Senior citizens put candidates to the test

Levine Senior Center hosts forum with county commissioner candidates

by Josh Whitener

Senior citizens of Matthews and Mint Hill made sure their voices were heard during a candidate forum at the Levine Senior Center in Matthews on Wednesday, May 2.

Among the hot topic issues was why the county provides more than $240,000 annually to the Tyvola Senior Center and nothing to the Levine Center.

Two candidates for the county commissioners’ District 6 seat, Republican Ed Driggs and Democrat Connie Green-Johnson, attended the meeting. Five at-large candidates also were present: Democrats Marc Gustafson, Craig Madans and Harry Taylor; Republican Wayne Powers; and Libertarian Jason Bateman.

District 6 candidate Bill James – who will face Driggs in the May 8 primary – and the other 11 at-large candidates did not attend.

About 70 people, mostly senior citizens, showed up to hear the candidates speak and to ask questions. A hot topic at the event was what the candidates could do for senior citizens through funding and other services.

At-large candidate Craig Madans addressed senior services as one of his three main concerns during his opening statement.

“You guys have the opportunity to vote for a candidate … that will actually stand for what some of the things are that you need,” Madans said, citing sidewalks, ramp accessibility and handicapped improvements as services he hopes to fund.

At-large candidate Wayne Powers also addressed senior issues in his opening statement. Powers told the audience he testified at the county commissioners meeting the previous evening, advocating senior citizens’ revaluation.

“They’re stuck with paying much higher rates, many folks on fixed incomes who cannot afford 100, 200, up to 300 percent tax increases,” Powers said. “People taking out loans on taxes, people in danger of losing their homes that they’ve lived (in) for 30 years or more. There’s something very, very wrong with a system that allows that to happen.”

After a series of questions on everything from education to the marriage amendment, the event culminated with a question asking what the candidates understand about why the county gives cash to the Tyvola Senior Center and not Matthews’ Levine Senior Center.

Democratic District 6 candidate Connie Green-Johnson believes part of the problem is the wording the center uses in grant applications.

“The main focus is key words,” Green-Johnson said. “The word ‘Levine’ might have the perception that the Levine family is pouring in money. It’s just sometimes a matter of words, how you put it, what your scope of action is.”

Republican District 6 candidate Ed Driggs believes the key is to have a commissioner who is familiar with the center and the activities and services it provides to seniors.

“I’ve been here probably eight or 10 times, attending Rotary Club meetings and other events, so I have a good feel for the life of this center,” he said. “I think, as a commissioner, that would put it higher on my screen.”

For at-large candidate Jason Bateman, the main issue is uncovering why it’s so difficult to get a grant through the application process.

“I think we need to ask the question of why is it such a maze of bureaucracy to figure these things out,” he said. “So, as a commissioner, I would feel it would be my job to help the county navigate that process, but also simplify it, so at least we all understood the ground rules.”

At-large candidate Harry Taylor didn’t pretend to have the answers, but he urged senior citizens to approach him to voice their concerns. “I’m a great listener, and if you want to come and talk to me about something, I’d appreciate it if you have a really good sense of what you want and how (it) affects the rest of the county,” Taylor said. “Then we could have a great conversation.”

Dahn Jenkins, executive director of the Levine Senior Center, feels the event went well. “I was very pleased with the candidates that came out, and I was very pleased with the attendance,” Jenkins said. “The only thing that I would like to see is for the Levine Senior Center to be able to receive grant funding from Mecklenburg County.”

Are you ready to vote?
The Matthews Library, 230 Matthews Station St., will host early voting for any Mecklenburg County resident through May 5.
Polls will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, May 4 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 5.
May 5 is the final day to vote before Election Day Tuesday, May 8.
Find more information on the election, including sample ballots, online at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website,

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