Hopefuls offer views on issues before city

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 27, 2009

Editor’s note: Today, The DAILY LEADER is starting topublish candidates’ responses to questions on several issues facingthe city. Today’s focus is on the alderman at large race. Inprimaries on May 5, Terry Pappas faces Karen Sullivan for theRepublican Party nomination while L. Ralph Smith goes againstRonnie Bass, who did not respond to the newspaper’s survey, for theDemocratic Party nomination. Primary winners will face off in thegeneral election on June 2. The job of alderman pays an annualsalary of $15,917.

Candidates’ responses have been checked for spelling but areotherwise printed as submitted. On Monday, the question and answerseries will look at candidates for alderman of Wards One andTwo.

1. Brookhaven’s annexation took effect in July 2007, andcities typically have five years to provide municipal levelservices to newly incorporated areas. From your standpoint, what isyour opinion of city progress in your ward toward that goal so farand what specific things will you do as alderman to furtherprogress?

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Pappas: I am sure Brookhaven is promptlyworking toward this goal. However, I believe we need to work morediligently to close the gap sooner than the five year time periodthat is allowed. The city chose to annex these areas, they did notannex the city. I feel for our city to continue to grow, annexationwas necessary; however, just because we are allowed five yearsdoesn’t mean we should take five years to fully offer services tothe newly annexed areas. If elected, I will review what the city isalready doing, make an assessment of the situation and bring forthnew ideas to accomplish the goal of providing municipal levelservices to all newly incorporated areas.

Smith: Police, Fire and Solid Waste began afterthe annexation order was approved. Engineering is now being donefor the water and sewer expansion into the newly annexed area.

Sullivan: In my door-to-door campaigning, Ihave encountered some newly-annexed citizens for whom full serviceby the city is understandably a major concern. They seem veryappreciative of the initial services that began the day after theannexation took effect: solid waste service, police protection, andfire protection. They are happy about the street lights that arebeing put up now. Also they seem extremely patient and seem tounderstand that new water and sewer service requires a feasibilitystudy by engineers to establish the best plan and approach beforethis expansion can take place. They know that the city has alreadytaken steps to fulfill this phase of annexation service. Goodcommunication with new citizens, as well as with all citizens, is amust. People like to be in the know, especially where their taxdollars are concerned.

2. The Dr. A.L. Lott Baseball League Program has haddifficulty attracting participants, with the program being canceledfor the 2007 year due to a lack of participation. What is youranswer for increasing participation, and what would you do insituations where parents have trouble paying leaguefees?

Pappas: Based on the outcome of recent years,for Dr. A.L. Lott Baseball Program to become successful in thefuture, there will need to be more participation from adults in thecommunity that it serves. I will work to bring in more peopleinside and outside the community and by doing so increaseparticipation. I will work to develop a plan to bring in corporatesponsors helping offset the cost of league fees that would not onlyoffset expenses for one year, but will carry forward so thatchildren desiring to participate in the program will not have thispotential obstacle year in and year out.

Smith: Possibly have a committee of parent andconcerned citizens to address the problem of funding theregistration fees. Continue to have clinics for the youth toencourage participation.

Sullivan: Community-wide sports programsconstitute an extremely valuable activity, and investment, by thecity. The investment pays dividends in many ways and can actuallyassist and continue what our schools are trying to do in developingthe whole person. Young people who are fit, involved, and feel goodabout themselves are better students and citizens.

Baseball is America’s pastime, the national sport of the UnitedStates. The busiest season of the year at Sullivan’s Sports Worldwas the spring while producing uniform after uniform after uniformfor various leagues. I have never heat-pressed so many letters andnumbers on jerseys in such a short time in all my life. I nevernoticed any lack of participation.

I would hope that parents could see the benefits ofparticipating in sports and encourage their children in this areaand that the volunteer coaches would do all within their power toget the guys out onto that field. There is no lack of participationin basketball, flag football, t-ball, soccer, and softball – allrecreation department-sponsored programs, so I hope there will beno problem with summer baseball.

The recreation department furnishes all the equipment, thepractice balls, the game balls, the bats, maintains the playingfields, and pays for officials. By law they cannot use city moneyto purchase uniforms. My family’s experience with baseball andother sports leagues is that Brookhaven’s people are generous whenit comes to helping anyone in need. Most of us would consider it anhonor to be asked to help pay one’s league fees if it were truly asituation of need.

3. The subject of liquor sales came up during a recentcity planning discussion. Proponents of legalized liquor sales citethe benefits of increased sales tax collections while opponentsworry about negative social consequences. What is your position onthe issue? If opposed, what suggestions do you have to find newsales tax revenue for the city?

