Yesterday’s city council candidate forum was sparsely attended by 30 – 35 attentive citizens. Each of the eight candidates were asked eight well written and specific questions that went largely unanswered by the individual candidates. Sadly, I do not have a copy the actual questions asked, I do have my notes of what I heard and the answers given. Knowing the forum was being broadcast live on WIZS, I assumed it would be archived as is Town Talk for later re-listening. Wrong assumption, there is no recording of the forum at least I could not fine one.
The outline of the forum included time for each candidate to make a two minute opening and closing statement and one minute to answer each of the eight questions they would be asked. The following is my summary of the highlights or low lights of the opening, closing and answers of each candidate.
Sara Coffey – I have lived in the city for 15 years and stay faithful to my people.
Charles Douglas – I am an Iraq veteran and now is the time to change community pride.
Mike Insoce – We face many challenges. We have successfully shown improvements on industrial level job creation. Our number one job is jobs. Crime is an issue. Need to expand city water and sewer infrastructure.
Arnold Booth – I need your vote, listeners of WIZS call your friends and tell them to listen. Henderson needs to get caught back up. We need business owners to get someone to fill up empty buildings.
Gary Deake – I’ve been here all my life. I worked for mental health and now work for Smart Start. I’ve studied the budgets. I try to lead with my heart.
Geraldine Champion – I can be effective without being a city council person. I think it is important for people to listen to the people in the wards. I don’t need another title. I have several volunteer jobs; my focus is on more than just one people.
Vernon Brown – I’m 5th child of a 6 children family, our story appeared in the dispatch, time for real men to become fathers.
FearldineSimmons – I’m a lifelong resident of Vance County. I live near Flint Hill. I worked for 30 years as a teacher. My experience has led me to believe I can help.
1. What are the three most important concerns in Vance County in priority order.
Coffey: Crime rate and jobs.
Douglas: Crime, unemployment, blight. We need to build community gardens, and support non-profits.
Booth: Jobs, affordable housing. We need to take more pride in our town. Give renters some kind of incentives to keep renting.
Inscoe: economic development, we have two certified industrial parks that need a full time manager. Can not save or raise taxes to prosperity.
Champion: Crime, we must have a reduction in the crime in our community. Jobs, to get ahead we need to improve our education.
Deake: Economic development, crime, healthy families. 30% of families live in substandard conditions. Need employment. Can not save into prosperity.
Brown: Infrastructure, jobs, cleanliness. I like what we are doing on the infrastructure now, need to straighten out our sewer system.
Simmons: Education, when your dropout rate is highest we need to fix that. Once people are educated then jobs will get better.
2. Budget crisis – there is not sufficient money for the budget your choice is to cut services, cut personal or raise taxes. (Not a hypothetical question. A real issue faced by the council on June24, 2013, at their budget work session.)
Inscoe: I would not choose any those three. (He went on not answering the basic question talking about efficacy of government.)
Booth: Before we get to that point, we would go the sheriff and get the non-violent prisoners out of jail to do the work.
Deake: We have had this very situation for the past three years. We have not filled staff positions instead used outside contractors. We have raised taxes. We could consolidate city and county government.
Champion: Straight from the heart no way to cut personal. Would not ask to raise taxes. Services I would mess with that just a little bit. Would be a hard choice.
Simmons: knowing that all 3 would put the hurt on the city I would go back to the council to find if there is something we can do to cut services.
Brown: You just got one choice, you don’t just cut people. I would cut a little from people, services and raise the taxes. “Get the inmates who aren’t doing nothing anyway”.
Douglas: Services that could be streamline especially sanitation.
Coffey: I don’t want to cut services and personal. Need to take a good hard look all of this. Need to go back to the drawing board. Cross train staff and doing more with less.
3. Need more jobs how aggressive is the role of the economic development
Champion: Need to be a little more aggressive. Need to ask the citizens what they want.
Deake: City’s role is behind the scene. Water is a big advantage. The new sewer plant will help. Need to look how we can work with the county
Brown: Need to bring in a great economic development person. Need someone who can do some remarkable things. All the towns around us are growing except us.
Simmons: Mr. Brown made a valid point. We need to pull together and study what has worked outside our city. If we had open minds the way we are searching for certain people. Think outside the box
Coffey: Economic development falls to the county that is where it is. Need jobs. Need to grow our businesses in town.
Douglas: City has a big role. But as long as we have blight nothing will change.
Booth: Very strong to get economic development. Need to turn the old Americal (sp) plant into making hosiery again.
Insoce: The city should be involved. We provide the water currently 20 million gallons per day can go up to 40 million gallons. Need to attract a meat processors or pharmaceutical company someone that uses large quantities of water. Need better incentives packages.
4. How can city impact reducing crime
Simmons: I’m not sure I can answer that. The city council can collaborate with others.
Brown: One way to do it is to keep me. Adding more adult and youth recreation. Less ball games makes for more other games.
Douglas: New police chief and cleanup the abandoned house. City gardens.
Coffey: Listen to our citizens and their problems. Mother with dead children and cases taking too long in the courts. How the police chief works with the people.
