Friday, April 25, 2008

A Star is Born in the Fourth Ward

If you went to the Candidate's Forum, then you know there was only one star - one whom everyone applauded. That star is Tony Fields, one of the candidates for Alderman of Ward 4. He spoke naturally from his heart, and I think he was the only candidate who actually finished his introductory remarks within the time frame. Instead of stopping in mid sentence, his remarks ended appropriately.

He also spoke using very good English, which is more than I can say for most of the current Board. This is one of my pet peeves. The Aldermen represent us with all types of people and groups all over the state and country. I am personally embarrassed when my representatives can't even speak English properly. It makes them think we're all a bunch of Mississippi hicks.

Tony said one thing that really impressed me - and many other members of the audience. Unfortunately, he did not choose to talk about it in the article in the Democrat about this race. He said that all candidates talk about wanting to make Natchez a city where our young people can stay and live. However, he pointed out that all the people saying that are old fogies (actually, that's my term - he was more polite). He wants to represent the young generation of this city. He's absolutely right. We badly need younger people on the Board of Aldermen, to serve as spokespeople and role models, and to represent a different point of view.

In the Democrat article, he chose to talk mostly about education, which as I've said before, is not an area over which the Board has much control. However, that's what he knows best, and if anyone can make a difference, it's Tony Fields.

I don't have anything against Bubber West. I think he's actually one of the most effective and intelligent of the Aldermen - not that there's much competition. But he has serious financial and health problems, which interfere with his ability to serve. He's had 17 pretty good years, and it's time to make way for a new generation.

I had to feel sorry for the third candidate, Donnell Newsome, who is actually a very good candidate. He had to share the stage with the Star and the Incumbent, and it was tough to compete.

Unlike the rest of us, Ward 4 actually has three competent candidates. But I have to say, Tony Fields really stood out.

PS. You may have noticed that I left out Ward 3. That's because there's no vote there until the General Election on June 3, and I wanted to concentrate on those we vote for in the Primary Election on May 6. Besides, I have discussed Ward 3 previously, and I can assure you I'll have more to say in the future.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's Going On in Ward 2?

This is an interesting race. The incumbent Ricky Gray has been representing Ward 2 for two terms (eight years) and wants to do it for another four years. After watching him for four years, I have to say I think he does his best to represent his constituents. I disagree with some of his methods, but I think his intent is honorable. One method that drives me crazy is that he raises all constituency issues at the Board meetings. That is an inappropriate use of Board time. He could handle most of those issues by contacting city personnel and trying to work on the problems. It does get him a lot of publicity with the voters he's trying to help, but it's not very effective. Of course, compared to his seat mate Joyce, he looks reasonable in this regard.

Ricky definitely has made some of his voters mad. You can tell by the number of people who filed to run against him. He supposedly represents the concerns of the firefighters on the Board, but I know a number of them don't like him at all. There are also lots of personal rumors about him, but I have not been able to find any proof whatsoever. I also thought it was pretty tacky for him to file a complaint against one of his opponents, Larry Hooper, for not living in the Ward - especially when the same complaint was leveled against him the first time he ran. Fortunately, the Democratic Committee ruled that his opponent could stay on the ballot.

Larry Hooper is also interesting. He was the interim Principal at Robert Lewis Middle School last year. When he was suspended last spring, a large percentage of the students staged a protest on his behalf. A lot of parents were supportive of him as well. What the truth is, I have no idea - especially since the school administration would not comment on personnel issues.

However, it's obvious Larry Hooper, who is now a principal in Centreville, is popular with a large segment of the population and should give Ricky a run for his money. I would not be surprised if he and Ricky ended up in the runoff.

I was very disappointed that Larry Hooper did not show up at the candidate's forum, since I was interested in seeing him. Neither did the other candidate, Johnny Franklin. I hold this against both of them. If they couldn't bother to show up for the only forum for citizens, why should anyone vote for them.

I know next to nothing about Johnny Franklin, except he's a firefighter who's about to retire - and is obviously one of those firefighters who doesn't think Ricky has represented them well.

Here's the article in the Democrat discussing this race.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Who Is Best for Ward One?

Today the Natchez Democrat ran an article about the Candidates for Alderperson for Ward One. There are four Democrats running: the incumbent Joyce Arceneaux Mathis, retiring Natchez Fire Chief Paul Johnson, community activist Jim Sanders, and Sonya Anderson Mars. They will compete in the Primary on May 6. If no one gets over 50% of the vote (highly likely), the two top vote getters have a runoff on May 19. The winner of the runoff is elected, because there is no Republican running.