Pappas: I am opposed to legalized liquor salesin Brookhaven. There are numerous nearby towns to make thesepurchases. Not having liquor sales gives our city a distinctadvantage over other cities. All one has to do is drive throughother cities and they will quickly see Brookhaven has way morepositives than negatives by taking this stance on liquor sales.However, there are many things Brookhaven can and must do toattract more sales revenue some I am already doing as a privatecitizen.

Smith: This should be left up to the residencesto decide. At this time according to state law the local referendummust be county wide.

Sullivan: I have knocked on doors in everyward, and no one has mentioned that they want me to initiate areferendum to legalize liquor sales. Listening to constituentconcerns will be a very high priority if I have the opportunity toserve as Brookhaven’s alderman-at-large. However, it is myunderstanding that the City of Brookhaven does not have anyauthority that allows a liquor referendum; any liquor referendumhas to come from the county.

I don’t believe in quick fixes or a silver bullet for new salestax revenue. In these lean times, we must buckle down and workextra hard at the traditional means of growth. Obviously one way toincrease sales tax revenue is by helping our existing businesses toincrease sales volume. The “Shop Brookhaven” campaign currentlyunderway is an example. In an effort to support our existingbusinesses, the city has taken steps to maximize customer traffic.A second, and concurrent, approach is to foster the creation of newbusinesses by doing what the city can to lesson barriers tobeginning businesses.

4. Brookhaven has an acute shortage of assisted livingfacilities. What is your vision for creating and furtheringdevelopment of assisted living facilities in Brookhaven? How do youplan to accomplish this goal?

Pappas: The city of Brookhaven is alreadyworking toward this goal. The facility itself must offer servicesto attract prospective tenants and the community in which theproposed facility will be located must also offer services toattract them. The creation of the Senior Citizen Center, now underconstruction, is a BIG step in the right direction. However, tocontinue to make this a reality, we should continue to push towardthe goal of seeking out new developers of these types offacilities, spelling out what our city has to offer in order toattract and bring them to Brookhaven. Potentially offering themincentives no different than what has been offered in the past tospur other new developers to build new facilities inBrookhaven.

Smith: feel there is a real need for assistedliving in Brookhaven. This is a private enterprise endeavor but theCity may be able to offer some ad-valorem tax incentives for aninvestment into providing this type of facility.

Sullivan: It is sad when one of our residentshas to move from Brookhaven when they have the need for anassisted-living facility. It will be a great day for Brookhavenwhen we can give citizens the choice of staying here. I will beproactive on this issue and actively recruit trustworthy programs,such as the United Methodist Senior Services and others. I willsupport all efforts by the city, county, and chamber to addressthis shortage.

5. Should aldermen be allowed to vote on their own payraises and have them take effect immediately, or should pay raisesbe made effective at the beginning of the next term?

Pappas: Alderman pay raises should be madeeffective for the next term. This will give citizens theopportunity to express their opinion of the voted increases bygoing to the election polls.

Smith: I feel that any raise voted on by theBoard of Aldermen/Alderwomen pay should not take effect until thenext board takes office. The Board could possibly consider a costof living percentage. Increase that would take effect with the nextfiscal year.

Sullivan: Aldermen should vote on all cityemployee pay raises. Pay raises could be effective as of the nextterm. Most people seek the office of alderman in an effort to havethe opportunity to serve and give back to their communities. Idon’t believe they are in it for the money.

6. Open meetings and public records laws are designed toensure that the public’s business is conducted in public, but thereare some topics in which a board may go into executive session todiscuss. How frequently – if at all – should the city board closetheir meetings?

Pappas: The board must protect the privacy ofcity personnel. Topics of this nature should always be in executivesession. However, outside personnel issues, I believe all othergovernmental issues should remain transparent.

Smith: There are topics that should beconsidered and discussed in executive sessions and the Board needsto have these discussions in executive session. But the City ofBrookhaven has all the votes on any action in open meeting.Executive sessions should not be misused, but when needed.

Sullivan: The Mississippi Open Meetings Lawlists ten items that a public body may go into executive session todiscuss. Some matters merit a reasonable level of privacy.Certainly going into executive session, which requires a majorityaffirmative vote of all members present, should be infrequent andcalled only when the matter is of a sensitive nature such aspersonnel issues, litigation, and the other eight items on thelist. I would hope we would elect leaders who would support openmeetings, who would use good judgment in going into executivesession, and who would follow the letter of the law.