Candidates’ forum brings no surprises

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, August 14, 2008

Don King, a 9-year resident of Selma, said he wasn’t swayed by what he heard at the Striplin Performing Arts Center on Thursday night.

But now he knows the people behind the politics he has seen on display for the past several months.

King, along with a few hundred other of the city’s residents, listened intently to the political forum sponsored by the Selma and Dallas County Chamber of Commerce.

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For nearly two hours, concerned voters listened as candidates for mayor and president of the Selma City Council explained where they stand on some of Selma’s most pressing problems.

“I don’t think I was really surprised with anything,” said King. “I think, with some of the people I didn’t know that much about, I feel better with the individual candidates. I pretty much know who I want to vote for for mayor. For city council president, I’m still working on that, and still haven’t made a decision there. But I got some more information out of it.”

After three-minute introductions for each of the five candidates for city council president and four candidates for mayor, each candidate gave three-minute responses to previously prepared questions.

Mayoral hopefuls addressed the city’s aging infrastructure and how to account for the declining sales tax revenue in next year’s budget. Sales tax is Selma’s single biggest source of revenue.

Council president candidates answered spoke on the more than $700,000 in uncollected garbage fees and how to keep the city council working together and in a positive manner.

Candidate Dr. Geraldine Allen contends some elected council members are not properly prepared to resolve problems.

“I do believe that there should be a very structured and organized orientation plan for all council people,” she said. “And that will be very important in, not only attitude, but also carrying out the business of the city. It would also include such things as identifying how you should develop a resolution and, ‘What is an ordinance?’”

Jean T. Martin said, although it is a slow process, the city has collected about $70,000 in outstanding garbage fees. She also called for combining the garbage collection fees with water and sewer.

Incumbent Mayor James Perkins Jr. said the city’s biggest challenge with improving infrastructure is its age.

“Our infrastructure is so old that there is literally no way to fix it with one pass of funding,” he said. “There has to be a phase approach to fixing the problem.”

George Evans, candidate for mayor, implored the help of private citizens with contacts and resources to help the city.

“It’s going to take all us working together,” he said. “The city by itself cannot do it. The council (members) by ourselves cannot do it. The mayor by himself cannot do it.”

An efficient forum and strong statements from candidates left some people in attendance impressed.

One resident said she was able to weed out which people were best prepared to lead the city and represent its people.

“I think some of the candidates had some good things to say about moving the city forward,” said Natasha Harris. “Some of them, I’m not sure if they really grasp the complexity of what their position holds because I didn’t hear an answer to questions.”