published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Dalton, Ga., mayoral hopefuls David Pennington and Joel Goldberg tout differences

Joel Goldberg, right, mayoral candidate, talks with Dora Price, left, and Jorge Araya before the Candidates Forum in Dalton Wednesday. The forum was sponsored by The Coalition of Latino Leaders, CLILA, a local grassroots organization.
Joel Goldberg, right, mayoral candidate, talks with Dora Price, left, and Jorge Araya before the Candidates Forum in Dalton Wednesday. The forum was sponsored by The Coalition of Latino Leaders, CLILA, a local grassroots organization.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    David Pennington, the mayor of Dalton, Ga., stands inside of the City Hall facility.
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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DALTON, Ga. -- The two candidates in the Dalton mayoral race defined how they differ on taxes and business development, trading several jabs during a 90-minute debate Monday evening.

Nearly 200 people crowded into City Hall to listen, lining the walls after the seats filled. More watched the live stream online.

David Pennington, who is running for his second term against political newcomer Joel Goldberg, touted his record on cutting taxes and spending, renovating downtown and building a new community center.

"Elections have consequences; I first ran for mayor because I knew I would have a voice," Pennington said.

Goldberg said he would focus on bringing jobs to a city where the unemployment rate hovers above state and national averages, and two carpet mills announced plant closings in recent weeks.

"Our No. 1 issue is economic development; we have to be on the same page," Goldberg said. "I may not be successful, but it won't be for lack of trying."

While the mayor's race took off slowly after the men filed to run, it has heated up in recent weeks. Signs supporting both candidates have sprouted across the city, and many in the audience sported labels with their candidate preference.

During the debate, the two took prepared questions, some that had been submitted online and a few from the debate audience.

They quickly differed on how to best grow the local economy. Goldberg said he favors tax incentives and working with the Chamber of Commerce and other local agencies to attract diverse industries.

"I'm more of a consensus kind of guy," he said. "I think we need to throw everything at it, including the kitchen sink."

Pennington said he opposed tax incentives, calling them "capital cronyism." Low taxes, cheap utilities and low energy taxes offer the best way to attract and grow industry, he said.

When Pennington touted his tax cuts and his goal to eliminate all city property taxes, Goldberg said he believes cutting taxes could be taken too far.

He cited eliminating numerous positions from the building inspectors' office as one example, saying code enforcement had become lax.

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Pennington countered the positions had been eliminated because building almost had halted in recent years.

"I'm sure there are plenty of people to do code enforcement if they want to," Pennington said.

The two also grew testy when Goldberg said Pennington had been quoted as supporting a merger of Whitfield County and Dalton governments. Goldberg pulled out newspaper articles to prove his point, but after a few exchanges, the argument was halted by the moderator.

Goldberg said he opposed the merger now, but said it may be a possibility in the future.

Pennington said he supports studying the option but is reserving judgment until the study is complete.

Cindy McKinney said she waited to decide for whom to vote until she could see both men in the debate. She said she supports Pennington because of the improvements she's seen in the last three years.

"He's done more than any mayor we've had," she said.

Jack Davis, a Dalton Realtor, said he leans toward supporting Goldberg. He liked what he saw in the debate and liked that Goldberg was an accountant, Davis said.

"He a fresh young face, and he's a numbers guy," Davis said.

Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at mmartin@timesfreepress.com or 706-980-5824.

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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Crawford said...

Taxpayers don't be fooled by Mayor Pennington bragging on the lower tax rate. Whitfield County Government took on the burden from the City when the Building Inspections Department was merged. That move alone took several hundred thousand dollars off the City's books and was added to the County. Mayor Pennington needs to quit speaking negatively anytime there is talk about a tax increase with other government entities. When stating the facts you need to make sure the facts are as pure as snow. Mr. Goldberg is absoutely right regarding people from Georgia going to Tennessee to shop everyday. The SPLOST is a small price to pay for the quality of life for all residents in both the City and the County. With the new facilities on the SPLOST, I can guarntee you that the local businesses will benefit. The recreation facilities will attract major national tournaments just like Chattanooga and people will not only come from Georgia but Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina as well. Mayor Pennington please wake up and smell the coffee. Parents will come in the droves to see their children play sports!!!

October 25, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
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