Inscoe: Can be very proactive. Supply officers with latest in equipment to fight crime. Fund additional police. More boots on the ground. Citizens need to step up.
Booth: Go out into the community and work with the citizens. Put fences around the apartments. Need to reduce the crime. Look at (criminal) traffic patterns.
Deake: City council is very active in crime prevention. New police chief will be a help. More boots on the ground. Community policing. Community watch. Recreation is important as is the blight.
Champion: Make the police accountable. (For what she didn’t say or I didn’t hear.) The city council needs to make certain the investigation are done, that crimes are being addressed.
5. Waste is a concern do you think the city is wasting dollars and where are they wasted
Coffey: The operations center needs to be look at. Streamlined cost of waste pickup.
Douglas: People are tired of receiving rate and tax increases. Need to look at sanitation. Price for trash pickup is increasing because Waste management is requiring the increase.
Booth: Keep it simple about the hiring of the police. Common sense governing. Why are we spending money for a consultant to hire the police chief?
Inscoe: We have out sourced cemetery maintenance. Need to look at each department and see how we can reduce the overhead. There is a lot the government does not need to do.
Champion: Waste Industries came into the city and our sanitation bills have gone up.
Deake: There is not a lot of waste in the city’s budget. There is no largess in the budget. We have contracted our sanitation and cemetery services. Need to look at management structure. New paradigm.
Brown: Once I go on the inside I had to ask for the book. Our city manager is a numbers man and that is not my strength.
Simmons: I’m new to this and I don’t know where the city can make any saving. I pass on this one.
6. Certificate of inspection on housing if a similar housing standards how would you vote.
Inscoe: We have a housing standard since I became a council man.
Booth: I would vote for a minimum housing standard.
Deake: I was in favor of it in my first term. I thought the first one was good. I was the only one to vote to keep it when the council was overturned.
Champion: Mike already stated there is one. I believe it needs to be revisited. Everyone needs to be in a house and not a box. Would vote for it
Simmons: Everyone needs a decent place to stay. Tenants have to be held accountable for the damage done. Look at both sides.
Brown: Landlords are not doing a bad job. Beacon Lights was a big problem
Douglas: The idea of a CO is a good idea, but it is a 2 edged sword.
Coffey: If CO would come back I would vote for it. We have people paying $300 in rent and $700 utilities because landlords will not fix their property.
7. Would you support a resolution to prohibit voting on financial matters if you have not paid your property taxes?
Champion: No. I think we all go through hard times. I would not prohibit that one.
Deake: You have got to pay your taxes. We do not have the authority to require that such a change comes from the legislation. You get paid and could use that to pay your taxes.
Brown: Once your in your in. You have problems with not paying. Set up a payment plan. Garnishment if necessary. Council needs to set a rule. Interesting question.
Simmons: Taxes are something we need pay. City council needs to set the example.
Coffey: I do believe you need to pay your taxes. Do what you got to do. You need to set a standard. Need to pay your taxes
Douglas: No. Although I believe leaders need to know how you feel.
Booth: Step up and pay your taxes. Make a payment. Need to be held accountable.
Inscoe: That is a decision made by the legislature. If a local legislation I would vote and support it.
8. What experience do you have that makes you qualified?
Simmons: I was a teacher for 30 years. I do social work. I will bring what the people tell me.
Brown: When I retired from social services we needed a strong leader. I’m a good leader. I’m the strong link
Douglas: Experience and perspective. There are so many young people on the street that need an example. I have interrogated Iraqi generals. I believe I am the man for the job
Coffey: I’m an older women, a former police officer and I have a passion for my people. I have no fear of speaking up for my fellow citizens. I think things should not be done behind close doors.
Insoce: I have experience on other boards and the water board. I have consulting company. I work with companies to come to Henderson
Booth: I’m involved. I’m running a barber shop in the old market street shopping center. Went to work at 7am this morning then went to church then went back to work. I’m a hard worker.
Deake: I have a lot of experience and I want to give back to my community. I lead from experience.
Champion: I have knowledge for the ward 3 community. I am fearless. I would make a very good council person.
Simmons: I will not make promises of what I will do. I will be fair and not lie to you.
Brown: I recognize my gift and the gift god gave me. I have the ability to reason. This ain’t about glory. This is about the blight and a city with the potential
Deake: I love this town and the people in this town. I try to help the people of the town. (Ended with a reading from his church.)
Champion: I am a servant. I started before this campaign. I have helped people get their records expunged. No I am not experience on city council. I will stand up for the people in ward 3.
Inscoe: First thanked the sponsors. Said his mother said there are no problems only opportunities. I will listen and respect the view of others.
Booth: Thanked everyone. I’m ready to start as a city council member. I have a whole bunch of ideas for new jobs. We have a $1million farmers market. I want to get the farmers to working. We have a lot of wood to cut.
Douglas: I believe the time for change has come. Transform vacant lots into gardens to feed the people. Need to give a young man a chance.
Coffey: I’m not a good ole boy here. I’m from Warren County. I chose to locate my home and my business here. I believe we can grow our businesses here.