Hopefuls field questions on city issues

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Editor’s note: Today, The DAILY LEADER continues to publishcandidates’ responses to questions on several issues facing thecity. Today’s focus is on the Ward Three alderman race. In theDemocratic primary on May 5, incumbent Mary Wilson faces BrianMoore and Roosevelt Collins, who did not respond to the newspaper’ssurvey. A runoff, if needed, will be held on May 19. There are noRepublican candidates, so the Democratic primary winner will beelected alderman. The job of alderman pays an annual salary of$15,917.

Candidates’ responses have been checked for spelling but areotherwise printed as submitted. On Wednesday, the question andanswer series will look at candidates for alderman of WardFour.

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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Moore: Two things have to be considered whenreviewing our progress in providing municipal services to the newlyannexed areas. What is our progress on non fee-based services? Whatis our progress on fee-based services? As far as non fee-basedservices such as Police patrols, firefighting, animal control andpick up of debris such as leaves and tree limbs, a large majorityof the people I have spoken with have been pleased with the quickaddition and the quality of these services. Also trash pick upwhich is fee-based was added very quickly and overall residents arepleased.

The fee-based services such as water, sewage and gas areservices that take longer to incorporate for obvious logisticalreasons. My concerns would be that we proceed cautiously and costeffectively so that when we get the services to these areas, wehave done it right the first time and we will not be going back torework poorly planned projects.

I feel that we are off to a decent start and as long as we focuson listening to the newly annexed residents and respond to theirconcerns truthfully and expediently our progress will continue andit will continue in the right way.

Wilson: Must work hard to get these service inplace. Engineers are doing a study on city water and sewerexpansion. Engineers are checking out to see any available outthere to help out so it want be a big burden on the people. That itgood to go to Washington D.C. to get appropriation.

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?

Moore: I have previously served as President ofBrookhaven Youth Soccer and can understand and relate to issues ofplayer participation, registration fees and other aspects ofmaintaining and providing recreation for our young people. I amstruggling at this point in my life in trying to understand theneed or the attempt to maintain a baseball league under theoutdated idea of “separate but equal.”

Our local Dixie Youth baseball league is an outstandingorganization with incredible volunteers. Our recreation departmentdoes everything economically and logistically viable to providemost any type of recreation possible to ALL members of ourcommunity. I would whole heartedly support a system that wouldincorporate the use of both entities (Dixie Youth/Rec Dept) toencourage and include every child in our entire community thatwould like to play baseball. Understanding the character of theDixie Youth organization and the principles that we demand of ourrecreation department, I would expect a City Wide league thatencourages participation by all of our children would not onlyincrease participation but would flourish in our community. As aleader in our youth soccer program I can tell you that as anorganization, we NEVER sent a child home that could not afford topay the league fees. We have had other parents offer to cover thecost of fees, we have had local business owners pitch in to helpcover the cost and we have offered scholarships to encourageparticipation by all and exclusion of none.

Wilson: Talk to the churches and the people inthe community. Fundraising is good. Get the parents in volve.

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?

Moore: The issue of legalizing liquor sales isone that I feel should be ultimately decided by the voters ofBrookhaven. Whether it is placed on a ballot through an initiativeor as a proposition, the only way to truly determine the overallmajority opinion is through the polls. Many board members past,current and future are placed in a precarious position of balancingtheir own moral and religious convictions against the financialstability of additional sales tax revenues. This alone canguarantee that many constituents will not be representedaccurately. Prior to placing the issue on a ballot, citizens shouldbe thoroughly informed as to current and projected revenues. If carand home sales are down, and tag revenue as well as slumping salestax figures are imminent, then the public needs to be aware ofthis. If other viable options and economic development are on thenear horizon, then the public needs to be aware of this as well,before they enter the polls. We cannot enter into a debate withoutthe facts and we should not be expected to vote on an issue withoutthem either.

A quick aside in response to the “negative social consequences”phrase used in the question. Over 25 years ago I had a cough thatmy grandmother, a devout southern Baptist, helped me get rid ofwith her own home remedy. She pulled out one of the largest servingspoons I have ever seen, not a tablespoon, a very large servingspoon. She filled the spoon entirely with sugar, then went into thepantry, pulled out a paper bag wrinkled and twisted all around thetop and proceeded to extract a bottle of whiskey. I was taken bysurprise in a very big way. She poured whiskey into the spoonmixing it with the sugar and as I was still standing in completeshock with my mouth almost touching the floor she popped it into mymouth and made me swallow the foul mixture. I don’t even rememberif the cough was really cured or not all I know is that I did notwant to tell her about the next cough. Well my grandmother passedaway just a few years ago and my father, my sisters and the rest ofus were going though the house and just tying up loose ends. As wewere going through the pantry, that same paper bag all wrinkled andtwisted around the top of a whiskey bottle was one of the things Ipicked up. As I opened the bag I had a flashback of the coughremedy and shared the story with my dad. We both looked at thebottle, still over three-quarters full and laughed. I think theissue of “negative social consequences” ultimately comes down tothe individual, at some point we will all be confronted with andexpected to be taken into account for our own behavior.

Wilson: Its not a good ideal for the community.I’ve heard teen I know get other people to buy it for them. Thatnot good.

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?

Moore: The shortage of assisted livingfacilities is something that needs to be moved up the list ofpriorities. Our Seniors are one of our finest natural resources.These are people who have lived through times as tough or tougherthan we are experiencing now, and we would be negligent if we didnot keep them near for consulting and guidance. I think that inorder to develop quality facilities for their continued care wehave to approach the issue from two directions. One, we have toresearch potential providers of assisted living care facilities andthrough due diligence find the most reputable companies to add to ashort list. Two, consult with other communities that have alreadysolicited the services of these providers. If we set up a committeethat works through or with the Chamber of Commerce I think thatthis issue could be effectively approached both ways. We need tokeep our Seniors close to home and stick by our designation as a”Certified Retirement Community.” I see no reason why we cannotdevelop quality long-term care for our residents and if we striveto ensure that quality, we may also see an influx of residents fromother communities.

Wilson: Find someone a senior citizen who is aprivate investor who has operated one before will be good.

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?

Moore: This question is pretty simple andstraight forward and my answer is as well. Every candidate thatgets elected to a position in the city, including not only Aldermanbut Mayor, City Clerk and Police Chief knows what the pay andbenefits for their position are before they enter office. That payshould remain the same for that entire term, period.

If the issues of pay raises comes up and is passed, then thoseraises should not be made effective until the next term. After all,these officials are trying to better their community, right? Itisn’t, or rather it shouldn’t be about the money, right?

Wilson: Get pay raises for the next term.

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?

Moore: The city board should strive to limitthe number of closed meetings (executive sessions) to as few aspossible. There are rare circumstances in which closed meetingswould be expected. Situations that may involve litigation by oragainst the city would most certainly be expected to be held inclosed session. Also, during certain sensitive personnel issues orany time that personal or background information is passed amongstboard members in the early stages of hiring processes. Includedwould also be strategic planning for Economic Development.Considering how competitive the race for bringing new business tosmaller communities such as ours, we would not want to tip our handto other municipalities vying for the same business. Virtually allissues are and should be addressed in open session, but there arethose few situations that arise that demand a private setting inorder to protect an individuals rights, protect the city’s positionon impending legal issues or strategic planning for economicdevelopment.

Wilson: As frequently as needed.