The People's Tribune

DAR Hosts Candidate Forum At American Legion

DAR, American Legion Hosts Forum For Louisiana Municipal Candidates

The Pike County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and American Legion Post 370 sponsored a candidate forum on Thursday, March 15.

Several questions from the media and the audience were asked of the candidates in contested races for city council and mayor on a number of issues facing Louisiana.

Each candidate had the opportunity to introduce themselves and speak about the reasons they decided to seek office.

The entire forum can be watched on The People’s Tribune website. Due to space purposes, the council races will be briefly discussed in this week’s edition followed by the race for mayor between Marvin Brown and Joey Minor.

There are two individuals running unopposed for city council seats which include Rodney Dolbeare in Ward 4 for a two-year term and Bob Ringhausen for a one-year unexpired term in Ward 4. Neither candidate spoke at the forum last week.

The candidates for city council in Ward 1 were the first to take the stage and include incumbent Tim Jackson and challenger James Davis.

Both candidates were asked about blighted properties within Louisiana and their specific recommendations about how to address them. They were also asked about the upcoming comprehensive Georgia Street project and what measures they may introduce to help keep the economy healthy and sustainable.

The candidates for city council in Ward 2 (the seat that will be vacated by Marvin Brown) include Robert Jenne and Myles Neff.

The candidates were about specific ideas they had to encourage development in their ward which includes business and industrial zoning. They were also asked about their budgeting and fiscal experience as well as their plans to address blighted properties. Jenne was also asked about the discrimination lawsuit he currently has against the city.

The candidates for city council in Ward 3 include incumbent Chuck Hoffman and challenger Tim Carter.

Both candidates were asked how they would help bolster economic development efforts and how they planned to provide transparency while in office. They were also asked about the measures they hoped to take to help build city reserves while providing services to citizens.

A break was taken before the mayoral candidates stepped up to the stage. Mayor Bart Niedner opted against seeking another term this year. The two candidates seeking the four-year office include Marvin Brown and Joey Minor.

Brown currently serves as the finance chairman on city council and is in semi-retirement after a more than 35-year career in forestry and has lived in Louisiana for the past seven years.

Joey Minor currently serves as detective for the Pike County Sheriff’s Department, has served in the military and is a long-time resident of the area.

The first question to the candidates was about the tax increase initiative that the Pike County Commission will be placing on the August election ballot to fund centralized 911 services.

Minor pointed out that as someone who has responded to life-threatening 911 calls the centralization of services is a good idea and will help the community.

Brown also expressed support for centralized 911 services. He added that he would like to see Louisiana continue to maintain 911 services as a redundancy for the county.

The next question to candidates was how to continue and prioritize the projects underway such as the complex Georgia Street corridor.

Brown pointed out that Georgia Street has been planned and prioritized and a funding mechanism is in place. He said work will begin in a couple of weeks on the south side of the city. Infrastructure underground will be addressed first with the streets and sidewalks coming afterward. Brown remarked the next thing to tackle is how to address other areas of the city. He noted that it would take about $375,000 per year to keep streets at a 15-year age and that Louisiana realistically has about $50,000 annually to devote to that endeavor. He added the city will have to begin taking a hard look at new sources of revenue.

Minor agreed that new sources of revenue should be investigated. He added the Georgia Street plan is eloquent but noted he would like the city to investigate who is buying the bonds to fund the project. He further noted the city needs to have a plan in place if sales tax revenue declines. He said it has gone down for the past two years and a plan should be in place to continue committed projects such as the Georgia Street corridor. Finally he pointed out that drawing new business to the area will mean examining old buildings and blight.

The candidates were asked if they supported and planned to continue the efforts started by Mayor Niedner.

Minor pointed out that it would be silly to negate what Niedner has done and praised projects that have been started. He added he isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel but would like to take the current plans and add what he has to offer.

Brown also praised many of the efforts and plans that have been started under Niedner’s tenure. He added that at the request of city council he has been developing a comprehensive community-wide plan. He noted the plan has been shared with many individuals and will be discussed with planning and zoning on March 29. Brown said there will be numerous joint meetings and that the plan addresses a variety of issues such as natural resources, housing, economic development, city services, etc., which are all connected. He noted it would be a living, breathing document that council would be asked to examine on a monthly basis.

The candidates also answered questions about conflicts of interest and their view of the mayor’s position as full or part-time.

Marvin has served as president of the Louisiana R-II school board and plans to continue serving on the board, though not as president. He noted that he doesn’t see a conflict of interests since the revenue streams are separate and neither party interferes with the other in terms of decision-making. He added that there could actually be an opportunity for greater coordination. He said the position of mayor should be part-time though the mayor should be available when there is an opportunity to represent the city and for the scheduled meetings. He added that he will make himself available to the public.

Minor also said he didn’t see a conflict of interests as a member of the Pike County Sheriff’s Department. He noted that he is often out mingling with the public and that will afford him the opportunity to see what people want and need. He also said the role of mayor should be part-time and that he is accustomed to making himself available when he is needed.

Both candidates also spoke about the transition into the role as mayor.

Brown noted that he’s served on the council for two years and has been involved in the ordinance committee, chairs the finance committee and is very well-aquatinted with the budget. He said the transition should be a smook one because he’s been in the thick of it for some time.

Minor noted that he’s had bumpy transitions and that it will be testing. He added that he won’t pretend to know everything that is going on but will lean heavily on the experience of past mayors and will rely on department heads to guide the process.

Both candidates further answered questions about blight, the sales tax, the future of expanding Highway 54, their plans for bolstering economic development and addressing the high ratio of individuals living in poverty.

The complete forum is available to view above. More from the forum will be featured in next week’s edition on the races for council seats.

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