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Office-seekers give views on issues facing city, board

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 Six alderman race. In the race,Robert Kenny is unopposed for the Democratic Party’s nomination andwill face incumbent David Phillips, an Independent candidate, inthe June 2 general election. The job of alderman pays an annualsalary of $15,917.

Candidates’ responses have been checked for spelling but areotherwise printed as submitted. On Sunday, the question and answerseries will look at candidates running for mayor.

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?

Kenny: I think the city has done a good job ofsupplying police and trash pick up. But I would like to increasefire protection, street repair and flood control work.

Phillips: After annexation was completed, fireand police protection were provided immediately. Hopefully, theresidents of the newly annexed area will take advantage of lowerfire insurance rates and feel the Police are providing them withincreased safety.

The City is presently working with city engineers to create aplan that will supply water and sewage to as many houses aspossible in the most timely manner possible. Water and sewageexpansion is restricted in some areas due to preexisting water andsewage districts.

I will continue to move this process forward in a way that willbe most cost effective to all the taxpayers in Brookhaven.

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?

Kenny: The Dr. A.L. Lott Baseball League musthave more parent and community participation in order to work. Iwill work with the parents and the community to secure alternativefunding for those, who need financial help.

Phillips: The Recreation Department offers aprogram at the Dr. A.L. Lott Field for youth to play baseball witha $35.00 fee to cover the cost of uniforms. The RecreationDepartment pays for balls, catchers equipment, umpires, fieldmaintenance, recruits coaches and pays all costs. By law, theycannot supply uniforms to private citizens, and parents are askedto pay for uniforms. The childrens’ parents who cannot afforduniforms are asked to fill out an “application of need” and areprovided uniforms through private and business donations if theyqualify. I believe that sports participation is very important in achild’s life and should be encouraged at every opportunity.

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?

Kenny: I think the sale of liquor wouldincrease our sales tax collection and also bring in new business.The negative social consequences are already here and will alwaysbe here.

Phillips: No one that I am aware of is activelypursuing liquor sales at this time. While one third of our salestax revenue comes from food and beverage sales, liquor sales wouldonly marginally increase revenue for the City. As I understand, areferendum signed by 20 percent of countywide voters would placethe issue on a ballot and would be voted on by the entire county(including the city). A 60 percent majority would be required topass the referendum.

While there are negative social consequences with liquor sales,a solution that has worked in other communities is to confineliquor sales to restaurants only, and have no more than 30 percentof sales derived from liquor and 70 percent from food. This wouldbe audited once a year in order for the restaurant to keep itslicense. This could also be restricted, for example, to the centralbusiness district to encourage economic development . I believethis decision should be decided by voters.

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?

Kenny: I would be willing to meet with thevarious groups that deal with assisted living facilities. To see ifwe can come up with a plan that would work for Brookhaven and forthem.

Phillips: As a Certified Retirement Community,Brookhaven is in need of more Assisted Living Facility space. 16.5percent of Brookhaven’s population is 65 or older compared to only14 percent statewide. Yes, there is a need and I will work to helpresolve the zoning issues involved. As of now, a facility can onlybe located in a R-3 zoning district (R-3 is multi-family or anapartment type facility). I will support an Assisted LivingFacility in Brookhaven and will look for a solution on the zoningissue that would give us more flexibility in location.

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?

Kenny: Pay raises are a board decision.

Phillips: Pay raises are an annual budget issueand city employees range from Mayor to part-time employees,including alderpersons. The board is charged with addressingcompensation matters and should do so on an annual basis at budgettime. Alderpersons should receive no more than the cost of livingadjustment that all city employees may or may not receive,depending on city budget restraints.

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?

Kenny: Any time there is a personal matter or aprivacy issue, I think the board should discuss it in a closesession.

Phillips: On matters of personnel, litigation,some economic development issues and contract negotiations theBoard should close the meeting. This is to protect an employee’sprivacy and discuss issues of litigation and sensitive contractnegotiations. The Mississippi Open Meetings Act is very thoroughand no action can take place in executive session (no vote). If anissue is voted on it will take place in the open meeting and becomepart of the public record. I believe the public is well protectedby the Mississippi Open Meetings Act, code 25-41-7.