Wards 6 residents looking for someone new to represent South Jackson

April 27, 2017 in News

By Stephanie R. Jones

Contributing Writer

Ward 6 Council candidates engage in forum.

Ward 6 Council candidates engage in forum.

When voters in City Council Ward 6 go to the polls Tuesday they will elect someone new to represent their area of South Jackson since their current councilman is not seeking re-election.

Ward 6 residents heard Monday evening from four of the seven candidates in the running to replace Councilman Tyrone Hendrix. Candidates attending a forum at Apostolic Restoration Ministry on McDowell Road included Lee A. Bernard Jr., Jonathan Cottrell, Shabaka Harrison and Rev. Ernest Slaughter Sr. Absent were candidates Aaron Banks, Antonio Porter and Lacurtis Powell.

Hendrix called the forum, attended by about 80 people, “a very important process in choosing our next representative.”

Moderator Othor Cain said “city council races are, in my mind, more important than the mayor’s race” because of the connectivity council members have to the communities they serve. With questions of his own and others from the audience Cain cut to the chase asking candidates for responses on redistricting efforts, understanding of how city government operates and understanding of the city’s budget.

Candidates were asked if they supported a redistricting of city wards in 2020 to make them more compact and to assure two wards remain in South Jackson. There are now four wards throughout South Jackson.

Cottrell said he would like more information on the process. “I support it so people can understand where they live and vote,” Cottrell said. “Lots of people don’t understand.”

Harrison said he would listen to voters, while Slaughter said he would not oppose it. “I think each ward should be divided by the number of people,” Slaughter said.

As for their main areas of focus, all candidates said tracking the city’s budget and approval of the budget are of concern. All said they are interested in serving on the budget committee, among others. However, when asked what the city’s budget is, none of the candidates gave the correct amount – $350 million annually. Some went too high, some too low.

Two candidates expressed interests in other city council committees. For Harrison, it is education and the water department; Cottrell said education and parks and recreation; Slaughter said infrastructure repairs must take priority.

Asked why they are running for the Ward 6 position, Slaughter said “I have sat back in Ward 6 for 25 years, now I am running to be a voice of the people.” Slaughter started New Cannery Creek M.B. Church on McClure Road 24 years ago.

Bernard said he is a fourth-generation of Bernards in the city. “I am now retired so I have the time to devote to helping our city,” said Bernard. He says he spent years working in the corporate world and could bring expertise on budgeting and management. He spent 23 years with Nabisco, leaving as comptroller, and then with Bank of America.

Harrison, who has run for office three times before, said he saw Hendrix’s run make people have a different perspective of South Jackson.

Cottrell, who has ownership interests in a convenience store and warehouse said: “This is not something to build a resume on. I see my daughters having to dodge potholes as they walk down a street.” He added that blight and dilapidation throughout his ward are issues he wants to address.

The moderator asked if the candidates would support an ordinance to criminalize dilapidated properties and hold property owners responsible?

Harrison said he would find a cheaper, easier way to deal with such properties.

Cottrell said, “I’m with it. We have a lot of reserve officers who can help with getting properties cleaned up.” He suggested having property owners pay for cleanup.

Bernard and Slaughter agreed property owners should be held accountable.

Candidates all recognized the city’s infrastructure issues – aged pipes and water system – but offered no concrete remedies.

Bernard suggested keeping better track of maintenance timetables to make sure repairs are done on schedule. All wanted more information on the use of the one percent sales tax revenues which are supposed to go to infrastructure repairs.

As for their personal efforts in the ward, Slaughter, in addition to his church ministry, mentors students at Provine High School; Bernard is president of his neighborhood association; Cottrell works with families in his neighborhood; and Harrison works with children to improve their reading skills.

The forum was organized by Lanford Porter of Apostolic Restoration Ministry and outgoing Councilman Hendrix. Hendrix encouraged candidates to do their homework on the operation of the city.

“This is a huge job, a huge undertaking,” Hendrix said. “Every decision you make affects another project. The budget is everything for our council. The mayor has the power, we have the influence.”

Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at (601) 260-4232, (601) 454-0372 or srjones13@gmail.com.

Councilman Tyrone Hendrix makes his final address.

Councilman Tyrone Hendrix makes his final address.

Othor Cain (standing) presents questions to candidates.

Othor Cain (standing) presents questions to candidates.