Minority area infrastructure issues dominate forum
Concerns that majority black areas of town continue to be overlooked for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance dominated discussion at a political forum held Saturday night by the Lincoln County NAACP.
A handful of city election candidates were at the Lipsey School gymnasium to speak, and a sparse crowd gathered to hear them.
Prompted by moderator and audience questions, candidates sparred with each other and a vocal audience member about conditions in black areas of town.
One of two moderators, Roy Smith, asked mayoral candidates how they would help bridge the racial gap in Brookhaven.
Of the two mayoral candidates present, Democrat David Douglas Smith III emphasized the need for unity.
Independent mayoral candidate D.W. Maxwell stressed what he sees as a record of working with the board’s three black aldermen.
Later, while independent alderman at large candidate Ed Thompson had the podium, audience member Beverly Howard posed a question regarding the intentions of candidates for majority black areas of town.
She said she’s seen no progress on “the east side” since 1951 and highlighted the area’s lack of sidewalks and said children walk to school in ditches.
Howard also said the eastern side of town hasn’t received the grant money that has gone to the west.
Maxwell, the current Ward Five alderman, took issue with Howard’s remarks.
“Do you think these problems don’t exist on the west side?” he said, speaking of decaying infrastructure problems.
He then took aim at her contention that grant money hasn’t benefited eastern portions of town.
“How do you think the fire hydrants got in Brignall?” he said, referring to a grant-funded installation of a fire loop in Brignall. “You are so misinformed.”
He then underscored that the city has applied for a grant that would put additional sidewalks in the area around Alexander Junior High School.
Thompson grew frustrated with the continued invocation of grants.
“Grants, grants, grants,” he said. “Where are the tax dollars going?”
Thompson insisted to Howard that one of his primary concerns is the east side of town and that he has devoted much of his attention to assessing the area’s infrastructure needs.
Ward One Candidate Kermit Sartin confirmed he’d seen Thompson driving through Brignall.
Sartin then waded into the debate over infrastructure, particularly in Brignall.
“Dirt roads the city annexed are still dirt roads,” he said. “That shouldn’t be.”
He then suggested the money spent on the Linbrook Business Park could have paid for all the roads in Brignall.
Thompson chimed in, referring to the Linbrook Business Park as a “boondoggle.”
Later, Ward Three hopeful Lennie Lewis-Bracey criticized what she portrayed as an undue focus by current city leaders on beautification projects.
“People before perennials; citizens before carnations,” Bracey said.
Before the fireworks began in earnest, candidates were able to briefly introduce themselves and their candidacy.
Democratic candidate for mayor Smith discussed his biography.
Maxwell, independent mayoral hopeful, also discussed his background as well as his resume.
“I am the only candidate with city experience,” Maxwell said, describing himself as at the “forefront of qualifications.”
Experience was also a theme Bobby Bell emphasized. The assistant police chief described himself as ready to take the reins as leader of the city’s police force.
“I am one that will not need any training after the election,” the 32-year veteran of the force said. “My opponents cannot say that.”
In his introduction, Thompson said he hears a lot of clichés about “working for the future” but that the city has let many residents, including Brignall residents, down.
He intends to rectify that, he said.
Sartin, one of five candidates seeking the Ward One office, said he wants to be useful to his community.
Lewis-Bracey said she wants to undo the neglect she believes has hampered Ward Three.
“For years I have lived in my ward and seen very little happen,” she said.
David McCoy, hoping to triumph as Ward Six alderman, discussed his background and said he’d remain attentive to the concerns of the sixth ward.
Democratic aldermen at large candidate Andre’ Spiller arrived late and spoke briefly at the end of the forum. He highlighted the city’s need for a stronger school district.
Party primaries occur May 7 with a general election on June 4.