Budget, communication top questions at NAACP forum

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

Effective communication was one of the most heavily discussed topics at Thursday night’s “Meet the Candidates” forum held by the Pike County NAACP.

“The government can’t do it all,” said incumbent Troy mayoral candidate Jason Reeves. “We’ve got to get the community engaged to make a difference. It’s important that we listen not to respond, but listen, to actually hear.”

“To communicate effectively, you not only have to listen but you have to follow up,” said Troy Mayoral candidate Olanda Hardy.

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Fourteen of the 21 candidates for municipal office in Troy and Brundidge were on hand Thursday for the forum hosted at the Pike County Courthouse. The municipal election will be held Aug. 23.

Candidates were asked a series of questions submitted by audience members, with topics ranging from communication to city budgets.

“That’s one of the things that always erases dissention and mistrust if you talk to each other,” said Brundidge mayoral candidate Lawrence Bowden. “One of the big things… is keeping the individuals in the city informed about what’s going on. We would encourage people to come to the council meetings so that they understand what’s taking place. If you don’t know what the problems are, then you can’t work towards solving them.”

“It must start in the home,” said Brundidge mayoral candidate Cynthia Pearson, one of six candidates for the office. “That’s where you learn about communication… We must educate our citizens to come together and to work together.”

“You must be able to communicate with the people,” said Brundidge mayoral candidate Charlie Harris. “The main thing in the city of Brundidge is you must make yourself available.”

Creating unity within the city government was another recurring point made by candidates.

“My first 90 days would be spent getting everybody on … my wagon that I’m pulling,” said Troy mayoral candidate Raymond Sexton. “My desire would be to get everybody on the same page so that we could unify and move forward.”

“We have to work together,” said Troy District 1 candidate Robert Jones “That’s what we need in the city council: togetherness. Together, we can do anything. We can make progress.”

“We cannot do anything by ourselves on that council,” said District 5 candidate Wanda Moultry. “In order for the chain to be strong, all the links in the chain got to be strong. You can’t have any weak chains and you can’t have personal agendas.”

“If we work together, we can get so many things done,” said District 1 candidate Mary Helen Collins. “If you’re divided, you won’t get anything done.”

A question about the city budget caused some contention between candidates as some said that they don’t have the same access to that information.

“The budget – that’s something I’m good at,” said Troy District 1 candidate Clarence Scott. “Give me the number and I can tear it up any way you want it and feed it back to you. When you start talking about a budget, you want to make sure each and every person is included in it. We got five districts. Each district should be shared the same amount of respect …”

“The question is: ‘What is the city budget?’” said moderator Susie Copeland.

Several other candidates were unable to answer the question before the microphone was handed to Reeves, who stated that the general fund budget in Troy is around $23 million with another $42 million budgeted towards utilities, a total of $65 million. District 1 candidate Matthew Jordan was the only candidate that gave a figure prior to Reeves. He said that the last time he checked, the budget was around $68 million.

“What we wanted to do is that the certain questions that are only going to be geared to specific candidates and cannot be answered by those … so we don’t want to go to every one,” said panelist Anthony Askew, pastor of New Life Christian Church. “That’s what we wanted to clarify, that it’s not proper to ask all, because they don’t all have the same information.”

Forum moderator Copeland disagreed that the question should have only been posed to a specific candidate.

“If you’re running for city council, running for mayor, if you don’t know what the city budget is and where the revenue comes from, maybe you’re in the wrong race,” Copeland said. “Just because they’re not sitting– that’s what I would have done: research. That’s called research.”

Candidates for the Troy District 1 seat spoke on helping children in the district. “What I think that is happening in District 1– we’re surrounded by three housing projects … and they’re high-risk,” said Jordan. “When my kids were children, they had basketball goals in the projects. They took them out. Then they had the parks that they could go to started closing at [5 p.m.]. The question is to you: ‘Where do we want them to go? What do we want them to do?’”

“We need to … give them something to look forward to, to live for,” said Clarence Scott.

“I don’t think that the housing projects are high-risk, I think that certain individuals that live in that area are high-risk,” said candidate Anthony Jackson. “I think if we could identify some of those issues that the community is having in those areas than we could figure out a way that we can better sustain those areas so that most people… in that area will feel safe.”

Troy District 5 candidates were asked why they should be the pick for the seat.

“What I want to do is to make sure that we come together… and we got to find out what the agenda is for the people in District 5,” Moultry said.

“Those of you who’ve started to come and visit Troy City Hall… weren’t coming in the past,” said incumbent Dejerilyn King Henderson. “So what I’ve tried to accomplish as your elected official from District 5 is to make you aware that the government is of the people, by the people and for the people. You are the government. It’s your city hall. I don’t try to accomplish anything by myself.”

A complete audio recording of the forum can be found at Troy resident Duncan Lindsey’s blog at www.deerstandhill.com.