Sonya Anderson Mars sounds impressive on paper. The only problem is that I've never laid eyes on her. She was a no show at the Candidates Forum. If you run for office and can't make it to a forum for the voters, why in the world would you expect people to vote for you? It may have something to do with her job in Canton. Unless she's going to quit, how will she make meetings of the Board? I'm predicting she won't make the runoff.

Jim Sanders deserves your consideration. He actually attends all the Board meetings, which indicates a commitment to the City. He ran once before and probably learned from that experience. He'll likely make the runoff.

The real question is who will be the second candidate to make the runoffs. Paul Johnson also has attended Board meetings in his role as Fire Chief. He has a good understanding of how the City works. Almost everybody who knows him likes him. My concern is how independent will he be. Will he go along with whatever the Mayor wants - or will he really represent the wishes of his constituents?

And then there's Joyce Arceneaux Mathis. I would like to think she won't make the runoff, but that's hard to predict. In my humble opinion, she's the worst member of the Board. Her voice is so loud it hurts my ears when she talks (shouts) - but she seems to love the sound of her voice. If you eliminate her, the Board meetings would be cut in half. She especially likes to tell you how wonderful she is - and maybe some voters will believe her.

All candidates seem to agree that our streets and infrastructure need immediate attention - and something needs to be done about dilapidated buildings. Joyce's solution is to whine and complain during the Board meetings. Has she heard about the telephone? Why doesn't she call the Department Heads and discuss these issues with them? Why doesn't she follow up on actions she demands? I've been attending Board meetings since the last election, and still hear the same things over and over. Could we have a little action, please?

Almost all candidates complain about our school system. They say education will be a top priority. The truth is the City has very little control over the schools, other than appointing two members of the school board. Have these candidates attended School Board meetings? Do they go to the PTA meetings? Do they visit or even volunteer in the schools? That's the only way they can make a difference.

If you live in Ward One, who will you vote for on May 6?

Monday, April 07, 2008

How to Get Rid of Opponents - Maybe

Both Joyce Arceneaux and Ricky Gray have attracted several opponents in their bids to be reelected as Aldermen, and some say they are really worried. Well, they've come up with a creative way to get rid of their strongest opponents. They filed challenges saying their opponents were not really residents of their Wards. Arceneaux claims Paul Johnson doesn't live in Ward 1, and Gray says Larry Hooper doesn't live in Ward 2. That sounds like a simple enough issue, but it's not.

The city charter says Aldermen "shall be bona fide residents of the respective wards". So what's a "bona fide resident"? It doesn't say. But it does say this:

"All inhabitants of said City of Natchez eighteen or more years of age and citizens of the United States and of this state, not disqualified by the Constitution of the United States or of this state, who shall have resided in the city thirty consecutive days prior to any election in said city, and shall have been registered as legal voters thereof shall be qualified voters at such election, and eligible to any office thereof"

But there is no definition of "reside". Nor could I find any definitions of residency in the state code. The generally accepted legal definition is:

"RESIDENT - A person coming into a place with intention to establish his domicil or permanent residence, and who in consequence actually remains there. "

All this sounds pretty fuzzy to me. And of course, questionable residency is not a new thing in Natchez - for example, Mayors West and Brown.

So who gets to decide this question? This is an issue in the Democratic Primary Election, and the local Democratic Party gets to decide who is a qualified Democratic candidate. Therefore, the Aldermen filed their challenges in a timely fashion with the County Democratic Committee. However, they said that's not our responsibility - that belongs to the Municipal Democratic Committee. The what? I never knew there even was one. It turns out to have only one member, who then scrambled around trying to appoint some more members to hear this case. She could only find two other brave souls, because no one wanted to get in the middle of this political firestorm.

However, there was a hearing tonight, after being postponed twice. Alderwoman Arceneaux presented lots of evidence that Paul Johnson lived in Ward 2. Paul Johnson said it was all true, except he moved and changed his voter registration more than 30 days before the election, as allowed by the City Charter.

Sounds pretty clear to me. Paul Johnson is registered to vote in Ward 1, and therefore he can run for Alderman in Ward l. One of the Committee members asked Paul if he moved just to run for office. You know what? That's none of his business. He can move for any reason he wants, so long as it's within the 30 days. End of discussion. That's my humble opinion.

Alderman Gray just said his opponent didn't live in Ward 2, but he presented no evidence, because he said it was up to the Committee to investigate. (Lots of luck, Ricky!) However, he was fortunate because Larry Hooper didn't show up for the hearing to present his case.

However, there's another issue at work here. One thing the law is clear on. Absentee ballots must be ready 45 days before an election. That's already passed, and the ballots are printed and ready. There was a lot of hollering about that, but it looks clear to me.

If the law is followed, both opponents should be allowed to stay on the ballot. But we'll see.