toward current leadership to inspire them to become involved in the community.
“The next generation wants to be involved,” Brooks said. “They are looking for ways to be involved. They are looking for ways for officials to include them.”
Brooks told the Cleveland Daily Banner that his campaign is utilizing social media to appeal to young voters.
“My 26-year-old son has greatly enhanced our social media presence – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. We Facebooked live today, because not everybody could be here. Not everyone can be in the same room at the same time,” Brooks said.
While many consider low voter turnout rates among young people as a sign of apathy, Brooks feels they are awaiting encouragement from leaders in their communities.
“They will participate and will be attentive if we give them the opportunity,” Brooks said. “We are about to host a town hall electronic Q&A, and I look forward to it because it gives people who can’t always be here today – whether they are young or old – and lets their voice be heard.”
Schriver said his campaign is working to involve young voters. In addition, they can sign up for volunteer opportunities on his website.
“We try to get as many involved as we can. We are trying to work on getting more of those Millennials to vote. Every time I see them I ask them if they are voting. I try to encourage them to get out there and vote,” Schriver said. “I’ve run across a group of young people the other day who told me they were registered but had never voted. This is a duty. I tell them this is what the Constitution gives us a right to do. They should vote, even if they don’t vote for me.”
Each candidate touted his experience, with Brooks describing how his role as a legislator helped him develop skills and connections that will benefit Cleveland, while Schriver described his 42-year teaching and administrative career in education where he taught generations of children.
Both candidates said that city council meetings, which are held during the afternoon, should be more accessible to residents.
“The meetings start at 1 p.m. when people are at work,” Schriver said.
Brooks commented that meetings can be broadcast, which may garner more civic participation, particularly among young people.
“We can do more,” Brooks said. “We need to livestream for the next generation.”
Brooks said he viewed his role as mayor, if elected, as an ambassador for the city whose governmental skills can bring jobs to the city, while Schriver said he viewed the mayorship as a public service and not a job.
Schriver said in his closing remarks that he is not a politician.
“I don’t want to be a career politician,” Schriver said. “I have nobody in my pocket.”
In his closing remarks, Brooks said the next mayor should have a vision for the city.
“If they don’t have a vision, where will we be?” Brooks asked. “This election is not about me; it’s about what we can accomplish in the future.”
"The next mayoral debate will be hosted by the Kiwanis Club at noon Thursday at Elks Lodge No. 1944."
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