City election 2001: Serious issues need
May 2, 2001
Now that the Republicans have chosen their nominee, the four candidates for Meridian mayor can look forward to about one more month of campaigning, explaining, accusing, defending and defining.
Incumbent Mayor John Robert Smith, who easily won the GOP nod yesterday over challenger Wally Hudnall, will face Democratic nominee William Hugh Johnson and independents Bill McBride and Charlie Haynes. Johnson was the lone Democrat in the race, winning his party's nomination without the hassle of actually being on a primary ballot. McBride and Haynes opted to seek election as independents, also avoiding a primary.
So one of these four men will take office as mayor of Meridian at a time when the city's population and tax base are decreasing. One of them will take command of a city that for the first time is majority African-American. One of them will head up current revitalization efforts that seem to have the city on the threshold of carving out a new identify as a center for arts and entertainment.
It's time for all of us to seek answers to serious questions on what we, as citizens, expect from the city's chief executive and the government he heads. It's time to analyze what goes into a good quality of life in the city.
Do we expect safe streets patrolled by professional law enforcement officers free from the influence of political decision-making?
Do we expect clean streets where the debris of springtime tree trimming is picked up and disposed of before limbs and leaves sit for weeks, turning brown, rotting, littering the landscape and attracting rodents?
Do we expect smooth streets largely free from potholes, crumbling asphalt, faded markings and other signs of neglect?
Do we expect our leader to create a nurturing, progressive business climate that encourages entrepreneurship and incentive?
Do we expect and, more importantly, would the community support a move toward consolidated city-county government?
Do we expect city government to take the lead in tearing down burned out, dilapidated, vacant structures, or aggressively encouraging owners to do it?
Do we expect fire fighters trained at public expense to be dispatched to fill private swimming pools?
Do we want as our leader a candidate who constantly reminds us of what's wrong in city government?
Do we expect our mayor to articulate a vision, outline a strategy for growth and lead us there?
Do we believe a firm foundation is already in place for future growth?
To assist voters in deciding which candidate will get their vote on June 5, The Meridian Star over the next few weeks will attempt to profile each man, reporting on what each sees as important to Meridian's development and how he proposes to take us where he thinks we should go.
The campaign trail may hold some surprises.